CHIC-Inspired Teens Help Fight Poverty in Africa

Post a Comment » Written on January 24th, 2007     
Filed under: News
TUCSON, AZ (January 24, 2007) – When Kim Didra returned from CHIC 2006, she stood before the congregation at Grace Community Covenant Church and told them, “I am going to do something to change things in Africa.”

“Her resolve was firm,” says church member Meagan Gillan.

Now Didra and three other young women from the church who attended CHIC have been featured in a local newspaper, the Explorer News, for inspiring their high school classmates to fight poverty in Africa. To read that story, please visit Fighting Poverty.

Didra, Sara Peterson, and Emily Pirzynski have organized an extraordinary effort to ship a container of school supplies, clothes and sports equipment to a village in Angola. Claire Heddles is working with “Invisible Children” to bring awareness to suffering in Africa with a special focus on Uganda.

The four came back changed from the Evangelical Covenant Church’s triennial event held last July, Gillan says. The girls didn’t have to speak in order for others to notice the difference. “The impact of what they had experienced at CHIC showed on their faces.”

Didra, Peterson, and Pirzynski immediately began planning to send the container in cooperation with RISE International, which Pirzynski’s aunt founded. The organization works with Angolans to build primary schools in rural parts of the nation. Pirzynksi’s mother, Lora, fueled their enthusiasm when she returned from Angola shortly after the students came home from CHIC.

The students told the newspaper that they almost abandoned the idea when they learned that the cost to deliver a shipping container was $14,000. An anonymous donor stepped forward and paid for the container, which inspired the girls to continue with their plan.

A teacher who has worked with the teenagers on the Angola project told the newspaper, “These three girls are amazing human beings – highly motivated.”

The container is located in Grace’s parking lot. On January 27, people from the community will pack and paint the container.

Heddles is helping the non-profit group Invisible Children screen a documentary of the same name. The film focuses on the effects of war in Ugandan children, many who are kidnapped and forced to fight.

Kjersten Jennings, CHIC administrative assistant, is excited that the event continues to make a difference in teenagers’ lives. “I am constantly humbled to see how God uses an event such as CHIC to transform and call young people to do His great work in huge, inspiring ways,” she says. “I am personally motivated by the passion and service that these young women in Arizona exemplify.”

Gillan says the teens are expanding work the church has begun. Through a series of circumstances, Grace Covenant has become involved with helping African refugees who have fled to their city, as well as aiding Africans overseas. “We have a cadre of people who are tutoring Somali refugees,” Gillan says. The church also threw a Christmas party for 40 Somali refugees.

Lora Pirzynksi linked the church with the refugees after meeting a woman who was teaching the Somalians, whose country continues to be engaged in an ongoing war.

Grace Covenant’s children began in 2005 to help their Angolan counterparts. A Vacation Bible School project inspired the church to raise $13,000 to build a school in the village of Lomako, Gillan says.

She is amazed at how ministry has developed through the congregation. “Our connection with Africa just continues to grow.”

For more information on the students’ projects or the church’s ministry, call 520-575-1444.

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