VALDOSTA -- Hope for the Suffering, The Mailbox Club, churches and other organizations are sponsoring an "Adopt a Village" Campaign to raise money for relief efforts in particular villages decimated by tsunamis in South Asia.

Spokesman Matt McMurray said Hope for the Suffering is a nonprofit organization that ministers to those in need. The founder, Dr. Livingstone Rasalam, lives in Valdosta and "has done much work for the poor, needy, and hungry of the community," he said.

The Mailbox Club is an international children's ministry headquartered in Valdosta for more than 40 years, he said.

"Our initial goal is $100,000," McMurray said. "Every penny raised will go to the village(s) that we adopt.

"We are calling on individuals, civic organizations, clubs, students, politicians, business owners and churches to donate money for this humanitarian crisis."

At 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21, a fund-raiser will be held at JP Muldoons.

"It will be a brief but informative hour," McMurray said. "It will also be a time where you will be given the opportunity to give financially. We will explain where and how the money will be spent."

Those who plan to attend are asked to RSVP at 247-5000. Finger foods will be provided.

Other events are planned to raise funds for the survivors of the Dec. 26 earthquake in the Indian Ocean which unleashed tsunami tidal waves on South Asia. The death toll has climbed to 155,000.

"We are asking churches to make Sunday, Jan. 30, 'Adopt a Village' Sunday and take up a love offering for the 'Adopt a Village' campaign on behalf of Hope for the Suffering and The Mailbox Club," McMurray said.

"We are also working with youth groups, student clubs, and student organizations to meet our initial goal of $100,000."

An "Adopt a Village" youth rally will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 19, at JP Muldoons with music, testimonies and a time of prayer for the countries that have been touched by the tragic events.

"This will give students an opportunity to respond to this very important humanitarian need," McMurray said. "Students are being asked to give to their local youth group, club, or organization who will write a check to Hope for the Suffering or The Mailbox Club."

The Mailbox Club will host a children's rally at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Mathis City Auditorium, encouraging children to reach out to children in dire need.

"This will be a great opportunity to encourage and teach our children about missions, and how they can make a difference in the lives of other children," McMurray said.

"Children, prior to this event, should be encouraged to save their allowance, take on chores, earn money by raking leaves for neighbors, washing dogs/cars, or selling lemonade!"

Donation buckets will be placed throughout the premises or checks can be made out to The Mailbox Club.

McMurray said Hope for the Suffering is in the process of locating villages that have been devastated by the tsunamis and working with local groups to find the best way to give the money.

"The physical needs are the most pressing: helping to provide safe drinking water to the victims, food, shelter, clothing and medicine," he said. "This is the first step in helping a village or community start the rebuilding process.

"Intermediate needs will be to comfort those who lost family and are suffering psychologically from the devastation. Within six months, a small team from our community should be on the ground, working with national missionaries and churches to provide hope and Christian literature.

"Long-term opportunities would be available for helping to rebuild schools, homes, churches and orphanages. All efforts would be driven by compassion for the victims with a desire to earn the right to share the message of God's love, to help make sense out of calamity."

Checks may be made payable to Hope for the Suffering (247-5000) at 303 Woodrow Wilson, Valdosta, GA 31602 or to The Mailbox Club (244-6812) at 404 Eager Road, Valdosta, GA 31602.

To contact Lifestyles editor Elizabeth Butler, call 244-3400, ext. 256.

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