Gilbert Organizations Aid Countries Throughout the World
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors humanitarian relief and development projects around the world that benefit those of all faiths. These projects include emergency relief assistance in times of disaster and programs that strengthen the self-reliance of individuals, families and communities. The Church also encourages its members to be “anxiously engaged” in good causes of their own initiative. In Gilbert there are many humanitarian and service organizations, such as Care for Life, an organization founded by a Latter-day Saint couple and their friends who wanted to make a difference.
The Care for Life Story:
In the summer of 1999 the news media released a dramatic story of a mother in Mozambique who had delivered her baby in a tree while taking refuge from a devastating flood. A photo of the mother, along with accounts of massive destruction to a country already drowning in abject poverty, caught the attention of the world — at least for a brief moment.
About this time Cindy Packard, a midwife in Gilbert, Arizona, was encouraged by a friend who had previously been to Africa to return with her and explore ways to help. Researching the plight of Africans, she began to learn more about the unfathomable problems they faced and the drastic need for help from the outside world.
In June of 2000 their group of seven arrived in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world. Miraculously, doors were opened for them to meet with the National Ministry of Health, and they requested help with training and supplies for traditional birth attendants who deliver over 80% of all babies born in Mozambique. Cindy and her husband, Blair, with the help of dedicated friends, founded a nonprofit organization called Care for Life (CFL).
In 2001 and 2002 Gilbert residents assembled and donated over 15,000 birthing kits, which the Church then shipped to Mozambique. The Church later partnered with CFL to sponsor a 21-day course to train the women who received the kits.
Today the main focus of CFL is called the Family Preservation Program. This program is designed to help families become healthy, knowledgeable, stable and self-reliant — and it is working. Care for Life was recently chosen by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, a U.S. State Department project, as one of the “10 best practices in the world affecting positive change in Global Health.”
Many people from the Gilbert community have volunteered their time, talents and resources to help this organization be so successful in helping desperately poor people on the other side of the world.
Local Humanitarian Service in Gilbert
Local Mormon congregations have also been actively involved with community service. In 2003 they joined with the local Newborns in Need organization to help families deal with infant deaths, premature births and babies in need. Hundreds of yards of fabric, yarn and quilt batting were donated, as well as thousands of diapers and hundreds of bars of soap. The Church Relief Society, the organization for adult women in the Church, and many Scout troops were involved in making thousands of loomed, crocheted and knitted hats, quilts and blankets; handmade stuffed toys; diaper bags; positioning snakes; burp cloths; booties; crocheted washcloths; burial layettes; and clothing for newborn intensive care units and newborn and preemie hospital units, including newborn layettes, preemie layettes and other items.
On an average Saturday morning, most young adults would be in bed sound asleep. However, on one Saturday morning, a large group of almost 60 young adults, ages 18-31, from the Indigo Bay and Lexington young adult congregations spent most of the day painting six houses in a poverty-ridden area. “It was a wonderful experience. It felt great to make a difference in someone’s life, and we loved helping them,” said one participant in the project.
The year 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints humanitarian program. In September of 2010, humanitarian leaders were able to contact or visit Cardon Children’s Hospital, Crises Nursery in Phoenix, Gilbert Public Schools, Gila River Indian Community, Home Base Program for Youth, House of Refuge East, Maricopa Medical Center, Mesa Police Department, Newborns in Need, New Leaf and Urban Outreach. These leaders were able to assess current needs, deliver items and make future plans for assistance. Various communities are currently holding workshops twice a month where friends and neighbors assemble to make items and prepare boxes of donations to deliver throughout the Gilbert area. They also have a program of making newborn knitted hats that are sent to Mexico City missionaries, who deliver the hats and a fleece blanket to the Mexico City Maternity Hospital. This Gilbert Arizona Humanitarian Program has been able to assist many individuals in their effort to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society.
Each year in September, the community of Gilbert comes out in large numbers to participate in Constitution Week, which began in 2002 to celebrate the Constitution. The event not only succeeds in educating Gilbert children about the U.S. Constitution, but it also brings this great forgotten American holiday out of the shadows. Constitution Week has now become the largest celebration of the U.S. Constitution. Each year it reaches over 50,000 East Valley residents with in-school character visits, Scout workshops, family home evening lessons, art and essay contests and a massive celebration of singing and dancing.
These types of projects are carried out by adults as well as youth all over the Gilbert area each year. While communities benefit with each project, we all benefit from the efforts we make to join together with our neighbors in humanitarian service.