In 2007 the Church responded to major earthquakes in 5 countries, massive fires in 6 countries, hunger and famine in 18 countries, and flooding and severe storms in 34 countries. In total the Church and its members responded to 170 major events – nearly one every two days for the entire year. It was a busy year with many opportunities to serve.
In addition to responding to natural disasters, we undertook thousands of public health initiatives during the year. Over 1 million people benefitted from Church-sponsored clean water projects in 25 countries. More than 60,500 people received wheelchairs in 60 nations. Early this year Sister Burton and I, with the South America North Area Presidency, participated with the First Lady of Colombia in a wheelchair presentation. Tears came easily as receivers and their caregivers expressed their appreciation. In 11 countries, over 54,000 individuals now enjoy improved vision. Over 16,500 health-care professionals in 23 countries were trained in infant neonatal resuscitation; they, in turn, will train many others. In a quest to eliminate measles, 2.8 million children and youth in 10 countries received immunizations. The combined effects of these outreach endeavors directly touched nearly 4 million people in 85 countries.
In August a major 8.0 earthquake killed 520 people and destroyed more than 58,000 homes in southern Peru. In a marvelous display of love and concern, each of the 29 stakes in Lima, Peru, provided basic assistance to ward areas in the devastated region.
With the wonderful assistance of missionaries, a plan is under way to help individuals rebuild their homes and lives and replace several schools. As many as 400 homes may ultimately be built, with individuals, friends, and family doing much of the work. Supervision, coordination, and training are under the direction of Elder and Sister Alan Layton.
Late in the year a combination of dry weather and high winds fueled wildfires in southern California. These wildfires forced over one million people from their homes. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed. In response the Church provided cleaning kits, blankets, hygiene kits, and food. Over 5,000 Mormon Helping Hands along with missionaries cleaned, cooked, comforted, and cared for those affected.
One note of appreciation said: “Please forward a great big thank you to all the Latter-day Saints who have been working so hard in my neighborhood. The Mormons have been here constantly with meals, hugs, prayers, and helping to repair and clear property. They . . . uplift my community, heal hearts, and repair homes in the San Diego hills.” Reflecting on the experience, one stake president said: “One of our projects was to assist cleaning up around the local Baptist church. . . . We assigned 25 youth. . . . The Baptists said that they would have lots of donuts and coffee for us. We told them the coffee would go stale, but our youth could handle as many donuts as they could provide!”
Heavy rains triggered flooding across the midwestern United States, Oregon, and Washington. Volunteers came with supplies from the bishops’ storehouse to provide help to those in need.
When Church representatives in Findlay, Ohio, presented a donation to the local Red Cross chapter, a passerby spotted them in their yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts. She walked in and held up her camera phone with a picture of four Helping Hands and exclaimed, “They just saved my home!” Then she hugged everyone in sight. A shipment of food was delivered to a local food bank. When it arrived, the manager had a startled look on his face and said, “How did you know? I just gave out my last loaf of bread and planned to lock the doors. How did you know?”
Working with the World Health Organization to eliminate measles as a killer of almost a million children each year, over 54,000 Church members volunteered to help organize the effort. A Church member in Nigeria wrote: “I called our labor the ‘rescue of the innocent.’ We went house-to-house and village hall to village hall. A woman told us she had lost three children to measles. She told her story with such grace and passion that there was not a dry eye in the house, mine included.” Our volunteer observed, “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things that you do for others remain as your legacy.”
Our four-year effort to help those devastated by a tsunami in Indonesia and southern Asia also continued. Funding was provided to help build 902 homes, with 3 community centers, 24 village water systems, 15 schools, and 3 medical centers. A community leader said: “Community members feel happy and blessed to have the community center. . . . It is a place [where] we can pray . . . and teach the children. . . . Thank you to [the Church] for building this center for our people. . . . We will pray to God to give [the Church] blessings and success in the future. Thank you.”
