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Local Church Organizes Drive To Collect Items For Zimbabwe Orphans



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Local Church Organizes Drive To Collect Items For Zimbabwe Orphans

By Tanjua Damon

The call for help is thousands of miles away and across several oceans, but the obstacles are not standing in the way of a local church which has opened its heart to help children in a far away land.

Members of Newtown Christian Church are on a crusade to help orphaned children in Chinudyze, Zimbabwe, who are HIV positive or infected with AIDS. An organization through an American Christian missionary program called All God’s Children is heading the project that has brought a hospital and living quarters to many children in Zimbabwe who have been orphaned, while local volunteers are collecting needed items to send. Two Americans, Jim and Denise Hayes, have been heading the project in Zimbabwe.

“We are so blessed,” said Dianne Malin, who is organizing the service project. “We are so fortunate to be able to do things for other people.”

Ms Malin decided to make it her mission to organize the collecting here in Newtown. She has solicited from various towns to collect children’s items like books, clothing, furniture, and toys to send by boat to the orphaned children of Zimbabwe.

Several schools in Newtown including the Newtown Middle School, Head O’ Meadow School, and Sandy Hook School have cleaned out their storage areas and donated old books to the cause. The books are no longer used, but the schools did not want to just throw them away.

“We never want to throw away books, so we don’t,” middle school principal Diane Sherlock said. “There is a whole range of resources we don’t use anymore, but store.”

Ms Malin has taken away three van loads and two pickup truck loads of books from the middle school with the help of custodians Bill Butler and Henry Velthuizen. Some of the books are probably 20 to 25 years old, according to Ms Sherlock.

Ms Malin has reached out to area towns in hopes of collecting the essentials that the orphans need. Living conditions are much poorer in Zimbabwe than here in Connecticut. The area where the facility is does not have electricity at this time and the weather is fairly warm there, according to Ms Malin. The children need fall-like jackets, clothes, and toys without batteries since they can not afford to replace them. Beds and cribs are also needed for the children.

More then 3.7 million children have died from the AIDS epidemic that began in the 1970s in Africa, according to UNAIDS. Another 12 million children have been orphaned by the epidemic. In Zimbabwe, one-quarter of adults are infected. In 1999, 160,000 adults and children died and 900,000 children were orphaned.

Once Upon a Child, a children’s consignment shop in Danbury, has donated furniture items, car seats, toys, and clothes to the cause.

“We have always donated to Birth Right. We’re always looking for another outlet,” Diana Maunsell, owner of Once Upon a Child, said. “Thanks to our generous customers we are able to help out.”

A tag sale will be held on August 4 for items that are collected but cannot be used in Zimbabwe from 9 am until everything is sold. The sale will be at the Newtown Christian Church on Sugar Street (Route 302). The money earned at the tag sale will be used to ship the items to Zimbabwe.

The items collected for the orphans will be shipped in 24 by 24-foot storage containers and will be sent by boat, according to Ms Malin. The cost for the shipment is $2,400, and it will take six months to get to its destination.

Minister of Newtown Christian Church Jack Tanner rode a bicycle two years ago from Newtown to Indiana for his 50th birthday to raise money for All God’s Children.

“I was pleased when I first became familiar with this particular mission. I tried to get as many people excited about it as I could,” Mr Tanner said. “So I’m glad she [Ms Malin] jumped on board.”

All that is collected will make its way to an AIDS care facility and hospital care unit in Zimbabwe that helps out children who are orphaned and are dealing with the virus, according to Mr Tanner. The facilities construction is complete. Now All God’s Children is working to obtain electricity for the site or purchase a generator.

“Because it is affecting the kids, this mission primarily gives help to the children,” Mr Tanner said. “It’s an opportunity to educate. We can be involved in a very effective way.”

National Video Service on Commerce Road has been supplying boxes so that the donated items can be packaged for the voyage to Zimbabwe.

For more information about donating items or helping with the monetary cost of shipping the items should contact Dianne Malin at 364-0441.

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