All image via Church Newsroom and Latter-day Saint Charities.

In Beaksi, a village in Indonesia’s West Java, Endah puts a donated handmade facemask on her 3-year-old daughter, Fatima, before they leave their home. In Somalia, 24-year-old Hani prepares a meal at home for her three children. In Madagascar, 7-year-old Toky throws his head back in joyous laughter as he and his friends wash their hands in clean water, pouring from his village’s new sanitation block spigots. Pride and joy beam from Wangare Grace’s face as she holds up a massive cabbage she’s grown in Nyeri, Kenya.

These are just a few of the moving moments portrayed in the Latter-day Saint Charities 2020 Annual Report. Each individual’s life has been impacted by the far-reaching efforts of Latter-day Saint Charities to better the lives of brothers and sisters around the globe — and they represent millions. The Annual Report is but a glimpse into the 3,611 projects in 160 countries and territories impacted by Latter-day Saint Charities in 2020.

Though many aspects of life as we know it slowed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts of Latter-day Saint Charities only increased: 1,031 projects in 151 countries were in direct response to the pandemic. Projects included sending medical and emergency supplies, training healthcare workers and increasing Church food production. In Utah, Church members rallied to assist Latter-day Saint Charities and Project Protect in making over 6 million face masks.

The masks not only benefited people in Utah, but in other areas including within the Navajo Nation. Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with the Navajo Nation to support their self-reliance efforts with self-sustaining projects for clean water, electrical power and gardening. That help expanded during the pandemic to include donations of food, water, fuel as well as face masks and other medical supplies.

Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with The Black 14 Philanthropy to deliver 180 tons of food to people in need within the U.S. The partnership is more meaningful considering the history of The Black 14 Philanthropy: In 1969, 14 Black players were kicked off the University of Wyoming football team for the desire to protest participation in a game against Brigham Young University for the racial priesthood policies. In 2019, the surviving 11 players formed The Black 14 Philanthropy, which is partnered not only with Latter-day Saint Charities but BYU And the University of Wyoming. “Latter-day Saint Charities was pleased to partner with the Black 14 Philanthropy not only to serve those in need,” the Annual Report stated, “but to join together in an effort to heal the hurts of the past.”

Throughout the pandemic, Latter-day Saint Charities has not only provided emergency assistance but increased existing efforts to meet the needs of people around the world. As a humanitarian organization, Latter-day Saint Charities operates from the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, ensuring that aid is given without discrimination and independent of other objectives. In short, focused on the second great commandment: to love others.

Feeding the Hungry with Convoy of Hope

By partnering with over 2,000 humanitarian organizations around the world, Latter-day Saint Charities extends its reach to impact millions. Elder Gerrit W. Gong mentioned one such partner, Convoy of Hope, when he spoke in a January 2021 devotional about the ongoing and much needed humanitarian efforts to feed children in vulnerable parts of the world. “Hungry children need food,” he summarized. Thanks to Latter-day Saint Charities and Convoy of Hope, more than 387,000 children in impoverished areas of the world received nutritious meals at school every day — and it’s changing their lives.

Labhika is the oldest child in her family in the Philippines. As such, it fell upon her to help her father with chores, care for her younger siblings and maintain the household, all while caring for her sick mother, grieving a lost younger brother and struggling through school. Sometimes, her father’s farming provided enough food for the family; other times, Labhika attended school weak and unable to concentrate from hunger. Then, Convoy of Hope’s Children’s Feeding program reached her.

Now, Labhika gets a warm meal at school every day. Her grades have skyrocketed. She’s helping her classmates to improve their own grades, and wants to be a teacher someday.

Unlike Labhika, hunger was new to 11-year-old Julian when his mother got sick and his father lost his job during the pandemic. Quarantine orders forced Julian to stay inside the one-room home where he lived with his five family members, with no running water, no floor and only two beds. When hope seemed lost, Convoy of Hope brought it back in the form of food for Julian and his family.

Julian is now another participant in Convoy of Hope’s Children’s Feeding program, and gets hot, nutritious meals at school every day. One day, Julian wants to be a chef – and to provide for the rest of his family. Food provides hope and relief to those who otherwise wouldn’t have any. Children like Julian and Labhika are growing up to take on their own projects and improve their communities, multiplying the impact of a simple meal.

