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Blessing lives for generations

Church Humanitarian Service focuses on four major initiatives to foster self-reliance

During last year, Church Humanitarian Services has helped needy people in dozens of countries, sending famine relief to Ethiopia, providing relief for earthquake victims in Iran and immunizing children in Africa. The Church has helped those in Southern California who lost homes to wildfires and those on the East Coast who were hardest hit by Hurricane Isabel.

"We can't do it all, but what we can do makes a difference," said Dales Bills, Church spokesman. "The Church's ability to render well-organized, appropriate assistance is increasingly noticed, appreciated and requested."

And while the Church is best known for its emergency response, Church Humanitarian Service is currently focusing on four major initiatives — in addition to hundreds of other smaller projects — that are blessing the lives of people worldwide. The major initiatives: wheelchair distribution, clean water, neonatal resuscitation training and vision treatment training, will help people "become more self-reliant in a significant and meaningful way," said Rich McKenna, director of Humanitarian Service.

Unlike emergency response, where the Church sends immediate aid in response to a crisis, the four major initiatives are designed to make a significant impact over an extended period of time.

"Major initiatives are designed to serve individuals now and for generations to come," said Brother McKenna. "That is the essence of the gospel; that is what it does. It blesses people's lives for generations."

Wheelchair distribution: In cooperation with the Wheelchair Foundation, the Church distributed wheelchairs to 40,000 disabled people last year in 68 countries. Another 42,000 people will receive wheelchairs as part of a 2004 initiative.

"For every person who receives a wheelchair, it blesses the lives of seven to eight others who have been providing care for that person," Brother McKenna said.

Neonatal resuscitation training: Neonatal resuscitation training is perhaps the best example of the long-term impact the current initiatives can have, said Brother McKenna.

As part of the program, volunteers train individuals to resuscitate newborns with breathing problems. Those trained will train at least 10 other medical professionals in the procedures. "It is a train-the-trainer approach," said Brother McKenna.

Follow-up studies by the Church are encouraging, he added, noting that second-generation trainees test as well as the people trained by Church volunteers. He estimated that 18,000 people were trained in the 2003 initiative with an additional 20,000 receiving training in 2004.

"This program is designed to help reduce infant mortality," he said. "The result is that thousands of babies will be saved."

Clean water: This program improves the health of families by providing them with clean water. This is done in a variety of ways.

In 90 Ghana villages, for example, Church volunteers refurbished wells and pumps. In other areas, clean water was piped to rural communities or rain water was filtered.

In 2003, the Church provided clean water to 50,000 families, with an additional 60,000 families targeted in the 2004 plan.

"Our desire is to provide clean water to those who don't have it," Brother McKenna said. "We are taking villages and towns that don't have a supply of clean water and helping them."

Vision treatment training: As part of the vision treatment initiative, the Church sends physicians to train medical professionals in developing nations and to upgrade equipment and technology. Thirty professionals, for example, received training at a medical school in Peru to remove cataracts.

As a result, 2,550 people received either training or eye surgery last year. Another 2,550 will be impacted by the 2004 initiative, Brother McKenna said.

"In many places only the rich can afford cataract surgery," he said. "Our focus is exclusively on training so others will end up with better skills to perform the surgery."

Tens of thousands of needy people have been helped over the past year by Church Humanitarian projects, Brother McKenna said. "Our efforts are funded by the generosity of members and friends who give to the Humanitarian fund — they are gifts of love to the needy worldwide. We are so grateful to those who give of their time and funds to make this possible."

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