In Ethiopia, communities helped to access clean drinking water. The Church drilled wells and constructed storage tanks. Communities organized a water committee and dug the trenches needed to pipe the water from the storage tanks to each village. In some cases this was a distance of over 3 miles (5 km).
Some communities struggled to meet their commitments for trenching. The soil was hard, dry, and full of clay, making digging very difficult. In one community a school of 1,500 students suspended normal school activities for a period of time, and everyone participated in digging the remaining sections of the trench. As they worked, other members of the community joined in. At one point there was over a mile-long line of people digging.
Thank you for your compassion, your goodness, and your generosity. May we press forward to lighten the load of neighbors, encourage and assist the downtrodden, open our purses to assist the poor, and extend our helping hands. I bear witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel and pray that we may continue to enjoy the blessings of true discipleship as we quietly reach out to others. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. — Bishop H. David Burton, Priesthood Session, General Conference, “It was a busy year with many opportunities to serve,” Church News, April 12, 2008, p. 16
January 1, 2005: In a partnership effort with Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Church sent more than 760 tons of medical supplies, hygiene kits, clothing and shoes by chartered cargo plane to Indonesia to aid tsunami victims [after disaster that struck southern Asia on Dec. 26, 2004]. Later, two full cargo containers of clothing from the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, six additional containers of first aid, medical supplies and relief items, and a shipment of Atmit [a vitamin-rich and life-saving porridge developed by Church members] were sent to Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
January 25, 2005: The Church airlifted eight pallets of food and medical supplies to Guyana following severe flooding of the South American country.
February 4, 2005: Members of the First Presidency presented a check for $1 million to the American Red Cross for the Measles Initiative, a Red Cross vaccination program to help fight measles in Africa. The donation was the second part of a $3 million, three-year commitment by the Church. In recognition of the Church’s support, the Red Cross presented the Church with its highest honor for donors, the American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarians award.
July 6, 2005: The Church’s Humanitarian Services and Deseret Book Company teamed up to ship 6,500 new books, with a retail value of $60,000, to Ghana and Fiji, the first of an ongoing partnership to provide books to homes, schools and libraries in developing areas of the world.
July 7, 2005: Deadly terrorists’ attacks in London, England, left 52 people dead and 700 injured as bombs exploded on three underground subway trains and on one of the city’s double-decker buses. Following the coordinated attacks, the Church donated $37,000 to help victims.
July 16-17, 2005: Hundreds of Church members converged on Florida’s Panhandle and in south Alabama to help with cleaning and fixing up following the devastation left by Hurricane Dennis, which hit the southeastern U.S. July 10 with winds up to 120 miles an hour.
August 6, 2005: President Hinckley held a press conference in Aba, Nigeria, which included two national Nigerian news organizations, and said that during the last five years the Church had sent $77.1 million worth of aid to Africa.
August 10, 2005: In a partnership between the Church and Catholic Relief Services, the Church donated 40 tons of Atmit, an easily digestible porridge, to feed as many as 7,000 malnourished children in the north-central African nation of Niger.
August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm, slammed into Mississippi and Louisiana with winds of 145 mph, generating a 28-foot surge of water, then moved north, leaving broad destruction in its wake. As the hurricane came ashore, a levee was breached in New Orleans, La., causing massive flooding with 80% of the city under 14 feet of water. Within a matter of hours, 14 semi-trucks from the Church, mobilized before the storm’s landfall and loaded with emergency supplies, reached the disaster zone. A contingent of Church leaders, led by President Boyd K. Packer, toured areas of destruction. Within the first two weeks after the hurricane struck, the Church had sent into the affected areas 140 semi-trucks carrying 5.6 million pounds, or 2,800 tons, of commodities and supplies. During that same period, LDS volunteers donated 73,000 hours in helping thousands of Church members and people of other faiths.
