Payson Residents Raise More Than $15,000 For Orphanage

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A group of Payson residents raised more than $15,000 to help orphans and widows in the Sudan.

Mark Smith said he and his colleagues were unable to sit back and watch women and children suffer the brunt of a conflict beyond their control, without taking action.

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Children left orphaned and homeless by violent conflict get a new lease on life at an orphanage in the Sudan.

Smith and the others are not compensated in any way for their efforts.

They simply saw something that needed to be done, and took it upon themselves to do it.

"I'm fully aware I can't change the world by myself, but you have a responsibility to do the best you can," Smith said.

Last July, 65-year-old Smith along with Payson residents Chad LaBonte, 21, Joshua Hauptman, 17 and Del Kary, 68, hiked the Grand Canyon and raised $15,075 for Harvesters Reaching the Nations, a Christian organization dedicated to helping people in need.

Smith said after some members of the church he attends, Crossroads Foursquare Church, went to visit the orphanage in Southern Sudan last year, the founders decided to return to the U.S. with them and speak to the congregation.

He said that was when he began to get excited about helping the orphanage through Harvesters and decided to take action.

Smith said the money will most likely be used to support an existing orphanage sponsored by the Harvesters in Southern Sudan, as well as helping to build a new one in Terekaka, which will likely include a school and church.

Smith said operating costs is one of the greatest challenges the orphanage faces.

"The cost of caring for the homeless in the Sudan has doubled in the last year," Smith said.

"Ongoing instability and unrest have increased costs and made it more of a challenge to provide for all those who need help," he added.

He said the orphanage in Southern Sudan operates on an annual budget that has increased from $250,000 to more than $500,000 in the last few years.

Smith said it isn't just finding the dollars that make it difficult to run the orphanage, but the cost in human life, as well.

Endless days filled with hunger, disease and the never-ending fear that death might be a mere heartbeat away punctuate human existence in this conflict-torn land.

Since gaining its independence from Britain on Jan. 1, 1956, Sudan has endured a series of unstable parliamentary governments, which have left inhabitants of the region struggling for survival.

In recent years, civil war and unrest have left more than 500,000 women and children homeless and with little hope for the future.

Smith said he is always seeking donations on behalf of Harvesters Reaching the Nations to help people left destitute in the Sudan and other parts of the world.

He said the existing orphanage in Southern Sudan still needs a library, kitchen and dining hall.

"They use whatever facilities are available now, but it is our hope to be able to add on, as soon as we can raise the money," Smith said.

Anyone interested in donating to Harvesters Reaching the Nations, can do so by contacting Mark Smith at (928) 468-8434, or by going to the Harvesters' Web site at www.hrtn.org for more information.

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