One year after construction began on a new school in Laos, more than 100 children are enrolled and the entire community is benefiting from their access to quality education.

For Pre-Associate Jason Wilhite, he describes it as a dream come true — and nothing short of amazing: “Bottom line, this doesn’t happen without committed Viatorian educators and bold leadership from young adults who attended VYC in 2018.”

Here’s why.

Jason has dreamed of helping children gain access to education in developing countries since 2017, when he started a chapter of Pencils of Promise at St. Louis University, after graduating from Saint Viator High School.

Pencils of Promise works with 130 communities in Laos, helping children overcome barriers to education. In the Luang Prabang Province, Jason and his St. Louis chapter set out to raise $35,000 or enough to build a new school.

As part of his fundraising effort, Jason described his mission at the Viatorian Youth Congress in 2018, which he co-led. Its delegates were asked to take back their ideas for social justice action plans to their schools and parishes, based on the Viatorian initiatives they heard at the Congress.

These young faith leaders stepped up, taking their ideas to Bishop McNamara High School in Kankakee, Bishop Gorman High School and St. Viator Catholic Community in Las Vegas and Saint Viator High School. The Viatorians themselves approved a social justice grant donation, before Jason and the SLU chapter drew significant contributions from the university and the city of Omaha to raise the total amount needed.

Jason Wilhite makes a presentation about Pencils of Promise at the 2018 VYC.

“We had high school students collaborating with priests, brothers, and associates on all sorts of projects,” Jason says, “and now a rural community of kids in Laos will have access to quality education for years to come.”

The combined efforts of the Viatorian community raised more than $8,000 for the campaign. he says.

“This movement would not have been impossible without the leadership and generosity of Viatorians across the country,” Jason says. “To each of you, thank you for showing me what Fr. Querbes’ phrase ‘divine love in motion’ means in our modern world.”