A trip to Zimbabwe altered the lives of many United Methodist Church members last July.
Six congregations, including the Baldwinsville UMC, sent a group of 15 participants to visit the African country last summer. When the group saw the devastation wreaked on the country's people due to AIDS and poverty, they knew something had to be done for their new friends.
"Because of Zimbabwe's need, we have decided to send a container of school and medical supplies to the United Methodist missions," said Roger Parker, a member of the Baldwinsville congregation who visited Zimbabwe last summer.
North Central NY Conference of the United Methodist Church will be collecting medical and school supplies during their annual conference held Thursday May 31 at the Holiday Inn on Electronics Parkway in Liverpool.
"There are 106 churches that have actually told us they are collecting so far," said Reverend B.J. Norrix of the Baldwinsville UMC, who also made the trip last year. "Our goal is to fill a cargo container with supplies. We have already looked into getting a second truck or larger container if the need is there."
Parker said the combination of a high inflation rate (2,200 percent) and unemployment rate (80 percent) has left the economy in free fall.
"Those who receive paychecks have to spend it immediately otherwise it's worthless," Parker said. "They can't purchase (the supplies) themselves because the inflation rate is so high, plus they have to spend money on necessities. So, what you have are schools with no school supplies and hospitals with no medical supplies."
With the average life expectancy at 34 years old and the AIDS rate at 25 percent, the population is down four million people in 10 years.
"The AIDS epidemic has created a lot of orphans and many of the kids have AIDS," Parker said.