The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes referred to as Mormons, has a variety of programs designed to help those in need. Some assist members, but others, such as the humanitarian aid program, work to help anyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or nationality. This program does not involve any proselytizing and most recipients never even know the Mormons provided what they received. In fact, many live where there are no Mormons and many have never heard of the faith.
One fairly unique factor of the program is that all money donated to the program is used directly to provide aid. Administrative costs come from other sources, so anyone who donates to the fund knows his money will be helping to make the life of a person in need better. Since the church began keeping records of donations in 1985, it has spent more than 1 billion dollars on humanitarian aid to 167 countries.
Some aid is used to assist during national disasters, such as floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Others work to alleviate long-term problems. Long after the media has moved on to the next big story, Mormons are still quietly at work, helping with the long-term needs of the area. Many disasters, for instance, receive extensive attention, donations, and volunteers for only a few months before a new disaster becomes the popular project, but the problems often require many years to solve, and the Mormons stay behind when many others are gone, working on those issues.
Many of the initiatives are carried out through other organizations, making use of their extensive knowledge and resources about a given area. This makes more efficient use of the funds and of the time of the volunteers involved.
The church has a number of ongoing initiatives that assist people with ongoing needs. One such program is wheelchair distribution, a program that began in 2003. These chairs are distributed through other charities. In 2006 alone, the church donated 54,840 chairs to people in 54 countries. The program increases a person’s ability to become self-sufficient, a foundational goal of the Mormon humanitarian aid program.
Mormon humanitarian efforts often revolve around training local people to serve their community. In this way, the church can move on to help a new group of people while the local people care for their own. Not only does this provide job skills, but it allows the church to help a wider range of people. The vision treatment program is one such program. The church organizes volunteer ophthalmologists to go into areas in need and teach local medical care providers how to treat many common vision problems. This program has helped more than 20,000 people since 2003.
Another training program is the neonatal resuscitation training program. Local birth attendants are trained by volunteer doctors and nurses in the skills need to resuscitate a child who seems to be dead. In 2009, the Mormons held training in 31 countries. Many children’s lives have been saved as a result of this training.
The clean water initiative is carried out in a way that differs greatly from many other clean water programs. Many organizations come into an area, build a well, and leave. When the well breaks, the people return to their dirty water and wait for someone to come in and fix it since it is not their well and they don’t know how to care for it. Mormons operate differently. They ask the local people to form a commission to be in charge of the water system. Local people help to build the water system, which also trains them in how to do this. They are then taught how to repair anything that breaks and, if needed, how to come up with the money to do so. When the church leaves, the local people own the well, not the church. They run it, fix it, and care for it. They are no longer dependent on foreigners for their well-being, but instead, are self-sufficient. The wells frequently provide employment for local people, as well as increased sense of pride in caring for themselves.
Programs such as those described above are carried out because Mormons have a spiritual mandate to follow in the Savior’s footsteps. This means to serve others, care for the needy, and to help people become self-sufficient wherever possible.
Learn more about the Mormon humanitarian program.