Making a difference across the world in “2 Seconds”
MUNCY- This month a young woman with much insight and compassion and her colleagues introduced their newly found non-profit organization “2 seconds or less” to the East Lycoming community. Christie Heimbach, a 2010 graduate of Hughesville High School, decided to pursue the landlocked country of Zimbabwe, Africa, an extremely impoverished area with substantial economic decline. The HIV rate (estimated at 20 percent) is a problem, inflation is high and the majority of the children are homeless or orphans. Public health is a major issue according to Heimbach who has been telling her story to several organizations this month after returning from her third trip there.
Heimbach feels that her calling to go there really came from God. She explains that while she was in her last week of her freshman year at Messiah College she met Kelsey Hare from Maryland, and the two young women felt compelled to do something proactive when they discovered a UNICEF report that malnutrition was a major cause of the death rate in Zimbabwe. According to the United Nations World Health Organization, the life expectancy there for men is 37 and 34 years of age for women, the lowest in the world. The statistic read: “Every two seconds, someone in the world dies from malnutrition.” This really struck a chord with the two college students and so they embarked on a road trip with no real plans to go to Africa. That was in 2011. The young adults were accompanied by a male friend and the 3 landed in Harare airport with just a phone number which eventually linked them to a gentleman who started a foundation to end starvation in this third poorest country in the world. An affiliation was formed with Patrick Makokoro, a native of the country who welcomed the American team into his home. Five years ago he started the Nhaka Foundation to help vulnerable orphans in Africa. “We were his sign from God and Patrick was our faith of calling. With practically nothing to his name, Patrick paid for our stay, our gas and our food. He was such a gracious host.” He advised the students to embellish themselves among the people. “Be part of them,” he informed.
For the past 30 years the country has been run by a dictatorship according to Heimbach. The soil is sandy, and deforestation took place due to overpopulation and urban expansion. There is a lack of transportation, fuel and sustainable means for growing their own food. Human Rights organizations claim the government violates the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence.
“Since 2008 there has been extreme hyper inflation, and no foreign aid is allowed into the country,” she explained. “One in 5 children are orphans. We really felt there was a God calling us there.” The Messiah Film Society helped them produce a video to show the living conditions. “There is such a need in this country. White farmers were wiped out in 1980,” she added.
“The African culture, known as ‘Shona’, had much respect for us when they saw what we were trying to do,” said Heimbach who was only 19 years old when she went. “We are working to create sustainability, rather than dependency by teaching them how to grow their own food. Our approach involves working and educating the Shona people about the benefits and uses of sustainable agriculture. This way generations to come can live happy and healthy lives even after our time with them is done.”
And so, after much research and planning the group formed a foundation, “2 Seconds or Less” using all of their savings and incorporating the organization so that it can be a 403C status. Their mission: “Plant a seed, save a life!”
Heimbach further explained that with most non-profit organizations, much of the money goes to administration costs, but all of their donations will be going to the mission work. The students are working in the orphanages with the children teaching them how to dig wells, plant vegetables, use tools and empower the communities with the knowledge to yield crops far into the next season.
The Moringa Tree is one of the primary focuses. It is referred to as the “miracle tree” because of its immense benefits. All parts of this tree are useful. It is quick to grow, hard to kill and produces a high yield crop.
Ethan Kuntz, an 8th grade student from Hughesville, is raising money at his church, Bethany United Methodist, to sponsor a Moringa tree planting. He is collecting monetary contributions and so far has raised $2300 towards the project.
Muncy student, Kaitlin Lunger, also raised almost $2,000 last week when she organized a 5K Run at Kiess Park. Their goal is to promote the mission for “2 Seconds or Less” and donate all proceeds to the cause. They like to use Facebook and have created a page that tracks their progress. Kaitlin said she would like to hold another benefit.
The students are also selling tee shirts for proceeds, and the group has now grown to a team of 8 and two more trips have been taken to Zimbabwe.
Christie hopes to go back again in January, taking off a semester from college, and stay for a much longer term. “Schedules are tight and we couldn’t stay very long.” However, she just returned August 2 from a month long trip that was cut short due to political unrest. They have been working with a school that has 1300 orphan children, a primary school up to 6th grade. “Education will break this cycle of poverty. Kids now go to work at 6 years old to help provide for the family. Most families live on $2 a month.”
Heimbach also spoke to members of the Muncy Rotary and will be speaking to other churches organizations so that more money can go towards their mission. “We need to reach out further.” To make a donation go to their website www.2secondsorless.org.