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Major Gift Assures Education for 2,000 AIDS Orphans

June 17, 2004, UMCOR

A major donation from a United Methodist family will underwrite school expenses for 2,000 children in Zimbabwe whose parents have died of AIDS. Officials of the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Zimbabwe United Methodist Church announced the six-year-long project this week.

The gift-- about $3 million-- plus $500,000 from the General Board of Global Ministries, the United Methodist mission board, will cover costs of primary and secondary education, including vocational skills training, for six years.

R. Randy Day, the church's head of mission, termed ministry to children a top priority in global Christian mission as he praised the donors. "That family has heard Jesus' call that believers care for children," he said.

In Zimbabwe about 7,000 children are under the care of several orphan trusts supported by UMCOR, the international humanitarian aid agency of the church. The new funds will help the church increase its service to these orphans, said Paul Dirdak, UMCOR's chief executive.

Two existing orphan trusts and two new communities will be selected as project sites. Girls and children with disabilities will be a special focus of the new program. The project will also help participating families and communities with school feeding programs and birth registration.

Planned as a sustainable project, with involvement of church and community representatives in Zimbabwe, the effort could be extended another four years, if additional funding is identified. Both the Zimbabwe East and West annual conferences are key stakeholders. A 13-member board will oversee the project, coordinated by faculty from Africa University.

Quite often, Mr. Dirdak pointed out, the scope of a humanitarian crisis cannot be reflected in the size of the contribution the church can make. In this case, he said, "enough money has been given for us to be able to make a major contribution to a national emergency in a country where The United Methodist Church is very strong."

Announcement of the church's new project coincided with Zimbabwe's first national AIDS conference June 15. Health ministry officials say up to 3,000 people in Zimbabwe die of AIDS-related illnesses each week. Complicating the pandemic are other humanitarian crises, such as armed conflict, poverty and lack of access to health care.

UNAIDS estimates that AIDS has orphaned 14 million children worldwide. The United Nations advocate for global action on the illness says that close to 90 percent of those who have lost at least one parent AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNICEF, another UN agency, 20 million children are likely to be orphans from this single cause by 2010.

Get Involved!

UMCOR's ministries in Zimbabwe assist children heading households to receive care with compassion and dignity. Contributions can be made to UMCOR Advance #982842, AIDS Orphans Trust and UMCOR Advance #101218, AIDS Awareness and Children Impacted by HIV/AIDS in Africa. Donors can place their checks in the offering plate at a local United Methodist Church; mail their gifts to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115; or make a credit card donation by calling 1-800-554-8583.