“Convoy of Hope is grateful for the generous donations from Latter-day Saint Charities,” Convoy of Hope’s Vice President of Supply Chain Erick Meier told Meridian, “which have been instrumental in helping us provide more than 200 million meals in the United States and around the world during the COVID crisis. These donations help us in continuing our mission to bring relief and hope to hurting people.”

Other Partners in Working Towards Food Security

In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities worked to provide greater food security, sustainable agriculture and nutrition to 357,378 people in 18 countries and territories, and promoted self-reliance with 114 scholarships in 11 countries. Partners like myAgro and One Acre Fund provide resources and education to help small-scale farmers around the world to increase their own — and therefore their community’s — prosperity. With such help, people like Godfrey of Tanzania are able to increase their crops and income to pay for things like his children’s schooling.

Another food security partner is CARE, an international humanitarian organization working predominantly in African countries to fight poverty and hunger. In Benin, iron deficiency anemia is a common effect of malnutrition, particularly in women.

Françoise Koboude, 36, felt the effects of anemia during her first three pregnancies: She often felt tired and dizzy. Then, CARE and Latter-day Saint Charities gave her a Lucky Iron Fish. The Lucky Iron Fish is, as its name implies, a small fish-shaped piece of iron engineered to release a healthy amount of iron when it’s added to a cooking meal. By the end of 2020, 9,000 Lucky Iron Fish had been distributed in southeastern Benin alone, affecting an estimated 45,000 people. Anemia fell from 100 percent to 20 percent, and during her fourth pregnancy, Françoise felt healthy.

“I was in perfect physical health through the entire pregnancy until the delivery. I had no fatigue or dizziness — my life has become a miracle,” Françoise told Latter-day Saint Charities. “I am happy to have this ‘life-giving fish.’ Thanks to this group [CARE and Latter-day Saint Charities], I received the teachings on anemia and the means of prevention against it.”

Clean Water Projects

Alongside efforts to bring food to vulnerable parts of the world in 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities worked to bring clean, sustainable water sources and hygiene services to 593,025 people in 23 countries and territories. In remote villages around the world, people live without easy access to water — let alone safe, healthy water. Marie Louise spent most of her life waking up at 4 a.m. to begin the hours-long trek to fetch water from her village in Rwanda. If she took her children to help her, they might miss school. Sometimes, other people fought over the water source and left Marie Louise without any water at all.

Now, Marie Louise has gained time and energy thanks to water piped to her village by Latter-day Saint Charities’ partner Water For People. With access to water just minutes from her home, Marie Louise is able to spend more time with her 2-year-old daughter, Solange, while her other children consistently attend school, and invest time into her small soft drink business. She helps educate her community about hygiene and sanitation in their homes, and serves as the president of the water committee that manages the water point.

In areas such as San Pedro, Bolivia, Water For People continues to expand and improve access to clean water, with the goal of reaching every family, school and clinic. 35-year-old Isidora worked hard as a single mother, including carrying buckets of water an hour and a half every day from the town’s single source of water. Thanks to Water For People, Isidora was able to install a water tap in her own home — freeing her to take care of her two boys and work her farm.

“Water is a part of life, and without it we can’t live,” Isidora told Water For People. “Now we are more at peace. My youngest son, Abel, is like a frog in the water! He loves to bathe. That’s a luxury we did not have before the tap was installed at my house. Now, we feel lucky to bathe whenever we want. I guess it truly is the simple things in life that mean so much.”

Improving Health through Sanitation and Immunization

In addition to clean water, a proper toilet is a simple thing that changes lives. Lack of clean water and proper sanitation creates serious health issues for people living in such conditions, from regular diarrhea due to unsanitary water to deadly diseases caused by exposure to contaminants and improperly disposed human waste. Folomina and her children often found themselves sick as flies infested their home — most latrines in their villages had no roof, and flooded when it rained.

When Folomina had the opportunity to build her community’s first improved latrine, she not only took it but is educating her community and others from surrounding villages about how much a sanitary toilet can improve their lives. With sturdy walls, a tin roof and an engineered plastic pan that seals to prevent odors, flies and spread of disease, it’s changed how Folomina and her family live. “It has improved our health, and we have not gotten sick anymore,” she told Water For People.

