The campus ministry officers of Divine Savior Holy Angels knew that this year’s Lenten almsgiving project, benefitting the construction of a maternity ward in rural Ghana, would be a big hit with their fellow students.

But the final total of money raised — more than $22,000, more than twice their goal of $10,000 — shocked everyone.

“It just feels so, so good, and so amazing that everyone has been so excited about giving to the project and so passionate about every aspect of it,” said senior Maura Brennan, one of seven students who, as campus ministry officers for the 2018-19 school year, have been planning the fundraiser since last summer.

DSHA hosts two student-run fundraising efforts per year, one in Advent and one in Lent. The Lenten fundraiser is typically focused on a global cause. The maternity ward in Ghana was suggested to the students as a possible beneficiary by Anne Haines, executive director of UrbanInitiativeMKE, after she traveled to Ghana last summer with Catholic Relief Services.

It was an idea that immediately caught their attention, said campus ministry officer Allison Koppa. “That idea of helping moms and babies — coming from an all-girls environment and working so hard to empower women — that was the biggest part for us.”

The students’ original $10,000 goal covered the cost of the maternity ward’s construction and air conditioning and supplies — $5,000 each. The total number raised ultimately came in at $22,421.90.

“One of the reasons we pursued this project was because it’s self-sustaining — 10, 15 years down the road there is still going to be that maternity ward,” said Brennan. “We’re hoping a lot of the extra money we have can go to that self-sustaining nature.”

The “Goodness for Ghana” initiative’s largest boon was the annual student auction, held during the school day on April 3 in the RJ Fridl Commons. Students were able to bid on more than 200 items — from handmade gifts to dinner and a movie with favorite teachers — during their theology class, lunch period and other free time. The auction eventually raised more than $14,000, said Koppa.

The students also engaged in “bottle battles,” depositing loose change into baby bottles, with the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes all squaring off against one another to see who could raise the most. “That got competitive, to say the least,” said Brennan. The bottle battles resulted in donations of more than $8,000, said Koppa.

And though the major Lenten fundraiser does have a global mission, the campus ministry officers wanted the initiative to have a local impact as well, collecting baby items for local agencies that minister to pregnant women, mothers and children here in Milwaukee.

“We also wanted to focus on service in the community that pertains to this project and reminds us that, yes, there are these maternal mortality rates in Ghana, but there are statistics that rival that in neighborhoods in Milwaukee,” said Brennan.

According to the World Health Organization, Ghana’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 319 per 100,000 live births. For comparison, the United States’ overall MMR is about 18 deaths per 100,000 live births. The risk for Ghanaian mothers and their babies is especially high in very rural areas — like the one that will be the site of the new clinic.

Koppa, who wishes to go into elementary education when she attends college next year, hopes that, even though the fundraiser is completed, she will still have an opportunity to connect with the moms and babies served by this clinic.

“This was a pretty emotional project for me and I definitely want to continue doing service with children in college,” she said. “Hopefully, if all goes to plan, I want to go somewhere out of the country for at least a year or two after college — and I think going to the area in Ghana where we’re helping would be incredible. At that point, the babies would probably be the age that I’m planning to teach.”

“It really just feels incredible, thinking that we as a school could be able to help the moms and babies across the globe — it really is humbling especially during this Lenten season, thinking that it’s not all about us,” said Brennan. “We can focus on our own fasting, we can focus on our own giving up and giving to others, but that really can’t be put into practice unless we recognize that these needs and the reason that we’re not having sweets or buying an extra Starbucks isn’t just for us to fulfill our Lenten promise, but it’s because there are people in the world that truly do feel hunger, who truly do feel pain — and those are the people Christ calls us to serve and give to.”