volunteers

BYU Women’s Conference volunteers prepared thousands of kits for worldwide disaster-relief efforts.

By Paul K. McFate

IN his former role as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, Wally N’Dow attended a lot of conferences. This year’s BYU Women’s Conference, however, stands out for him as unique.

“I came here expecting to see a conference. I did not come here expecting to see human drama,” said N’Dow, as he surveyed thousands of women preparing hygiene kits for disaster-relief efforts around the world. This year the women put together a record 67,000 kits and created almost 15,000 school-supply kits.

N’Dow says he is impressed by Latter-day Saint culture and members’ willingness to reach out to people of many faiths and nationalities. “It is a wonderful display of spirituality, collaboration, and solidarity,” he says. “I think there is a message in this effort. In the end we are one.”

Representatives from Wal-Mart and NuSkin Enterprises, Inc., were also on hand to witness the event. They joined Delta Air Lines, Corporate Express, and Fellfab, a Canadian company, in donating materials for the kits.

“It’s awesome,” said Jim Curtis, district manager for Wal-Mart. “It’s hard to describe. It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.”

Janet Samuelson Scharman, student life vice president at BYU and chair of the 2002 women’s conference, says the corporate sponsorship is critical to the success of the project. “We could not pull this off without these corporate sponsors. They have been wonderful.”

As he was busy weighing pallet loads of hygiene kits, Dean Walker, unit manager of the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center, said it would take eight or nine trucks to carry the kits to the warehouse. All of the kits will be distributed internationally within a couple of months “or sooner, depending upon what disasters or needs might arise.”

“We just sent a considerable amount of aid to Peru and Ecuador, where they have experienced serious flooding recently.”

Walker says the demand for the kits has grown. “It would be difficult to meet our current needs without the efforts of these women at BYU Women’s Conference.”

Christine Kerste traveled nearly 2,200 miles from Dover, Del., to participate in the conference. She says it is a wonderful feeling to be engaged in this kind of work.

“I know that this is inspired of God. Even as you walk up to the building the feeling of the Spirit here is almost tangible.”

“This is my favorite part of the conference,” she says. “You get so much from BYU Women’s Conference. This is our chance to give back.”