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As Caritas Australia celebrates
the 50th anniversary of Project
DiGirolamo speaks with long-
time supporter David Smith
about his memories of the appeal
and its importance today.
Xavier College social justice teacher
David Smith remembers his first Project
Compassion at age five as if it was
David grew up in a large Catholic family
who were members of the Henley Beach
“That would have been about 1966 and
I just remember mum and dad coming
home with this little box and mum saying
‘that money we put in the box is not for
you David, it’s for people who are really
struggling in their lives’,” he recalled.
David said this made a real impression
on him about the importance of helping
Later at the Blessed Sacrament School in
Henley South, one of his first memories
was the Project Compassion box that sat
on the teacher’s desk.
“We were encouraged to make a sacrifice;
back then with one cent you could buy
quite a lot – you could buy a small packet
of lollies and I remember making that
sacrifice and putting in that cent rather
than spending it on myself,” he said.
Now director of Salesian identity and ethos
at Xavier College in Gawler and a father of
eight, David’s passion for social justice and
Project Compassion remains strong.
For him it’s putting his faith into action and
encouraging others to do the same.
“Look it’s been part of our lives, part of my
own life and my family’s lives for 50 years,”
he said of Project Compassion.
“Margie and I have been married for nearly
33 years and every year through Lent it’s
been part of our family.
“We have tried to teach the kids that it’s
the sacrifices that we make that help
others and we have tried to make them
aware of the needs of others, not just their
David said Project Compassion was a big
part of Xavier College’s fundraising and
social justice programs.
“The community is incredibly generous,
we’re not a wealthy community by any
means, but everyone gets behind Project
Compassion,” he said.
“I’ve heard of wonderful stories of kids
who, instead of buying a chocolate milk
or iced coffee every day, put the money
into Project Compassion or even donate a
portion of their weekly earnings from their
He believes it is important to make Project
Compassion relevant to people’s lives.
“We always try to show the short Project
Compassion videos to each ‘home room’
to give an understanding of where the
money is going and after that the kids take
ownership of it,” he said.
The school has four houses which are
responsible for raising their own amounts
and they compete for the Christian
Citizenship Shield which is part of the
overall ‘Bosco’ cup (named in honour
of the school patron St John Bosco and
founder of the Salesians).
David said the friendly rivalry helped attract
students’ attention: “They want to be
successful but they know they’re helping
others, so that’s the bottom line.”
At home, David and his wife decide what
they are going to give up during Lent.
“When the kids were growing up it was ice
cream and sweets...it’s amazing in a large
family with eight kids how much money
you actually raise.”
At a parish level, it’s also a “team effort”.
Some local families are struggling but there
is an acknowledgement that the parish is
part of a global community and “if we can
help in a little way then we are making a
TEAMWORK: From left: David Smith with Xavier College students Yasmin Lyons, Jay Manion, Grace Slattery, Tomas Brooksby
and his daughters Emma and Bridget Smith.
Half a century of giving
Tenison Woods Catholic Primary
School students brought forward
the six principles of Catholic social
teaching during a liturgy held to
launch Project Compassion last
The principles guide the work of
Caritas Australia which has been
conducting the annual Project
Compassion appeal for the past 50
Archbishop Wilson, Fr Philip
Marshall VG and Fr Joseph Lee,
parish priest of St John Bosco
and St Aloysius, blessed the
Project Compassion resources
and collection boxes before they
were distributed to students
from Tenison Woods School in
Richmond and representatives of
neighbouring schools Star of the
Sea and St John Bosco.
Tenison Woods assistant principal
religious identity and mission
Marcia Burgess said that as a
proud Josephite school, Mary
MacKillop’s famous words
“Never see a need without doing
something about it” were never
far from students’ thoughts and
“Every year when Project
Compassion starts, we always
look at ways to raise awareness,
stand in solidarity and fundraise
for the people Caritas Australia is
supporting both here in Australia
and overseas,” she said.
After the liturgy, guests enjoyed a
50th anniversary cake and morning
tea organised by the school’s
Parents and Friends group.
Seeing a need
COMPASSION AGENTS: (L-R) Marcia Burgess with Tenison Woods Catholic Primary School
students Poppy, Henry, Lucas, Liam, Angelica and Natasha holding the six principles of Catholic
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