Danish Relief Society Members Collect Bandages for Ugandan Hospitals
By Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events, and Mette Paulsen, Copenhagen Stake public affairs
Lisbeth Bach Sørensen knows what it means to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27).
The healthcare worker, a member of the Roskilde Ward in the Copenhagen Denmark Stake, has been volunteering her time helping the poor in Uganda since 1994, often by meeting critical medical needs. She pays for her own airfare to the African county, where she travels two to three times each year as an independent humanitarian worker, because she believes that all of humanity are Heavenly Father’s children.
With Sister Sørensen’s projects have come the opportunity for others to be engaged in good causes too. Since 2011, members of her stake have helped with her various relief projects, and this year, the Relief Society presidency in the Gladsaxe Second Ward approached her about volunteering. They decided to help people with leprosy by collecting elastic bandages to cover the open wounds that the disease causes.
The bandages were donated to a shelter in Uganda called Little Denmark (which Sister Sørensen built herself) where 50 percent of the residents suffer from leprosy, as well as to three hospitals in the country. Sister Sørensen notes that in Uganda, having leprosy involves not only physical pain but also emotional and social pain. People who have the disease are often ostracized and treated as lepers were in biblical times.
“The reason I began my relief project in Uganda in 1994 was because I wanted to make a difference,” Sister Sørensen said. “It is a phenomenal feeling to be able to develop the pure love of Christ by helping others.”
The women in the Relief Society had similar feelings as they reached out to the broader community in soliciting bandages by contacting hospitals, schools, and fire stations. The group even promoted the project in the municipality through an article in the local newspaper.
And people responded. Many donated used elastic bandages, which the Relief Society boiled, washed, and rolled up neatly. Other people donated new bandages, as did local hospitals. Because of the strict hygiene standards in Danish hospitals, many unused bandages are routinely discarded, so the Relief Society sisters tapped into this resource and collected the bandages before they were thrown away.
More than 600 bandages were donated—a collection worth more than 27,000 Danish Kroner, or $4,500 USD. Nearly a fourth of the bandages came from community members interested in helping to improve the world in which they live.
Anette Engbjerg, Relief Society president in the Gladsaxe Second Ward, recalled that when she approached a staff member at a major hospital in the greater Copenhagen area about helping with the project, “she [the staff member] was moved and just wanted to help like I wanted to help,” she said. “It gave me such a good, positive feeling to meet other like-minded people. Had we contacted only members of the ward or stake, we probably would not have collected as many elastic bandages as we did.”
Ann-Mari Lindberg, the first counselor in the Relief Society presidency, noted that many people are interested in providing relief to their fellow beings but aren’t sure where to start. “Danes want to help,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us to go out into the community with a good aid-related project.” She added that involving people other than Church members is a great opportunity to be both open-minded and an example of gospel living.
“Although I have never met [the people we’re helping] and probably never will, I appreciate being able to do my bit, however small it may seem,” said Sarah Paulsen, a young member of the Relief Society. “It has certainly made me think about our Savior Jesus Christ.”