A successful fundraising initiative at St. Mary Southside Parish, Elmira, is aiming to conclude by hitting a milestone.
"Malawi Hope" has operated under the simple premise of worshipers dropping their loose change into designated containers at the church. Begun in early 2006, proceeds have steadily built to their present total of approximately $19,500. The effort has assisted Catholic Relief Services’ work in Malawi, a small country in southeast Africa that suffers from extreme poverty, famine and disease.
In a bulletin notice dated Aug. 3, Dave Biviano — a St. Mary parishioner who founded Malawi Hope — noted that its final collection will take place Aug. 31. He explained that CRS is coming to the end of a three-year plan that was implemented in October 2005, stating that although several crises in Malawi still exist, "village leaders are now better prepared to address these problems on a continuing basis."
Biviano is hoping Malawi Hope’s overall total will top $20,000 before it concludes. In addition to loose change, the parish accepts tax-deductible donations which may be mailed to St. Mary’s Church, 224 Franklin St., Elmira, NY 14904. Checks should be made out to "St. Mary’s Church — Malawi Hope."
St. Mary has been partnered with the Diocese of Dedza, where trained CRS volunteers cover 90 Malawi villages. Monies have gone to support such efforts as providing home health care for families affected by HIV/AIDS; relieving food shortages; developing new water sources; and providing for the care and education of orphans.
The Elmira parish recently received a letter from Kenneth Hackett, CRS president, acknowledging receipt of a $10,000 gift from Malawi Hope this past May 20. It stated, in part:
"Catholic Relief Services depends on people like you to accomplish our mission of helping the poor and disadvantaged outside the United States … . Your contribution to CRS makes us even stronger and better able to accomplish our mission. Thank you and God bless you."
Biviano established Malawi Hope after attending a 2005 Catholic Charities presentation on the crisis in Africa. His research revealed that Malawi was one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, with an annual income of $176 per person; of its 12 million residents, more than 1 million were living with AIDS and many also were affected by malaria; there was no food in 70 percent to 80 percent of the country and inadequate water supplies as well; life expectancy had fallen from age 45 to 37 over a 15-year period; more than half of Malawi’s population was under age 15; the government had just $12 per person annually to spend on health care; and the ratio of people to doctors was 117,000 to 1.