Project Prompts Outpouring of Support

What began as a small group of students’ resolve to make life better for Zimbabwe orphans ended with hundreds of students involved and eager to help.

In early January, two student clubs joined forces to organize the Mission: Zimbabwe project, with a goal to raise $15,000, and also awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Two months later, Amnesty International and the Associated Students of Walla Walla College (ASWWC) had raised $32
,000 for an orphanage in Zimbabwe—far exceeding the organizers’ hopes.
The funds will benefit the Murwira Orphanage directed by Paula Leen, who will use the money for a food program that feeds 300 children daily. It will also assist with medical supplies, education, and general maintenance of the orphanage. Leen founded the orphanage in 1996 after witnessing Zimbabwe’s exploding social needs.

Through Mission: Zimbabwe, the campus has learned more about these and other issues in the African country that before may have been just a news headline.

The country’s crisis became especially real when student Lwazi Moyo-McCune told his story of growing up in Zimbabwe and living under a dictatorial regime in a country suffering from civil and political strife.

From Moyo-McCune’s story, and those of other students who had volunteered at Murwira Orphanage, the campus learned that Zimbabwe has one of the worst performing economies in the world.  Its unemployment rate is 80 percent, and it has the world’s highest inflation rate. The nation also faces a mass exodus of an estimated 3.4 million men, women, and children—at least a quarter of the country’s population—into neighboring countries and abroad, as natives struggle to survive.

With the lowest life expectancy in the world in 2006, Zimbabwe men live for an average of 37 years; women a mere 34 years.  According to UNICEF, Zimbabwe also has a higher number of orphans per capita than any other country in the world. Most of the cases are a result of parents dying from AIDS.
Hundreds participated in the fundraising events organized by ASWWC and Amnesty. The first large event the two clubs organized was a date auction.
As student bachelor after bachelorette was auctioned off to single students, the dollar amount raised for Murwira Orphanage climbed higher and higher. The total amount raised was over $6,500.

Another fundraising event was the Zwim Meet, which required participating swimmers to have sponsors. Dozens of people participated, including President John McVay, and Vice President of Academic Administration Ginger Ketting-Weller. Both swam eight laps in 10 minutes.

ASWWC and Amnesty also held an early morning run with an entrance fee of $5. Dozens turned up to show their support for Mission: Zimbabwe.
“When we first set our goal of $15,000, we thought it was a lot to ask for,” says Janelle Walikonis, president of the Walla Walla University chapter of Amnesty International. “It is very inspiring to see other people rally around a cause that has been such a close part of those who have been involved in it from the very beginning.”

At a special February University CommUnity meeting, students representing ASWWC and Amnesty International took to the platform and announced that total funds raised as of that morning had reached over $26,000. Since then, more donations raised the total to $32,000.

“We are amazed at the generosity of students, and by the overwhelming compassion that has swept over this campus,” say Contessa Mensink and Becca Parshall, ASWWC social vice presidents. “God has blessed beyond our wildest imaginations. From the date auction to watching some of our administration swim in the Zwimathon to opening donation envelopes to find large personal checks from students—we stand in awe. This project has been a testament to both God’s power and to the goodness on the WWU campus. We cannot wait to someday ask God where the money traveled to and who it touched … or saved.”

Page maintained by Kim Strobel
Last update on September 23, 2008