When it comes to Humanitarian Aid, Mormons do it best. But, sometimes it’s hard to get things set up and a system in place.
Typically, humanitarian services are left to the Relief Society, specifically the Enrichment Counselor and Leader, to pull something together occasionally during the year. I personally believe someone should be called as a Humanitarian Leader with a dedicated and enthusiastic committee in each ward. A stake Humanitarian Leader could be called and her committee could consist of all ward liaisons, and everything works at a stake level. If that were fully functioning, there is no end to the good you could accomplish.
There is so much help needed in the world today, doing a project once or twice a year is like a raindrop evaporating before it even hits the ground. If every ward and stake did something on a constant basis, we would have a steady downpour of spiritual well-being upon us all. Our intent is not to extinguish poverty, or help every single person who needs help, but to bear our testimonies through acts of service. By helping others, we help ourselves and together we come unto Christ.
I offer a few suggestions to help you generate your own ideas on how best to bring Humanitarian Service to the forefront of your wards and stakes.
1) At the end of each year, the Stake President turns over surplus money from the budget to church headquarters. Ask your Stake President to reserve those funds and earmark them for Humanitarian projects.
2) Set up a fund in each ward where anyone can donate money by marking the box “Other” on the tithing receipt. The Humanitarian Leader can use this money to purchase items needed to complete the projects. All funds are sacred and should be spent judiciously and carefully.
3) Every member of the ward and stake should be allowed, and encouraged, to help in whatever way they can: Men, Women, Boy/Cub Scouts, Young Women, Achievement Day Girls, Those living in Rest Homes who are able, Non-Members, etc.
4) A running list of projects and services could be generated and made available. Generate another list of skills and equipment available in your wards and stakes.
5) Allow committee members to help in the organizing: They can specialize in various areas: sewing, yarn projects, laminating, etc. The real work comes from members of your ward, stake, and neighborhood. Involve everyone!
6) Anyone can donate to the Humanitarian Center. Even those who live in other parts of the world can help through the Welfare program. Patterns and lists for kits are available on-line at www.lds.org and can be used for those in need in your particular area.
7) Set up an event in your ward or stake for a Barter Bash. Gather items to trade amongst one another. Or set up a classifieds on your ward website to trade or barter. NO MONEY INVOLVED!
8) Set up a system where every Sunday, on a table in the hallway, there is a file full of patterns, materials ready to start a project, or list of items to be gathered that people can take home to work on during the week and return when completed.
9) Ask the Bishop or Stake President what needs lie within your boundaries. Look in the newspaper for organizations that need help. Keep your eyes open to needs in your community. Ask missionaries serving from your ward to find needed aid in their missions. Form a connection with a Sister City across the world, or a school, or an orphanage.
10) The important thing is to do something. Organize your plan of action. Ask for help. Be consistent. Be willing to step outside of the box. Help for the right reasons.
11) If you run across disinterest and apathy, start your own Humanitarian Group with a few friends and do what you can.
12) Don’t limit yourself to projects only. Consider reading to the sick, or the elderly. Perform work projects for those who are unable. Teach, clean, listen to, play with, feed, serve. Find a way to use your talents and skills for good.
13) Gather a supply of patterns, projects, and materials. Find out what stores are willing to donate or discount items. Form connections with people outside your ward and stake: Truckers for shipping goods; Medical personnel for supplies; Builders, Landlords, Businesses for housing, sponsoring, and unique skills.
There are those who would take advantage of our desire to serve. The Bishop is a Judge in Israel and is the one ultimately to decide who should get aid. We must listen to him and be his helper in this great work. It is not for us to judge, but we must treat this work as sacred, using sacred means to accomplish it. Let us go about our labor prayerfully, understanding where we can perform the greatest good.
Remember, the reason for Humanitarian Service is to love people. Jesus Christ was the greatest exemplar of lifting up those who were downtrodden, bringing hope to the hopeless, loving the unloveable. This is our work, to help people get back on their feet, so they can recognize who is really with them, so they might be raised above the dust of the earth and Come Unto Christ.