In a remote village in Ethiopia young girls trudge each day to the neighboring village with 5 gallon plastic jugs to fetch water from a muddy puddle to bring home to their family. Each time they take this assignment it means they will miss school for the day.
As in much of Africa, there is a great need for clean drinking water for this village. A foundation called Engage Now Africa, is working to change this condition. This foundation is a collaboration stemming from the efforts of a family raised in our LDS community. James and Karen Greding of the Thousand Oaks Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
in California, have served several humanitarian aid missions to various places in Africa to help alleviate some of the poor conditions for families, including helping build schools and dig wells to provide clean water so children can go to school and receive an education. Their efforts were instrumental in beginning “Engage Now Africa
” and now members of their home ward and stake are participating in filling the needs of women and children in Africa as well.
Three years ago the sisters of the Relief Society in the Thousand Oaks Stake, decided to partner with Engage Now Africa to sew 500 dresses for elementary age children in Ethiopia. The effort was such a success and so needed, that the effort has become an ongoing yearly project. Sisters meet once a month to sew simple t-shirt dresses. Each July, they gather the clothing they’ve sewed and send it with volunteers to Africa where it is hand delivered to the communities currently being helped by Engage Now Africa’s efforts. Over the last three years, hundreds of dresses have been sewn and sent from one group of the Lord’s children, to another.
Children in African countries have needs that are so basic that one dress may be all the clothing a little girl may own.
A unique thing about this foundation is that the volunteers who carry out these projects are young adults who pay their own transportation to participate in projects twice a year. On these trips they are allowed to take two suitcases for their 2 week trip. One carries all their personal items and the second is reserved for materials the foundation will take to the villages they serve in four different countries.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of this project is that we can see 100% of our efforts going directly to benefit children in great need,” said Shirley Jones, president of the women’s auxiliary, the Relief Society. “The dresses went in the suitcases of those young adults. When the pictures came back, women recognized the dresses they had sewn!”