Church of the Ascension raising funds for African school

Parishioners at the Church of the Ascension near Magnolia Village raised close to $1,500 at a book sale last summer to help out an elementary school in the Central African Republic.

And they hope to do the same or better this summer for the former French colony, said Betty Mueller, who co-chairs the church's outreach committee with David Strom.

The outreach committee participates in several other programs, such as Nightwatch, the Interfaith Hospitality Network and Heifer International. The church ended up with a connection to the African country southwest of Sudan because Mueller often takes foreign students into her home, she said.

One of them was a doctor from the Central Africa Republic (CAR) who was working on a master's degree in public health at the University of Washington, Mueller said. "He was very instrumental in making me realize how little was being done in CAR."

Part of the problem is there are very few non-governmental organizations working there because the official language is French, and NGOs usually operate in countries where English is spoken, she said.

The political situation is also a bit dicey. "At this time, they've had rebellions and the country has not been as stable in the last few years as we would wish," Mueller added.

But the doctor staying at her home introduced her to another CAR doctor in Seattle, a woman who was granted political asylum in the United States, and she's been raising money for children in the country, Mueller said.

The female doctor also has maintained ties to friends in Bangui, the capitol of CAR, and one of them works in a bank there, which came in handy for transferring the money the church raised, Mueller added.

The elementary school the Church of Ascension is helping is also in Bangui, and it has approximately 2,000 students who are split up into separate morning and afternoon class sessions, she said.

Conditions at the school are tough. "There are no bathrooms there," Mueller said. That should change soon, though. "In fact, we just sent them $1,000 to build latrines," she said of money raised at the church through rummage sales, among other efforts.

There also aren't any drinking fountains in the school, but part of the money the church raised at last summer's book sale was used to buy large plastic water containers for each classroom, Mueller added. But most of the money was used to buy school supplies such as chalkboards and chalk that each student uses in class, she said.

Officials at the school were overjoyed to receive the supplies and happy that someone had done more than just make empty promises to help, according to an e-mail the church received.

The books, along with DVDs and videotapes, were donated by parishioners for last year's sale, and the donations filled tables downstairs, Mueller said.

She says she's worried parishioners gave so much last year they may be tapped out this year as far as donations go. "So we could use donations from the community," Mueller said.

Donations can be dropped off at the church at 2330 Viewmont Way W. near Magnolia Village from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. July 30 through Aug. 3.

The sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 5. The church also will serve free coffee on the outside patio on Saturday, Aug. 5, from noon to 2 p.m., along with a performance by master African drummer Ibrahima Camara.[[In-content Ad]]