Ogden stake helping Mali
Ogden East Stake President Reed Richards announced in his stake's conference last January that wards in the stake would be adopting villages in Africa to donate needed items.
The idea came after a returned missionary in the stake had served a mission in Africa and reported on many of the needs in the different countries and villages there. No sooner did he make that announcement than did wards and Relief Society groups within those wards go to work for the villages.
Contacts were made with Yeah Samake, an LDS church member living in Africa. He had also spent time going to school in Utah, and is one of the only LDS people living in Mali.
He is a mayor of an area in Mali.
Samake helped the wards get the information they needed, including the numbers and types of supplies that were needed for the various villages. Five villages were assigned to the wards in the stake.
"The wards started working on different things and some wards really embraced it," said Joan Vogel, a counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency.
It was established that the villages could use hygiene kits, school kits and baby supplies, Vogel said.
Some wards sewed bags, while others went out and got recyclable bags from grocery stores to put kits in.
When Roz Montague was asked to help with the project, she and husband John went into it full force. John Montague got hold of Samake to find out how many people were in the village, so they could set a goal.
"We had one of the bigger villages, about 1,500 people," John said.
From there they established how many children would need kits and set the goal at 400.
"We wanted every child to have their hygiene kits - something to call their own," Roz said.
Things started moving quickly, and the stake set an early summer date to have everything ready to go, but things really went into high gear when it was learned that the container they were using to ship the supplies was going out at the end of March, Vogel said.
Roz admits she was a little worried about getting everything together, but says the earlier deadline made people work more quickly.
"I think we performed a little miracle with how quickly everything came together," Roz said. She was thrilled and very impressed with church members who kept donating items.
"A lot of the people in our ward don't necessarily have a lot of money, so for them it is a big deal," Roz said. "Most of us will never go to Africa, and this is the way to help the people."
Vogel also loved watching the service go into action. She said she knows people say more help should be given locally, but she points out that everyone can use a helping hand everywhere.
"There are just so many amazing little stories of people donating things," John Montague said.
He remembers when a family of six came walking down the street, each child carrying a little bag of school supplies.
"Some people would just bring over a spiral notebook, but that's what made it happen, just the little things," John said.
Vogel said although the items were sent at the end of March, they probably won't arrive until Christmastime. Members of the stake are anxiously waiting for word that the supplies have arrived. "They told us they were going to send pictures," Roz said.
All together the stake collected 561 school kits; 1,628 hygiene kits; 80 baby kits; and boxes and supplies with soccer balls, dictionaries, books and other miscellaneous items. Blankets also were sewn and donated, as well as 200 friendship bracelets that a young women's group made. More than $760 in cash also was donated.
"I think it has been a really good thing," Vogel said.
And Roz summed up the feeling of many:
"I think it's great that people are so willing to be part of something bigger than ourselves."