When Trina Morford was confronted with her third-grade daughter’s language arts homework about three years ago, she felt helpless – half of the lessons were in Spanish because she was in a dual-language program. Faced for the first time with being unable to help her child, and knowing her daughter was on her own, she panicked.
But her daughter, now 13 and a student at Spring Forest Middle School, lives in the U.S. where her first language of English is the common tongue, and she was easily able to find support for her studies.
That panicked and helpless feeling was the motivation behind her bringing the “Daily Dose” project to Spring Forest, where she is a parent volunteer, and to Principal Kaye Williams when it became clear that the school was in need of ESL services because of the sudden enrollment of 30 to 40 refugee children last year at the SBISD campus.
Williams says her campus has the highest number of refugee children – 42 right now – in all of SBISD.
They all come from war-torn countries, said Williams, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and several African nations, and many of them were born and raised in refugee camps.
On Sunday, April 3, I was watching Conference with my family in Florida when Elder Patrick Kearon, a high-ranking leader within the LDS Church, spoke about the current refugee crisis in Europe. What he said moved me to tears and compelled me to write this article.
“There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today,” said Elder Kearon. “Which means that 1 in every 122 humans has been forced to flee their homes and half of these are children.”
While Elder Kearon recognized that there are “highly-charged arguments in governments and across society regarding [the refugee crisis]” he emphasized that his comments were “not intended, in any way, to form part of that heated discussion, nor to comment on anyone’s immigration policy.” Instead, Elder Kearon wanted to “focus on the people who have been driven from their homes and their countries by wars that they had no hand in starting.”
Elder Kearon then went on to enumerate some of the many ways in which the LDS Church has responded to the refugee crisis. Indeed, the LDS Church has not been blind to this crisis. For months, the Church—based in the United States—has been working with over 70 organizations in 17 European countries. In November of last year, the LDS Church made a sizable contribution to immediately help displaced families and then donated an additional $5 million in February of this year.
Elder Kearon went on to say “It’s been inspiring to witness what Church members from around the world have generously donated to help these individuals and families who have lost so much. Across Europe, specifically, I’ve seen members of the Church who have experienced a joyful awakening and enriching of the soul as they have responded to that deep, innate desire to reach out and serve those in such extreme need around them.”
“It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do—according to your own time and circumstances—to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities,” Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society president, challenged the women of the Church during the first session of general conference Saturday. “This is an opportunity to serve one on one, in families and by organization, to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service, and is one of many ways sisters can serve.”
With the beginning of the Syria conflict in 2011, the world descended into the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, according to the European Commission.
As of 2014, there were over 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, and that number keeps rising. In order to help with this crisis, the Church has mobilized its resources to aid these displaced families and continues to call for Church members to help where they can.
“As we consider the pressing calls of those who need our help, let’s ask ourselves, ‘What if their story were my story?’ ” Sister Burton said. “May we then seek inspiration, act on impressions we receive, and reach out in unity to help those in need as we are able and inspired to do so.”
Recently, a Chick-fil-A in Virginia posted a picture on their Facebook page of six LDS missionaries ankle-deep in the snow. Some of these missionaries seem to be used to the cold weather and wintry conditions, being outside in a hoody and shorts. Proud mother Samantha Burila spoke up that her son was the one in the shorts and VCU sweatshirt. A Utah-native, this Elder apparently isn’t deterred by the snow.
And neither were the rest. Apparently, the missionaries spent their P-day shoveling out and pushing stuck cars up an icy hill near the restaurant. In wonderful missionary fashion, they put everything on hold to help others. And it looks like they might have gotten some free refreshments out of it.
Chinese-speaking missionaries and members recently helped ease the suffering of dozens of people left homeless in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, after their residences were severely damaged in a large fire.
On October 19, an electrical fire sent smoke and flames through a large apartment complex in Boston’s historic Chinatown. No lives were lost and there were only a few smoke-related injuries, but about 40 residents were forced from their damaged apartments. Most residents are elderly.
