From American Fork (Utah, United States) to Zimbabwe sounds like an advertisement for something that covers the entire alphabet. In reality, it’s a humanitarian service project.
Members of the American Fork Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been sorting, packing and preparing items to ship to individuals at the other end of the alphabet in Africa. There was a sign in front of the stake building, “Zimbabwe donations,” directing those who were bringing items to the back of the building. That was where the doors were open, but much of the building was full of clothing, school kits, newborn kits, puppets, school bags, toys, hygiene kits and more.
One room was full of items typically used by LDS missionaries, including suitcases. Members of each of the 10 wards in the stake were given the challenge to send five suitcases with the items. That goal was nearly doubled.
“We thought we would have 50,” Connie Nelson, assistant humanitarian specialist, said. “We have 85 and we are still gathering more.”
Trucks and trailers, carrying away items to be loaded onto 40-foot shipping containers, soft goods like clothing would be compressed prior to loading to minimize the space they needed.
A humanitarian project group that meets most Mondays made and prepared some of the items, and the challenge to donate came during the summer. “They extended this big challenge,” Nelson said. They started asking for items for both male and female missionaries.
“They have many worthy young people that would like to serve missions,” she said. “They don’t have the materials to go. Even in their own country — they don’t have the resources to go.” So the list went out, and residents started collecting items including sheets, shorts, white shirts, alarm clocks and casual shoes — the things that are on most missionaries’ lists for preparation.
Some items were stored at the stake center, but some were stored at the volunteers’ homes. “We have been storing things like squirrels,” Nelson said. “It took four trucks to bring the things from my house.”
Then the donations from individuals and families started rolling in. Volunteers both young and old began sorting the items and preparing them to send. Nelson said it was almost miraculous how the items came in as they were needed.
“When we were almost out of pencils, someone brought them,” she said. “It was the same thing with the other kits.”
Two professional golfers and one golf coach, from Zimbabwe, Norway and South Africa, have offered to pay the shipping to send the items to Zimbabwe.
This is the third year the American Fork Stake has had a similar humanitarian project.
Marsha Skidmore, the humanitarian specialist, said last year the shipment arrived on Christmas Eve. It was taken to the garbage dump, where many of the people live. “They were so excited,” she said. “I know the ladies that take this over there. When they distribute it, people can’t believe that strangers they have never seen would care enough to send clothing, supplies and food to them. It has been a fun activity for our stake to participate in.”
That may explain the way people have contributed.
Stake president Brian Kane has a special connection with Zimbabwe. He had done service in this country as part of another religious group before he was baptized into the LDS Church. He made a personal appeal at each ward in the stake, telling members if they donated one shirt, one pair of pants and one pair of shoes, they would double the wardrobe of one person in Zimbabwe.
Many of the young women do not have underwear or feminine hygiene products. The volunteers prepared fabric bags with those supplies, which would enable them to attend school. They prepared close to 600 of those bags.
By day three of the project’s culmination, the volunteers were tired but happy.