Not long ago, Ashton Brown was struggling with his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, getting in trouble at school as his symptoms continued to get “worse and worse,” said Jacqui Brown, the 11-year-old’s mother.
But over the last 18 months, things have drastically improved since Ashton came across videos of homeless folks online that revealed the harsh realities of life on the streets, the Catholic Leader reports.
“Every time I watched a video it was just really sad and I started to cry a little bit,” Ashton told the news site. “I just went up to mum and said, ‘mum, I want to help people around the world that don’t have a home.’”
Brown helped her son organize a car wash fundraiser to purchase supplies for the homeless in their hometown of Goodna, Australia, and the determined sixth-grader raised $310. Ashton then built on that success to raise thousands more by his 11th birthday in May, using the money to buy sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, coffee and other supplies. In the months since, Ashton has combined the supplies with collected donations and distributed the goods to about 150 “rough sleepers” who attend weekly Street Feed events in the area, according to news site.
“We usually get at least four garbage bags of donations a week,” he said. “We fill the car every week.”
The Browns are now launching a charity called Homeless Helpers and already have plans in the works to eventually buy a caravan to expand their outreach.
“It’s going to be called Homeless Helpers Happy Place,” Ashton said.
“One side is going to be shelving, and that’ll have food, coffee, first aid and toiletries, and the other side we’ll give free hair cuts and flu shots,” his mother said. “I just wanted to show him that I believe in you and if you want to do it, let’s do it.”
Ashton also changed schools to St. Francis Zavier Primary School, Brown said, which has also been “a savior.”
“He’s got a new focus, the happy school and we’re away,” she said.
St. Francis Principal Veronica Lawson told the Catholic Leader she had no idea about Ashton’s charity work, but since she found out the school launched a fundraising event to support Homeless Helpers.
“I think he keeps his light under a bushel,” Lawson said. “I’m on bus duty and every afternoon and every day he tells me how his day has gone, but never once has he said, ‘I do this really important work,’ or ‘I do this for other people.’”
Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture note the strong emphasis Catholic schools put on community service in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of research into character formation in a wide variety of different schools.
Political scientist David Campbell found “that private school students were more likely to engage in community service than their public school counterparts and that the Catholic schools primarily drove the effects.”
Jon Davison, with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, offers further insight into “characteristics and complexities of charitable giving” and the motivations behind it.
“It is evident that without clarity of understanding the reasons why people give to particular charitable causes, it is almost impossible to understand how to encourage children, young people and adults to engage in charitable giving,” according to the report.