Book Inspires Man to Provide Blankets to African Orphanage By: Elane Moonier, Staff Reporter

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone reading this article could do something simple that would touch the life of an orphan child in another country?  Well, we can, all of us can, and it is as easy as donating a blanket. A local effort is underway to collect 1,000 blankets in southeast Missouri for orphans in Swaziland, Africa.

Chris Edmonds, President of Element 74, LLC, is spearheading the drive to collect the blankets, and also helping organize a fundraising event, called Celebrate Hope, to be held Saturday, Feb. 27. Edmonds said he became interested in the Heart of Africa ministry after a friend gave him a book to read, titled, It’s Not Okay With Me.

The book was written by Janine Maxwell, who was once a high-powered marketing executive but became a full-time ministry worker after a trip to Africa. She co-founded the Heart of Africa organization, a faith-based, not-for profit charity, which works to provide self sustainable homes for orphans and vulnerable children; providing shelter, food, water, clothing, health care, education and love.

“The book challenged me to make a difference and take action against the situation in Africa,” Edmonds stated.  He pointed out that Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate of any country in the world, at 43 percent, and has a population of just over 900,000. Of those, 200,000 are orphans, which is over 20 percent of the population. “The AIDS pandemic is decimating an entire generation of adults and is leaving children to literally raise children,” he said.

Edmonds and a team of others from Cape Girardeau will travel to Swaziland in July to deliver the blankets and to work alongside Heart for Africa volunteers. They will be working with the children and helping with an event called ‘Litsemba,’ which translates to mean ‘hope.’

‘Litsemba’ will consist of gathering 15,000 orphans and vulnerable street children into a soccer stadium for a day of  praise and worship. It is also designed to create international awareness to the orphan problem and hopefully get the United Nations and other nations to take action.

One of the goals of Heart For Africa is to build an orphanage in Swaziland. The local event called Celebrate Hope Cape is part of the mission to raise $100,000 for construction of that orphanage. Celebrate Hope will take place on Feb. 27 at The Venue in Cape Girardeau. Janine Maxwell, herself, will be at the event to speak about her first book, It’s Not Okay With Me, and her newest book, Is it Okay with You?

Former President Bill Clinton said this about Maxwell’s second  book: “Is it Okay With You? forces us to ask ourselves do we each have a responsibility to act upon vast inequality and suffering? It shouldn’t be okay with us, because we all have the ability to make a remarkable difference in the future of humanity.”

Also serving on the Celebrate Hope committee is Theresa Birk of Jackson. The orphanage that will be built in Swaziland will be dedicated in memory of her 20-month old son, Jared, who tragically passed away last year.

For anyone who would like to donate a blanket, new or gently used blankets are needed. Dark colors work best and fleece is a great fabric option for the climate. Size is not important, as most of the children sleep on the ground, so the blanket should be large enough for the children to wrap up in it. The blankets should also be clean.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Celebrate Hope Cape can visit the website at www.celebratehopecape.com. To learn more about Heart For Africa, see the website at www.heartforafrica.org.

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