News Release

Over 1000 'Welcome bags' for Refugee Children

Thursday, 26 April 2016 – A special humanitarian project took place on 21 and 22 April at the Frankfurt, Germany congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Volunteers packed 1,061 ’welcome bags’ for children under twevle years old based at six refugee reception camps in the Hessen and Rheinland-Pfalz states, covering Bitburg, Büdingen, Gießen, Kusel, Neustad and Rotenburg.  The packs were distributed to the camps on the 23 and 24 April.

Volunteer leader Melina Grahovac, representing the local Church’s young mothers, and Lisa Koy, her assistant, organised bazaars last summer to collect childrens’ clothing. Most of the remaining clothes front the events were donated to the needy and refugees. At this time, thoughts came to the women about doing something specifically for refugee children in the local area, although this was not immediately pursued.

At the last bazaar in Frankfurt, Sister Rebecca Holt Stay, the Church’s coordinator for refugee help in Europe, felt promted to attend when she met Melina Grahovac and Lisa Koy. Hearing their thoughts about helping refugee children, she offered her help. The same night Melina decided that this was the right time to help. Together with Lisa Koy and Nerea Plana-Garcia, a Frankfurt-based leader from women‘s Relief Society, she decided to start the ’Welcome Bags for Refugee Children’ campaign. Melina Grahovac spent a lot of time connecting with the people responsible at refugee camps and, supported by her helpers, got in touch with countless organisations and companies to ask for help and donations.

Volunteers and organisers were enthusiastic about the project:

’’We must help those in need. While I cannot change the world (i.e the tragic circumstances which made [refugees] flee from their homes) I can make a difference in my environment. By doing that, I can inspire others, who – at the same time – can inspire others and so on. Be an active player in life.“ Nerea Plana-Garcia, women’s leader in Frankfurt

’’Because people listened to their feelings and inspirations, something great could be achieved by many small things! It was unbelievable to see how Heavenly Father works – I personally have never experienced so many wonders in such a short time!“ Lisa Koy

Besides the donors, more than 200 people – Latter-day Saints and others – came along to sort through the donations and to pack the welcome bags. In addition to the Frankfurt, Friedrichsdorf and Kaiserslautern stake areas (similar to dioceses), members of the Krefeld and Koblenz congregations gave dedicated help during the campaign.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided 300 fleece blankets, 1,061 towels, 1,700 small packages of wipes, 670 packages of nappies (diapers) and 422 underwear sets. Further generous donations of an additional 200 packages of nappies were made by private donors.

IKEA donated around 750 of the bags, in which all donations were packed. They also provided coloured crayons, felt pens and sketch pads. 284 IKEA bags were bought by individuals. FABER-CASTELL participated with pencils, sharpeners and erasers, PLAYMOBIL donated toy figures. Ria Limam, who is privately involved in refugee work, provided 760 blankets which were originally donated by Lufthansa.

Altogether three Europcar transporters were made available. Two of them were funded by Dimension Data, the third one was a gift from Europcar.

Donations and support were also provided by LDS Charities, the Food Nanny, the Träger für Kinderbetreuung BVZ and their establishments, the Osterkindergarten Frankfurt, the Evangelische Familienhilfe, the Kleiderkammer Neu-Isenburg, the Regierungspräsidium Gießen, the AfaA in Bitburg, the Mother’s Corner and Expats Baby Frankfurt.

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