Hamilton, MI

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Haven Reformed Church
4691 Oak St.
Hamilton, MI 49419

Marcia Williams is coordinating and organizing the Pioneer Club and Youth Group efforts as they respond to the Tsunami crisis. They are very nearby the International Aid headquarters and are able to watch the progress of its efforts to send 10 hospital units to South East Asia… yes, pharmaceuticals, hospital equipment, water purification systems and teddy bears!

An article from the Holland Sentinal outlining Marcia’s efforts to aid the tsunami victims.

Helping Those Affected by the Tsunami

Local teddy bears headed for arms of young tsunami victims

By OLIVIA COBISKEY, Staff writer

marcia.jpgZeeland native Marcia Williams knows how much a hug means to a child.

She’s experienced first-hand the effect a brown-eyed, plump teddy named Cuddly has on children who visit her office at Haven Reformed Church in Hamilton.

“It gives them something they can hold on to,” said Williams, 45, the church’s director for Kids Hope USA, a national mentoring program based in Holland. “It releases some of their anxiety.”

But it wasn’t until she saw a performance of “September Bears,” a play about how teddy bears eased the trauma experienced by New York City school children on Sept. 11, 2001, that Williams fully realized the healing potential of the bears.

Hoping to fulfill that potential, Williams discovered Hugs Across America, an organization born from the terror attacks on New York City.

Soon after Williams helped start the local chapter of Hugs Across America, the tsunami hit parts of southeast Asia. Williams said she felt young victims of the tsunami would benefit from the comfort of a teddy bear.

The four pastel bears Williams started with quickly multiplied to 1,300 bears and stuffed animals. Children volunteered to get the bears ready for their journey by hugging each bear multiple times.

“So when the kids who survived the tsunami get the bears they’re filled with love,” said Emilie Scholten, 12, whose Sunday school class helped hug bears.

The local chapter of Hugs Across America is teaming up with International Aid, a health-focused Christian relief and development organization based in Spring Lake, to deliver the teddy bears to tsunami victims.

“The children who survived have seen a lot … difficult things for them to process,” said Myron Aldrink, a vice president at International Aid. “So providing them with a stuffed animal or a school kit to express their frustration is an important psychological release.”

Williams said she wants to send a thousand bears with each medical clinic sent to Indonesia by International Aid. She needs 8,700 bears to meet that goal.

Contact Olivia Cobiskey at olivia.cobiskey@hollandsentinel.com or (616) 546-4264.