I have been given so much in life. A warm, cozy home filled with people that I love. My family has everything we need and most of what we want. We aren’t wealthy, I don’t give a lot, but I do what I can, when it’s possible. It isn’t always monetary, sometimes the biggest thing we can give is our time or attention. These are a few of my favorite places to Give Back.
I sponsor a girl named Aline through Matumaini’s Mission. One of my biggest dreams is to go to Africa to do humanitarian service. I thought maybe this could fulfill a little tiny bit of that dream. Matumaini’s Mission is run by a beautiful girl named Harmony. She is doing a great work in this little village. For $34 a month you can sponsor a child. A bed to put between their small body and the ground is $60 and for just $15 you can buy them a water container and a washtub. She is raising money to build them a well and a playground or you can sponsor a soccer team. Every little bit helps. I have always hesitated to do this with a child because I didn’t know if they would actually receive it, this is the real deal. I promise that sponsoring a child will make your heart grow two sizes and increase the gratitude in your heart for all that you have.
This is my girl and her new bed!!
I was born and raised in Utah. Polygamy has always been a part of the local landscape. When I went to SUU as an 18 year old there were polygamist wives there with their strange hair and long prairie dresses. I am sure I made fun of them and I know I thought it was all so weird. Flash forward A LOT of years and while doing some research I found out that my ancestors had not only practiced polygamy, but had been sent to Mexico to live the practice. It wasn’t an easy life for them. At the same time I was finding this out I was given an opportunity to help give Christmas to the followers of a polygamous sect in southern Utah, the FLDS. Christmas had been taken away years before by their leader, Warren Jeffs. This started me down a rabbit hole. I did research and learned so many disturbing things about the polygamist cults in my state. The things that happen in these cults are horrific. My research also led me to some fantastic people who are trying to make a difference.
What can you or I do? We can give time, resources, and money to places like Holding Out HELP.
The needs of those leaving the varied polygamist communities throughout Utah often go unaddressed due to their fear, and lack of knowledge of mainstream society. Trust is also a major barrier for them in receiving help. Holding Out HELP has spent 8 years developing a reputation of confidential support. We receive phone calls weekly from fearful individuals and families.
Many polygamists are unwilling to openly share their beliefs for fear of prosecution. The secrecy around polygamy makes it difficult to collect accurate data about the polygamist population in or around Utah. However, sources have estimated there are as many as 60,000 fundamentalist polygamist members in the United States, with approximately half of them living in polygamous families.
The largest and most notorious group at this time is known as the “FLDS,” lead by alleged prophet Warren Jeffs. The group has gained national notoriety since Jeffs was charged and convicted in two cases of sexual assault to underage girls. This is the group from which over 75% of our service recipients come from. In attempts to keep control of the community, Jeffs has issued absurd edicts from his prison cell and has caused immense turmoil by tearing families apart and banishing church members at his will. He continues to hold all power. Holding Out HELP is serving those who have been kicked out and banished or have made the courageous decision to break their allegiance to the fundamentalist church in pursuit of freedom and independence.
Other polygamist groups we serve are similar in nature, but often smaller in size. Across the board we have found that within our served population – regardless of the group they came from – there are large quantities of people who have suffered from fear-based control, abuse, mental illness, and restricted education.
We have found that our service recipients often suffer from depression and/or PTSD. Of the 700 individuals and families Holding Out HELP has served since its organizational beginnings, 90% have suffered abuse of some nature, whether that be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or religious. Of that 90%, we have found 75% of those have been sexually abused. The majority of our service recipients have between a 6th and 8th grade education when they leave their community. Many of these individuals are noticeably below the State’s educational standard for their age.
In 8 years of operation, Holding Out HELP(HOH) has developed a reputation of confidential support. The organization has served nearly 700 individuals and continues receiving urgent requests for help on a weekly basis. In 2014 alone, HOH served 250+ people.
Holding Out HELP (HOH) exists to assist those who come from a polygamous background – the majority of whom are in isolated communities in and around Utah. The people in this unique under-served population are similar to refugees in that they are unaccustomed to the language, conventions and expectations of modern-day American society. These individuals and families speak English, but beyond that they are confused and overwhelmed about to how to navigate the average every day world. Holding Out Help considers them domestic refugees.
Many of our served recipients have never opened a bank account, stepped foot in a public school, created a resume, associated with those outside their community, or even watched a movie in a theater. The culture they come from is unparalleled. Because of this uniqueness, supporting them requires staff and volunteers trained to provide care that is sensitive to their culture, and the ability to aid their forward movement.
HOH bridges the gap between their culture and ours to help ease them into mainstream society. No other organization is serving this specific population to the same degree or with the same knowledge of how best to integrate them into a life that will provide them the opportunity to be successfully independent. HOH has been serving this population for nearly 8 years and has diligently worked to thoroughly understand the polygamist culture they are coming from and how best to overcome the barriers to self-sufficiency.
These statistics alone show the GREAT need to serve these individuals and families with support and resources for them to have the tools they need to reach independence.
These are a few of the great resources that I used while researching polygamy in Utah:
These are not easy to read and listen to. If you are triggered by abuse this is not something you should study.
I also made a trip to Short Creek in Southern Utah and have gained some beautiful friends who have escaped polygamy. Their stories are heartbreaking. It isn’t a quirky little thing, it is people being abused mentally and physically in the name of God and under the guise of religious freedom. Helping them escape is an amazing gift.