By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Five Bishop Lynch High School juniors traveled to central Mexico over Easter break to establish a library and help a community that was devastated by an earthquake in 2017.
“After the earthquake, they needed a lot of help and they still do,” said Christian Breazeale, who was joined by classmates Lanham Bevers, Nick Elrich, Joseph Moler, and Colton Monroe in making the trip. “So, we’ve decided to go and help.”
The students traveled to Huilango, Mexico, a rural community a few hours outside of Mexico City impacted Sept. 19, 2017, by an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, rocking that region of Mexico with the epicenter about 30 miles south of Puebla, Mexico. The earthquake devastated the area, causing damage as far north as Mexico City, leaving thousands injured and resulting in more than 350 deaths. While more than five years have passed, much of the area is still working to recover from the earthquake’s impact.
The Bishop Lynch students have been raising funds to help and traveled to Huilango over Easter break to convert a portable classroom at the community school into a library. The student project included building and installing bookshelves for the library, installing basketball goals which had been taken down due to safety concerns after the earthquake, repainting a pavilion and building picnic tables on the school grounds.
“We built the picnic tables because the parents and children still have big concerns about COVID-19,” Moler explained. “All the kids are eating their lunches outside, but they really had nowhere to eat so they’d just sit on the ground or on concrete.”
Prior to heading to Mexico, the students also coordinated a book drive, sponsored by Bishop Lynch’s Spanish National Honor Society, to fill the shelves of the library.
“We needed the help of BL to get all these books,” Breazeale said. “The teachers from that school in Mexico compiled a list of about 300 books. Most of them could be ordered on Amazon so we created an Amazon Wishlist and people have been sending us all these books.”
In addition, Bevers noted that the group was able to secure a literacy partnership with Scholastic to get discounted books to provide to the children who need them.
Bishop Lynch principal Chad Riley praised the students for their effort, saying it embodied the spirit of the school’s mission.
“These students identified a need and are working to make a difference,” Riley said. “It is empowering to see this vibrant example of Bishop Lynch High School’s Dominican heritage of service in action.”
Fueled by family
Inspired by family ties and called by his faith to serve others, Breazeale initially came up with the idea for the project.
“I was inspired by my brother, Alex, who did a similar project in the same town of Huilango five years ago with his friends,” said Breazeale, explaining that the group with his brother, a Bishop Lynch alum who now attends Rice University, built a playground at the school as well as provided backpacks and school supplies for students. “So, my family reached out to the other four families to see if they wanted to be a part of the project.”
For Breazeale, the project hits close to home as his mother Alejandra is a native of that region of Mexico and he has family still in the area. Breazeale attended school in Mexico in the third grade, and with his parents, the Bishop Lynch junior visits family members in Mexico twice a year.
“That’s why I’m inspired to help this community,” Breazeale said. “It’s a part of my heritage — I speak Spanish and I’ve been raised in that culture. I really want to be able to help.”
The other four young men, all friends from their time as students at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, were quick to answer Breazeale’s call to help.
“When Christian approached me with the idea, I saw that he was really passionate about it,” Monroe said. “I’ve been really blessed in my life where I have been in a position where I could do something like this to help other people. It’s something I felt I needed to do. It’s something I wanted to do.”
Likewise, Moler said seeing photographs of what Breazeale’s older brother did was an inspiration to get involved and help the children of that community.
“There’s something special about seeing their faces light up when they see all this being done for them,” he said.
“It’s all about doing whatever we can to help kids who may not have as much as we do,” Elrich added.
For Bevers, a project that provided books to children fueled motivation.
“I like to read a lot so donating books to these children and giving them an opportunity to do the same is really special to me,” Bevers explained.
The students hope their project becomes an ongoing effort at Bishop Lynch.
“I’ve had teachers here at BL ask if we could make this a yearly project,” Breazeale said. “While I don’t think that this trip we are taking will happen on a yearly basis, I do think we can conduct a book drive and fundraisers each year to help the school in Mexico.”
All five students return to Bishop Lynch as seniors and will work to continue their efforts next year and hopefully beyond.
“Even though Christian doesn’t have a younger brother to carry on this effort,” Moler said. “Hopefully, we can keep the tradition going at BL through younger students.”