Since fighting illness and protecting health not only preserves life but improves lives, Latter-day Saints Charities assisted in 10 immunization campaigns in developing countries last year. Focusing on areas of the world where vaccines are not readily available for diseases that are able to be eliminated such as diphtheria, influenza, tetanus, polio, measles, malaria, rubella and more, Latter-day Saint Charities and partners such as UNICEF, WHO, MSF and the Red Cross reached 7,188,356 people in eight countries.

Other Efforts to Improve Health Around the Globe

Other health-related efforts include serving 16,473 people in 9 countries with maternal and newborn care by providing training and equipment. In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities helped train 8,873 birth attendants and caregivers, fighting the most common factor in maternal and infant death: lack of skilled providers.

Improving quality of live, wheelchairs were given to 17,381 people in 16 countries during 2020 by Latter-day Saint Charities and partners. Vision assistance, such as the cataract surgery 10-year-old Mary received in Malawi, was provided to 401,548 people in 17 countries, including with partner Sightsavers. According to Sightsavers, nearly half of vision impairment is treatable or preventable. In vulnerable parts of the world, some of the causes include preventable diseases and infections like river blindness.

Because Mary struggled to see before her surgery, other children would not play with her and she became shy. Since her surgery, she can see clearly — and has become outgoing, independent and active once more. Improved eyesight change the lives of people of all ages. Azimunnisa has five sons, two daughters and 25 grandchildren in Bangladesh, where she settled after fleeing India as a child with other Muslim refugees. She received cataract surgery in 2009, and now volunteers in her community as a birth attendant while enjoying being able to spend time with — and see — her family.

Though Azimunnisa is well settled in her new country, millions around the world navigated not just the challenges of fleeing their homes due to war, famine, disease and other dangers but the added difficulty of doing so during the pandemic. Latter-day Saint Charities addresses the crises with immediate relief, long-term support for education, medical care and mental health assistance, as well as resettle support to improve new livelihoods.

One partner, ShelterBox, provides shelter kits in boxes with other essential supplies to displaced people like 7-year-old Fatima. Fatima lives with her mother, Samira, her siblings and her great-grandmother in a camp in Idlib, Syria, after being forced from their homes by the decade-long ongoing war and losing Fatima’s sister in an air strike.

Winter months as a refugee are particularly challenging for families in Idlib. ShelterBox and Latter-day Saint Charities were able to provide Fatima and her family with winter supplies such as blankets, warm clothes, tarps and lamps. Fatima received a brand new red coat that she donned with pride, her hands buried warmly in the deep pockets. In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with 23 organizations to reach 1,813,072 refugees, displaced people and hosts. In the U.S., Latter-day Saint Charities helped 8,988 people as they resettled in 2020, and aided over 12,000 immigrants by partnering with community organizations and law schools.

“Across the world, our members, friends, and Church help communities support refugees and provide water, sanitation, handicap mobility, and vision care — one person, one village, one tree at a time,” Elder Gong said in the October 2020 General Conference. “Everywhere, we seek to be good parents and good citizens, to contribute in our neighborhoods and societies, including through Latter-day Saint Charities.”

Conclusion

While 2020 represents an impressive increase in Latter-day Saint Charities’ global efforts, it is just that — an increase of efforts that have been going on since the organization’s launch in 1984, when Church members raised $6.4 million in a single fast day to aid people in eastern Africa affected by a draught. Since then, Latter-day Saint Charities has helped to administer over $2.5 billion worth of assistance in 199 countries and territories.

That amount doesn’t account for the volunteer labor — nor can it account for the ripple effect of Latter-day Saint Charities’ impact. Community projects; Just Serve, the volunteer organization of Latter-day Saint Charities; Church farms and Bishops’ Storehouses that provide food; employment and education resources; Deseret Industries; Family Services and self-reliance groups all add to the many ways Latter-day Saint Charities impact lives the world over.

“[We] truly seek to live the first and second great commandments,” President Russel M. Nelson summarized upon the release of the 2020 Annual Report. “When we love God with all our hearts, He turns our hearts to the well-being of others in a beautiful, virtuous cycle.”

More Resources
Latter-day Saint Charities
Project Protect
The Black 14
Convoy of Hope
CARE
Water For People
MyAgro
One Acre Fund
Sightsavers
ShelterBox