I came home from a humanitarian trip to Africa with a deep love in my heart for the people yet feeling disheartened…
I came home from a humanitarian trip to Africa with a deep love in my heart for the people. Yet, I came away feeling disheartened by the extreme conditions many of them live in on a daily basis. I witnessed lives without clean water, electricity, stoves, toilets, schools, parents, medical care, opportunities, and other resources to even sustain a life. But somehow through it all, they still manage to be some of the happiest humans I’ve ever met.
As I attempted to acclimate myself back to my daily life, I came across a 25 day challenge on Mormon.org calling for us to #LIGHTtheWORLD! They have provided a calendar of 25 things that Christ did in his life to “Light the World” and invite all of us to follow his example and also #LIGHTtheWORLD through simple and small daily actions.
As I laid in bed one night thinking of what ‘lighting the world’ meant to me, I thought about the orphanage we visited in Eastern Uganda that nestled alone on top of a hill. Currently, it feeds, educates and houses over 200 orphans who have lost parents due to natural disasters, abandonment or illness.
Our volunteers had the opportunity to spend the night there this past Thanksgiving and as soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, darkness settled in and there was not a sparkle of a light in sight outside. It felt unsettling to only have our small flashlight guiding us around. As we were getting ready for bed, we heard singing and drumming coming from the other room where the kids were staying. We went to see what they were up to, and there they were – dancing and singing (something they do nightly) in a dimly lit room! This moment is one I will never forget as we joined in on their dance party. This was their light, their moment to get away from the life stressors and just sing. There is this natural light that many of the people of Africa have despite their circumstances. You can feel it through their smile, laughter, and song.
How can I be a person that shares my light?
Helpless and guilt stricken, I came home to my comfortable life miles and miles away from the sweet smiles of the people I met in Africa. Yearning to want to do more… I felt lost and discouraged on how to help. How in the world could a busy mother of three young children really make a drop in the bucket of a difference to people across the world?
One morning, as I laid in bed thinking of how to get involved, my mind went back to the refugee camp and I could see images of the children and families we saw there. I knew that there were many families settling here from the exact refugee camp that I had just visited! Despite their new found safety, they must be incredibly scared and incredibly COLD!!! I knew I wanted to help.
I looked over the Light the World calendar and the words, “Jesus Taught us to Clothe the Naked and So Can You” stood out to me and I knew right then that I wanted to collect coats and warm clothing for refugee families in my area by hosting a small coat drive with music, treats and friends.
It seemed like a large commitment but through recruitment and help from fellow friends, we were all able to make it into a magical night. Here is a little snap shot of our night and some tips that made it easy and successful in meeting our goals.
(Video credit: Darlene Dame music credit: Bianca Merkley)
We kept things simple.
Using some twinkle lights and simple decor pieces we brought from home, we were able to keep decor costs down. We also had so many friends offer to bring treats and drinks that we had plenty to eat. The sound engineering and music equipment were donated by a friend who volunteered her time.
At The Heart of It
Lucky for me, I have a very talented and generous sister, Bianca Merkley, who was gracious enough to sing and share her new EP album, At The Heart of It, with us that evening.
Did I mention that she had the audience captivated by her voice and lyrics the entire night?
We networked with our friends and family and pulled together a small silent auction of some great products! (Proof, Tubby Todd, Bitty Kids, Kelson orthodontics, & Camilla Dahlin)
Money from the Music CDs and a Christmas Countdown Banner all went to the cause as well.
By the time the night was over, we had enough coats to fill a small trailer and a little over $2,ooo to give to the refugees!
I was amazed at how everything came together in such a short amount of time (2 weeks!) and how everyone pitched in to help make this event easy and enjoyable. It turned out to be not only a great fundraiser, but a beautiful night full of music, joy, friendship, and laughter.
How Can You Help?
We have had a lot of requests from people that were not able to make it that night but want to help. So if you want to join the cause, we set up 2 ways to make it easy (and get a little something in return)!
Go buy this Christmas song by Bianca Merkley for $1.00. All proceeds will go to the International Rescue Committee and her song can be listened to all year long- it’s that good!
Go buy the Christmas Countdown Banner in the HowDoesShe Shop. All proceeds using code: REFUGEE will be donated to the IRC and you get $1 off, so your price will be $3.99!
We know that pulling together a benefit concert is a huge task and not one that happens on a regular basis. But there are several ways a person can still “clothe the naked.”
Some ideas include:
-Go through your closet and donate clothing and shoes to a shelter or other local organization
-Call your local refugee center and ask for what clothing items are needed and collect those items. See this post for 21 more ideas on how to help refugees.
-Invite friends to do a clothing swap
-Hand down your child’s clothing to someone in need
We would love to hear what other things you are doing to Light the World! Share with us in the comments!
Connect with me on Instagram and share your experiences! @weedstwishes and @howdoesshe
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