Help at home and around the world

Oct 1 2013 - 2:12pm


Volunteers fill personal hygiene kits for distribution during an emergency. The LDS Church’s welfare services help people in crisis in the U.S. and around the world.
Volunteers fill personal hygiene kits for distribution during an emergency. The LDS Church’s welfare services help people in crisis in the U.S. and around the world.

In many organizations, the efforts to help people know no borders.

The same is true of Welfare Services for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church works to get aid through after such natural disasters as the tsunami and quake in Japan, typhoons in the Philippines and flooding in places such as Honduras and India. The church is and has been getting aid into civil war-torn Syria and the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Nationally, the church provided relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy, which was the largest response for the church in 2012, its newsroom website reported. It also said 28,000 members of the church donated time. There also was response to devastating tornadoes in the Midwest.

"When the church responds to a disaster, we provide material resources and volunteers, but response efforts are really a partnership between our members and communities," said Lynn Samsel, director of Church Emergency Response.

The disaster response efforts just scratch the surface of what the church is up to in helping others here and around the globe. There are many programs designed to bring stability to families and members in many areas. Here are a few of them.

Perpetual Education Fund

Former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund program in 2001. The program is funded by members' and other donations and is a revolving fund to help members in developing countries get very-low-interest loans for education. reports a 90 percent payback rate. It is patterned after the Perpetual Emmigration Fund for those coming to Utah at the time of the pioneers.

Kyle Jensen, a recently returned missionary from Panama and a music student at Weber State University, says the program is very popular in that country and is now "limited to specific needed degrees, such as those in" technical areas."

The church reports more than 50,000 members have participated from more than 50 countries.

Wheelchair project

The church, now through LDS Charities, has been helping provide mobility aids to the disabled around the world -- especially Third World countries -- since 2001. It was reported that in 2012, the effort provided new wheelchairs or walking aids to 67,500 people in 57 countries.

The LDS Charities website said the chairs and aids are prepared for each person and their individual needs. The wheelchairs are measured to adapt to the person's body, mobility needs, lifestyle, posture and security, with durability. A cushion is also needed to provide for skin protection and pressure relief. Medically, a proper-fitting chair prevents many secondary problems, said Jill Zundel, an occupational therapist at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

"Skin integrity is probably the No.1 worry," she said. "There are also worries about achieving a proper posture. You also want to get the highest function for a person with a disability that you can."

Families and caregivers are also trained to adjust and even repair the chairs through church humanities staff who are qualified therapists.

Medical, personal hygiene

A big humanitarian effort for the church centers on improving the health and well-being of members and others in Third World countries.

Jennie Kulinki, of Provo, saw firsthand how this service improved conditions of many in the Ivory Coast when she served with her now-departed husband as mission president in the country.

She and her husband helped arrange efforts to fight guinea worm, also called dracunculiasis. It is a parasite found in standing water. The worm moves through the body to lower limbs after ingestion. The disease is very painful.

Prevention is usually done by education, teaching people to boil water, use water filters and visually look for problems in the water. Kulinki said a member of the church who was a member of the Peace Corps came through the Ivory Coast and helped with the effort.

It was the mission's duty to ask for humanitarian needs. Kulinki said clothes were a big need, and bundles would be distributed at churches after being received from the LDS Humanitarian Center. She said the items were very much appreciated no matter who brought the clothes.

"I was outside a church one day waiting for my husband to finish some interviews, and I watched an older man come by," she said. "He was wearing a shirt that said, 'The world's greatest grandma.' That tickled me, but then I was ashamed. It was probably the best shirt he has ever had. Not speaking English, he didn't care what it said."

Kulinki said there were also programs to help the hearing impaired. The church also brought in infant incubators to help babies in neonatal units. She said hospitals were very grateful for the units, even though they were used models.

Dentists also came to the mission. Teeth cleaning, fillings and tooth-pulling were done in the kitchen of the mission home for members needing the care.

During Kulinki's time in the Ivory Coast in the 1990s, she saw the church's efforts shift from being under the auspices of the World Health Organization to being operated by LDS Charities.

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