Many found refuge in a temporary Red Cross shelter organized at the nearby Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England. However, communication between many of the English-speaking Red Cross workers and the Chinese-speaking displaced folks proved challenging.
Jerry Hsieh serves as the leader of the Chinese-language group from the Cambridge Massachusetts Stake. When he learned about the displaced Chinatown residents, he began making calls to local Red Cross officials to offer assistance.
While spending Thanksgiving nearly 3,000 miles from his home in Oahu, Hawaii, Elder Kivalu Ramanlal knew his family misses him for a special reason.
“I’m usually the one who cooks our Thanksgiving,” Elder Ramanlal said with a knowing smile.
But Elder Ramanlal, who in a few weeks will leave the Missionary Training Center to serve a Mandarin-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City, said Thursday that he couldn’t see himself doing anything other than taking part in what has been called one of the largest humanitarian efforts in the church not related to a natural disaster.
“This is one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had,” Elder Ramanlal said. “Nothing really gives you the feeling that service does.”
Elder Ramanlal and about 1,200 other missionaries, who will soon leave to 38 different countries, spent much of their Thanksgiving afternoon preparing and packaging apporximately 350,000 meal packs for Utah children in need.
The meals are instant, only requiring water to prepare for eating, are comprised of rice, lentil beans, dried vegetables and himalayan salt. All 60,000 pounds of the pre-made casseroles will be given to students throughout Utah at Title 1 elementary schools, which have a high percentage of students from low income families.
There seems to be something almost magical about those bright yellow ‘Mormon Helping Hands’ vests. When missionaries and members don them, something special is about to happen. Enjoy these three recent news releases from Mormon Newsrooms in India, South Africa, and Philippines.
1. A Wonderful Day of Service in Delhi
All-day service gives clean environment to hearing-impaired residents.
Volunteers from the congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined together for a day of service in Delhi on Saturday, 25 July, 2015. They gathered from all over the city in the early morning hours to clean and paint 15,000 square feet of surface at the Multipurpose Training Center for the Deaf, a branch of All India Federation of the Deaf in New Delhi. The Center provides vocational training with residential facilities for deaf boys and girls. Most of the students were away studying for exams so they had a wonderful surprise to come home to at the end of their day.
The 75 volunteers, aged 12-30, donned their Helping Hands vests, swept the walls in preparation, cleaned fans and lighting fixtures and then began the painting. The walls had been repaired earlier by professionals sent by LDS Charities. Dining rooms, recreational room, bedrooms, hallways, stairs and entrances as well as the outside were given new life with the fresh paint. The youth then scrubbed the floors. New curtains had been made by the women of the Church the previous week and were hung in the rooms of the students.
Latter-day Saints from Randburg and North Riding congregations enjoyed a lively Mormon Helping Hands Day packing over 17,000 meals!
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have partnered with “Stop Hunger Now –South Africa” (SHN) in an effort of addressing the problems of hunger and malnutrition that are all too evident in South Africa, and throughout the African continent.
The Church’s National Public Affairs Director for South Africa, Robert O-Friel, recently met with SHN CEO, Ms. Saira Khan, and discussed ways the Church could partner with their organisation. Ms. Khan and members of her Board recently visited the Church’s Area Headquarters in Johannesburg, where they met with Area priesthood leaders, Humanitarian Directors, and others. In a letter received following their visit, Ms. Khan expressed, “We are deeply humbled by [your] humility, integrity and dedication to the world’s most vulnerable communities and sincerely believe that synergies definitely exist between our organisations, but also between us as people wanting to make the world a better place.” She continued, “By whatever name we may call the Lord, the belief in HIM will continue, ensuring that we reach people one at a time…”
Stop Hunger Now – South Africa is a volunteer based meal packaging and results oriented nutrition programme, which was started in South Africa in 2009. There are currently two full-time operations (Johannesburg and Cape Town). Ms. Graca Machel is the Chief Patron of SHN SA. The organisation secures donations to host Meal Packaging Events, and culminates in the distribution of meals to various Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres throughout South Africa.
