A gregarious group of third graders shared a special moment at Immaculate Conception School in Los Angeles the morning of May 4, as they held hands and recited a prayer to express their support for people in need half a world away during an archdiocesan press conference to officially launch the “Join Hands for Nepal” campaign.

After welcoming guests and media representatives in attendance for the press conference, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, Vicar for the Office of Ethnic Ministries, described the effort as “an opportunity to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Nepal, by assisting them with our prayers, and also by collecting funds” to offer much-needed financial assistance.

More than 80,000 elementary, secondary and religious education students from three counties are expected to participate in the campaign, which will run through May 15. The fundraising is being organized by the archdiocesan Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), the agency that collects and distributes funds raised by children for underprivileged individuals and families around the globe.

According to Sister Mary Elizabeth Galt, BVM, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, an anonymous donor has pledged to match every dollar raised through Join Hands for Nepal, up to $100,000. One-hundred percent of all funds collected will be distributed based on the recommendations of Bishop Paul Simick, vicar apostolate of Nepal, to support ongoing earthquake relief efforts in the mountainous region of Kathmandu, one of the areas most affected.

To date, the 7.8-magnitude quake — which struck the South Asian country on April 25 — has resulted in at least 7,365 deaths and more than 14,000 injuries. In addition, entire villages were devastated, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

“After the devastating earthquake that hit Kathmandu, the Missionary Childhood Association wanted to reach out in prayer and to help raise awareness about the donations needed for humanitarian relief in Nepal,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth.

The campaign, she explained, is a partnership between MCA, Catholic schools, religious education programs, and parishes throughout the archdiocese “to share in the pain and terrible tragedy that has affected the people of Nepal.”

For third-grade Immaculate Conception classmates Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Ashley Suazo and Genesis Rivera, having the opportunity to help others makes them feel, quite simply, “good” and “happy,” they told The Tidings. Genesis, who led the student prayer, hopes the donations collected will alleviate suffering, and Juan Pablo prays daily for the “people in Nepal that are still in danger.” And, according to little Ashley, “I just want them to have the same good life as we are having.”

Donations can be made online at missionsla.org/donate-today, by calling (213) 637-7224, or via check, payable to “Missionary Childhood Association — Nepal Emergency Relief Fund” and mailed to: Missionary Childhood Association, Attn: Msgr. Terrence Fleming, 3424 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90010.