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School kits enhance 'One Great Hour of Sharing'

3/19/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By United Methodist News Service

Collecting kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief during annual conference time has become a regular occurrence for United Methodists in Virginia.

But last year, church members outdid themselves with a special collection tied to the relief agency's "One Great Hour of Sharing" offering in March.

The result was a total of 42,000 school kits that were shipped by UMCOR, in partnership with Church World Service, to a school for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and to other programs in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Denise Honeycutt, associate council director for the Virginia Annual Conference, said there was such "an amazing response" from the churches that chain stores around the state were running out of pencils and packs of crayons as the materials for the kits were gathered.

The 2003 offering for "One Great Hour of Sharing" is set for March 30, although donations are accepted throughout the year. The money raised enables UMCOR - which receives no income from the denomination's World Service Fund or other apportionments - to do its work and also supports the agency's core budget.

"Your gifts not only keep UMCOR's lights on and UMCOR's delivery system in place at home and around the world, they also enable us to respond immediately to disasters," wrote the Rev. Paul Dirdak, the agency's chief executive, about the 2003 offering. "Your contributions also assist UMCOR's programs that have not been fully funded through designated Advance gifts."

When Virginian United Methodists wanted to respond to the situation in Afghanistan, Honeycutt asked UMCOR for advice, and the idea of a school kit collection was born. "We did it in conjunction with One Great Hour of Sharing, hoping that would encourage churches that had not taken up an offering … to do that as well," she explained.

The project was so popular that even some local elementary and high schools, along with the denomination's family services program in Richmond, decided to participate.

The kits were dedicated at donor churches on the day of the offering. Then, over the next two days, congregations brought their kits to one of four collection sites across the conference. On the third day, four trucks picked up the kits to transport them to shipping locations.

Some of the kits went to the Nazoo Anna Education Center in Peshawar, Pakistan. Nazaneen Jabarkhil started the school in her home to assist Afghan refugee girls who had fled after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. Today, the English-language-based school has some 700 students.

Students responded to the generosity with letters, which were forwarded to the conference by UMCOR. The "thank yous" made an additional impact on church members, according to Honeycutt. "I have since been in churches across the conference where they have read these letters back to the congregation," she said.

For example, a seventh-grade student named Mursal noted that her family had been refugees for 11 years. "I want to be a very famous and kind doctor in the future, but sometimes I think this is a dream because of our economical problems," she wrote.

Meena, a ninth-grader, explained that refugees "need a pillar to lean on, and this is of course provided by the kind well-wishers of us which consists of you. We are really thankful for that."

A high schooler named Najia called Nazoo Anna "the school which gives beautiful dreams to all Afghan refugees and makes their dreams come true."

UMCOR continues to collect a variety of types of kits for its work around the world. More information, along with lists of items needed for the kits, can be found online at

More information on One Great Hour of Sharing also is available online at, on UMCOR's Web pages.

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