99946_000_014What’s a few thousand miles between friends?
A few months ago, most of the youth in Salt Lake City’s Big Cottonwood Stake had never even heard of Urubamba, Peru. Now they’ll tell you it’s home to nearly 1,000 of their closest friends.
How did this unlikely friendship start? With one returned missionary named Van Evans. Brother Evans served his mission in Peru and now serves as a volunteer in an organization called the Humanitarian Foundation of the Andes. He told some of the youth and their leaders about the kinds of items that were needed in towns throughout the Andes. These items included basics like clothing, hygiene supplies, and building materials. After careful consideration, the youth decided to make Urubamba a part of their youth conference.
The original goal was to supply good Sunday clothes for each member of the LDS branch in Urubamba. Brekke Platt, a Laurel who served on the youth council, explained, “We didn’t want people to feel they couldn’t go to church because they didn’t have Sunday clothes.”
The young men and young women asked for donations from stake members. The results were overwhelming: more than 90 men’s suits were donated, as well as countless women’s dresses and children’s Sunday clothes.
By now the youth were getting excited about how great it felt to get things together for people who they knew would be thrilled to receive it, so they extended the scope of the project. They learned that hygiene supplies were desperately needed, so they got to work.
As part of their youth conference activity, the youth used donations from their stake to put together packets containing basic supplies like soap and toothpaste. Included in each packet was a written testimony and an expression of love.
Two young men jumped at the chance to complete their Eagle Scout requirements through service. The foundation was planning a trip to the Andes so it could build a medical post in Urubamba, but lots of preparatory work needed to be done at home first.
Scout John Tateoka gathered friends and family and coordinated a project of painting window frames, siding, and doors for the medical post. His fellow Scout, Adam Watts, contacted several construction suppliers for possible donations. In a short time, the necessary donations and work were complete, and supplies were shipped to Peru.
But the service didn’t stop there. The young people’s enthusiasm for the people in Urubamba was contagious, and soon donations of eyeglasses, sewing machines, seeds, and maternity supplies were pouring in.
So why is it that the people of this stake, who started out with a fairly small goal of providing some Sunday clothes, reached out so generously to people they had never even met?
According to Gary Brimley, a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, the answer is simple. “We’re all members of one church,” he says. “We care for everyone and work together as one unit.”