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Group raising funds with purse exchange

Toni Pirkl / The Sun Mary Rachel, left, and Doris Giedt of Temple Baptist Church show some of the purses ready for exchange at "Purses With Purpose."

Their mission trip last summer took the nine Temple Baptist Church members from Nairobi, Kenya, to a small community and church in Uganda -- a new Christian Mission Aid project.

On the way, they stopped at another community supported by Christian Mission Aid. It's a settlement of about 20 HIV-positive widows, who are raising their own and other children left orphaned by the disease.

"CMA is trying to help these ladies by helping them become more self-sufficient," said Doris Giedt.

Giedt and Mary Rachel were two of the church members who were on the mission trip. The widows' settlement was about halfway between Nairobi and their final destination in Uganda.

"Last year the children in our church raised the funds for goats for the widows," Rachel said.

And because the church members already felt connected, their mission trip included a visit with the widows, bringing bags of corn and beans for additional food. The settlement of women and children is in very rural Nyanza Province. They raise their own corn, potatoes and peanuts. The goats provide milk products.

"Most of the children there suffer from malnutrition," Geidt said.

To visit one of the widows, Ada, her three children and a niece was an arduous trip as she lives in a remote area. After driving on a gravelly surface that could only loosely be called a road, Giedt said, it dwindled into a cow path and finally into a walking trail. Ada's hut was at the end of a hike down the trail.

The hut was made of mud and manure with a hole-filled thatched roof and a dirt floor. When it rains, the family sleeps in mud. After getting a look at the hut, the mission group decided to find a way to help.

"Initially, we were planning to get her a new metal roof, but we found out the walls wouldn't hold it without reinforcement," Giedt said. "These widows have absolutely nothing, including furniture."

The roof with reinforced walls would have cost about $1,055. However, in the end, Giedt said, they decided to provide the funds for a new house with a cement floor. The cost is $1,565.

The fundraising committee came up with the idea of a purse exchange. Giedt said it was a natural for her as she really likes purses. Rachel added this is an opportunity to exchange purses that no longer go with a wardrobe for those that do.

"The only requirement is that they be new or gently used," Rachel said.

The idea behind Purses with a Purpose is to pay a participation fee -- $10 for adults, age 18 and older, $5 for teens, age 17 and younger, and $1 for girls, age 11 and younger. The participants bring one or more purses to exchange, then choose one or more purses from those others have brought. Early bird participants pay $25 to get first choice of purses starting at 9 a.m. at The Bunker Saturday, Oct. 3. Giedt said she's ready for the exchange with purses from both coasts and Denver to Idaho.

"We as women can help another woman and have fun getting a new purse," Giedt said. "We'll have a few purses for a silent auction and we'll be serving coffee and muffins while everyone browses."

Over and above the price of a new hut, the committee hopes to raise $112 to provide a bed and mattress for Ada with a blanket. Plus, the group would like to provide some tools and seed for her to raise a garden for food.

"And any money we raise that's over that will go toward helping the other widows," Giedt said. "What's interesting is they wouldn't even know what a purse was."

Giedt and Rachel would like to see the Jamestown community get interested in this ongoing CMA mission. Most of these widows will die of AIDS, leaving behind more orphans. AIDS orphans 6,000 children a day in Africa.

The only hope the children have for a future is with an education, which means paying tuition. Ada's children had to stop going to school because she didn't have the money. Both the women and the children work in the fields.

"You could see them out in the fields hoeing late at night," Rachel said. "They don't get a lot of rest because they work such long hours."

There were no teenagers in the settlement, which surprised Giedt and Rachel. Then they learned why.

"In that culture, the girls will be married off when they're 12 years old, usually to much older men as one of numerous wives," Rachel said. "The young girls we saw with babies and children were mothers and widows."

Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453

or by e-mail at