OXFORD – Although it’s just a piece of what he hopes to eventually give to orphans in the area, Pastor Frank Jewett passed on $200 Wednesday to a local family taking care of children who have lost parents to AIDS.

Jewett is in the middle of a campaign to raise $30,000 here to help orphans left bereft of parents due to the so-far incurable virus. Although most of the money will be sent to two charities that help children in Africa, Jewett says he wants to give 10 percent of the donations to local children.

That $200 will eventually grow to $3,000 if enough money is raised, Jewett said.

“They’re in a tough spot,” Jewett said about the recipients of the check. The children especially need winter clothes.

The identities of the children are not being revealed to protect their privacy.

So far, this family is the only one Jewett knows of in Oxford Hills that has children affected by HIV or AIDS. But the Gift for the Kids – Jewett’s campaign – would help other families if they come forward.

Jewett explained why he is giving part of the money to local people: “I’d like to connect it to Oxford so people see this is not just an African problem, this is our problem.”

Jewett learned of the family after contacting Frances White, a clinical social worker who runs a faith-based, nonprofit called Oxford Hills Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare.

White said she started her organization more than a year ago to provide free medical advocacy to people who need extra support, such as the elderly or disabled. Her organization also provides counseling for pregnant teenagers and women in jail, as well as to victims of domestic abuse.

Just days before Jewett called White asking if she knew of any children orphaned by AIDS in the area, she said a family that had adopted such children had contacted her – a surprising confluence of events.

Jewett said he became inspired to raise money to help African children after watching a video featuring Bono, the popular musician who has taken on the cause of eradicating worldwide poverty. According to Jeffrey Sachs, a well-known economist and author of “The End of Poverty,” if developed nations contributed up to .7 percent of their total gross domestic product to poorer nations, extreme poverty could be eliminated.

Jewett, the pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Oxford, said he’s trying to meet his $30,000 goal by the middle of December. Any donations can be sent to The Gift for the Kids, PO Box 542, Norway, ME 04268.

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