September 24, 2005: Following on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, a Category 3 storm, hit along the Texas-Louisiana coastal areas with 100-mph winds, leaving a path of destruction between Beaumont, Texas, and Jennings, La., with damages estimated at $6 billion. The Church, in its initial relief effort, sent 10 semi-trucks and three delivery trucks, filled with food and emergency equipment and supplies.
October 8, 2005: A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan and India. Ten days later, 80 tons of Church supplies reached Pakistan. The Church also donated $100,000 to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund in India.
October 24, 2005: Hurricane Wilma hit the Fort Myers, Fla., and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, destroying homes and ushering in the need for mor Church aid during the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record.
November 21-26, 2005: The Church sent blankets and tents, in addition to 400 tons of relief supplies already shipped, to aid earthquake victims in Pakistan, facing a winter without adequate shelter.
December 2, 2005: The Colombian Congress honored the Church for its humanitarian service that has bettered the lives of Colombians in need. — “2005 Year in Review,” Church News, December 31, 2005, pp. 13-15
Our business is communication. We must speak with people across the world. We must speak at home to let our stand be known, and abroad to acquaint others with our work. And so we own a newspaper, the Deseret News, the oldest business institution in Utah.
We likewise own television and radio stations. These provide a voice in the communities which they serve. I may add that we are sometimes embarrassed by network television presentations. Our people do the best they can to minimize the impact of these.
We have a real estate arm designed primarily to ensure the viability and the attractiveness of properties surrounding Temple Square. The core of many cities has deteriorated terribly. This cannot be said of Salt Lake City, although you may disagree as you try to get to the Tabernacle these days. We have tried to see that this part of the community is kept attractive and viable. With the beautiful grounds of Temple Square and the adjoining block to the east, we maintain gardens the equal of any in the world. This area will become even more attractive when the facility now being constructed on Main Street is completed and the large Conference Center to the north is finished.
Are these businesses operated for profit? Of course they are. They operate in a competitive world. They pay taxes. They are important citizens of this community. And they produce a profit, and from that profit comes the money which is used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation to help with charitable and worthwhile causes in this community and abroad and, more particularly, to assist in the great humanitarian efforts of the Church.
These businesses contribute one-tenth of their profit to the Foundation. The Foundation cannot give to itself or to other Church entities, but it can use its resources to assist other causes, which it does so generously. Millions of dollars have been so distributed. Thousands upon thousands have been fed. They have been supplied with medicine. They have been supplied with clothing and shelter in times of great emergency and terrible distress. How grateful I feel for the beneficence of this great Foundation which derives its resources from the business interests of the Church. — Gordon B. Hinckley, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, November 1999
To underscore the increased emphasis being placed throughout the Church on humanitarian aid, Bishop H. David Burton quoted language that the First Presidency has recently approved that adds “caring for the poor and needy” to the traditional purpose of the Church of proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints and redeeming the dead.
“To help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities,” said Bishop Burton, quoting the statement approved by the First Presidency. “These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and the needy, and enabling the salvation for the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances.”
According to Bishop Burton, humanitarian aid differs from Church welfare in that humanitarian efforts are aimed at non-members while welfare is assistance dispensed to members by the Church’s 27,000 bishops. He said a primary objective of Church humanitarian outreach is to “relieve suffering by responding to emergencies — on the average, there is an emergency someplace in the world related generally to a natural disaster every two days.” He added that the program’s “secondary objective is to help families and individuals become self-reliant.”
To that end, since 2003 LDS Charities, a non-governmental organization (NGO) arm of the Church, has donated more than $150 million to humanitarian aid; given 333,763 wheelchairs to disabled people all over the world; trained 130,000 doctors and nurses in neo-natal resuscitation; trained 450,000 professionals in eyesight-enhancing procedures; and provided more than 6 million people with access to clean water.
“Humanitarian services around the world make things better for our brothers and sisters wherever they may be located,” Bishop Burton said. — Jamshid Askar, “Humanitarian Services . . . Make Things Better,” Church News, December 19, 2009, p. 4