Strengthening the Community

“Strengthening the Community,” Ensign, Jan. 2004, 78–79

Strengthening the Community

Australia Stake Helps Burmese Orphans

Members of the Church from the east coast of Australia recently responded with overwhelming support to the plight of Burmese children stranded near the Thailand border.

The Gold Coast Australia Stake donated 303 blankets, eight boxes of bedsheets, 54 boxes of books and activity sets, and cash donations to 200 Burmese children orphaned as a result of civil unrest that destroyed their villages and families.

Janelle Nicholson of the stake’s Lismore Ward first learned of the children—many who are younger than 10 years of age—from Norene Colley of Rotary International.

While Ms. Colley began an ambitious project to build a shelter to house the children, Sister Nicholson worked with her stake Relief Society president, Kaye Hettig, to help arrange for other much-needed supplies such as clothing and toiletries.

“The response swept through like a fever among our people, and they have really caught the vision,” Sister Hettig said. “We invited everyone to donate—to provide toiletries, basic hygiene essentials, and clothing for the little ones—and we have well exceeded our goals.”

Young women from the Mudgeeraba Ward took the children’s plight to heart and fashioned T-shirts from their wardrobes into sundresses that were packaged along with new hair ties and combs for the young girls in the camp.

“They now have something new and pretty that is just like them!” said 15-year-old Bianca Eagle of Bonogin. “I hope they can somehow feel our love for them through these dresses.”

Members in El Salvador Help Ease Parents’ Grief

Responding to the needs of impoverished families in their community, members of the San Salvador El Salvador La Libertad Stake built 300 small coffins for families who have lost children.

The unique service is particularly tender because Salvadoran health regulations require that parents provide a suitable coffin in order to claim the body of a child who has died in the hospital. Many parents who cannot afford a coffin fear they will not be able to claim their child’s body should he or she die. So at times parents choose to remove a sick child from the hospital. La Libertad Stake president Angel Duarte, a pediatrician at Benjamin Bloom Pediatric Hospital, worries that some children who might recover with diligent hospital care are dying as a result.

President Duarte contacted Church Humanitarian Services, who provided enough wood and materials to build 300 small coffins. Members of the La Libertad Stake donated time and labor. Each coffin was lined inside with white cloth. A floral pattern was then added—offering a personal, comforting touch to each casket.

The completed coffins were shipped to a government warehouse where they are provided by hospital social workers to needy families on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the stake hope the coffins will bring comfort to families who have lost children and that the availability of such coffins will help parents decide to leave a sick child in a hospital for continued care.

In addition, many Salvadorans are catching a glimpse into the hearts of their Latter-day Saint neighbors. Local television and radio stations and newspapers have covered the coffin project. President Duarte also appeared on a popular Salvadoran talk show, answering questions about the project and his faith.

“The more the Church requires,” he said in the interview, “the better we become.”

Church News contributed to these reports.

Church members in Australia load boxes full of donations for Burmese orphans. Thousands of blankets, articles of clothing, toys, and shoes were collected during the project. (Photograph courtesy of Australia/New Zealand local news committee.)

Relief Society sisters in San Salvador, El Salvador, help build small coffins for families who have lost children. The project served a unique need in their community. (Photograph courtesy of Angel Duarte.)