In partnership with the Church, members of the Randburg and North Riding Wards joined together on Saturday 15 August, as part of their Mormon Helping Hands service, to participate in one of these Meal Packaging Events.
3. Sagada Water Project Opens 7 Taps for Community Use
Manila — Sagada, a small valley community in the Cordillera mountain range of Northern Luzon, is home to more than 11,000 people. Blessed with many natural wonders and a cool climate, it has become a tourist destination aside from its many agricultural produce.
One of the challenges in this fifth class municipality was on how to bring water from the mountains down to the communities. People had to go uphill or fetch from a neighbor who was able to connect a hose to a water source in order to satisfy their daily needs.
However, all of that changed very recently when 7 taps were opened for community use in Barangay Patay where the poblacion or central town is located.
Seeing the abundance of water, a tank was built which collected water from the mountains. Pipes were then connected to bring water from the tank to communities in Barangay Patay. Tap stands were erected in seven strategic locations where people were now able to fetch water.
LDS Charities provided materials for the construction of the water tanks and tap stands as well as pipes for the water distribution lines. Volunteers from the barangay provided labor for the construction. It was a Bayanihan (cooperative endeavor) that blessed close to 500 families.
Approximately 120 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Regina Saskatchewan Stake (a stake is similar to a diocese) filled 2,500 food hampers to support provincial fire relief efforts through the Regina Food Bank, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership.
Recent fires in the northern two-thirds of Saskatchewan forced the evacuation of many northern communities. More than 13,000 individuals were required to vacate their homes, leaving everything behind. Some were gone as long as six weeks. With the loss of power, most will return to freezers and refrigerators full of spoiled food.
The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Kitsaki Management LP donated sufficient foodstuffs to the Regina Food Bank, the central clearing house for all food banks in the province, to fill 5,000 hampers of food. However, volunteers were needed to assemble the hampers.
With less than 24 hours’ notice, members of three local Church congregations rose to the challenge. The Mormon volunteers of all ages spent a total of 500 person-hours filling boxes. (The Regina Food Bank relaxed age restrictions to allow families to come together to meet the needs of others.)
“I am overwhelmed by the response by the members,” said Yves Noblet, who presides over the Regina Saskatchewan Stake. “We knew the members would come out, but to have such a fast response and such good numbers is heartwarming.”
Missionaries from the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission have been participating in a royal service project over the last few days. Forty missionaries have been helping paint and garden around the Royal Palace as the Kingdom of Tonga prepares for next month’s Coronation of Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u.
Mission President Tupou was quoted by Pacific Mormon Newsroom as saying, “During the service project the crown Prince Tupouto’a and the King and Queen complimented the missionaries on their service and fine work.” This compliment from the King is perhaps a good sign that he is coming around to the idea of his younger son’s recent baptism.
The missionary service project was initiated by Prince ‘Ata, who, according to New Zealand Herald, was recently baptized against his father’s wishes. Prince ‘Ata had been preparing for baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year, but his father repeatedly urged him to postpone it. King Tupou even sent the Prime Minister to stop one baptism in 2014. In March of this year, however, Prince ‘Ata joined the Church.
Buddist Monks at Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center
The Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center Facebook page posted yesterday, “We were recently honored to welcome a group of Buddhist monks to our visitors’ center. Their travels led them from Hong Kong to Taiwan, Canada, France, and across the United States. We were able to share copies of the Book of Mormon with them and answer their questions.”
Before her mission began six months ago, Sister Jessica Villanueva had never poured cement or spread mulch on a playground.
But on the mission field, there’s always a first time for everything.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on examiner.com
In Villanueva’s first opportunity to help build a community playground, she was joined by a handful of current and former basketball stars, several hundred volunteers and about two dozen missionaries from the Houston Texas Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We’re doing what we need to be doing, serving one another,” said Villanueva, a North Carolina native who’s been on her mission for about six months. “That’s what our Heavenly Father wants.”
The missionaries joined NBA stars including Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Dwight Howard in building a playground in Houston’s historic 5th Ward community…. read the rest of the article on examiner.com