A modest-sized group of concerned Episcopalians in the Washington area who call themselves Companions in World Mission have gathered a small mountain of used clothing that they are dispatching this week to help ease the plight of refugees from Uganda's deadly political struggles.
The local group is part of a wider church effort to develop closer ties between Episcopalians in this country and overseas.
According to Harrison C. Chandler Jr., a Chevy Chase layman who heads the group, the clothing project grew out of a visit last summer that he and six others made to Africa to see conditions there first hand.
In the area of Mityana in Uganda, Chandler said, they learned that "about 20,000 people had been driven out of their homes by guerrilla activity" and forced to live in temporary shelters in camps hastily thrown up by the government. Many of them had only the clothing they were wearing.
Uganda Archbishop Yona Okoth told the American church visitors that their help in providing clothing and bedding for the refugees is desperately needed.
With little more than a few form letters and phone calls, Harrison and Barbara Hendry, who headed the clothing drive, were able to enlist 22 Washington area parishes in the appeal. The result of the month-long drive, some three tons of used clothing, has been sorted and bagged and sent on to the big Church World Service center in New Windsor for shipment to Uganda.
Some of the clothing and bedding will be sent to a church-run school for blind teen-agers in Tanzania, where the visitors last summer "saw beds without any mattresses, even," Chandler said.
The group also sent $24,200 in grants to 18 Anglican dioceses and schools in Africa, Central America and India last year, Chandler said.