Haiti Update; Ecu-Build in Iowa; 1,251 Refugees Resettled

Greetings from Week of Compassion! As we continue to keep the people of Haiti in our prayers, we also continue to receive more and more news about the situation on the ground. Chris Herlinger, Church World Service Communications Officer, has filed a number of excellent reports that help further nuance what has been reported by U.S. news outlets. In his most recent report, Herlinger writes the following:

...Patience is certainly needed now, nearly a month after the devastating 12 January earthquake and at a time when “coordination and distribution remain difficult, overall public interest in Haiti may be waning but needs will remain for months to come,” said Dirk Salomons, the director of the humanitarian affairs program at Columbia University in New York City.

Blain, an ACT/LWF staffer, knows something about the need for patience. A recent distribution in Gressier, located some 20 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince, got out of control when local police demanding tents refused to do much to calm a crowd.

During the 30 January incident, Blain and the other ACT/LWF staffers did their best to maintain order and continue the distribution and their stated goal of assisting the most vulnerable, including families with pregnant women and young children. Eventually the crowd got unruly, a policewoman fired two shots in the air and the distribution ended. The young ACT/LWF staff were disappointed and frustrated.

By contrast, a distribution a day earlier elsewhere had gone perfectly, Blain said, while another the next day at the Santa Teresa camp in Port-au-Prince also went off without problems.

Why the differences? One was that, unlike those in Santa Teresa,  Gressier residents had not received any assistance up until then – they were simply tired and angry. Another was the presence in Santa Teresa  of a police officer who calmly urged the crowd to be patient  and said he would personally stop the distribution if problems began.

The officer, Harry Brossard, said the tactic seemed to work, and it stemmed from his own desire to see food distributed to those who needed it. “We need food for these people,” he said.

The crowd in Santa Teresa also seemed to be more patient and understanding than the crowd in Gressier about the need for distributions to target the most vulnerable. “I think they have to think about the other people (eventually),” said Willy Louis, a security guard. “But it’s no problem for me. Pregnant people and the disabled should come first.”

Marie Dany F. Volter, 34, who like Blain and the overwhelming majority of aid workers here is Haitian, said first-time distributions like that in Gressier “are never easy.” That is particularly the case in a situation where aid is urgently needed and it may not be easy to work out all details in advance with the local partner. . .”

The full report will soon be available here.

Other recent reports from Herlinger include the following:
Haiti: Food is key, now and into the future
Haiti: After basics, many survivors need post-trauma care

The work goes on in Haiti, and it also goes on here in the United States. Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, and Church World Service are currently helping organize a building project in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Josh Baird of Disciples Volunteering sent us the following information about the upcoming build:

Volunteers Needed for Cedar Rapids “Ecu-Build”

In 2008, when Cedar Rapids, Iowa, experienced historic flooding that destroyed more than 5,000 homes, it was clear that the recovery would take years. While much progress has been made, the recovery has only just begun for too many families and individuals. That is why Church World Service is coordinating the work of at least 10 denominations to bring a focused effort to neighborhoods in need of assistance – and your help is needed! Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion are calling for volunteers to serve alongside ecumenical partners in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, repairing homes damaged by the flood. Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion have joined in this mission to bring hope, healing, and a helping hand to Cedar Rapids. Please consider serving for a week in May, repairing homes and rebuilding lives that were damaged nearly two years ago. Volunteers are needed May 2 – May 22. For more information or to register, contact Brenda Tyler at 888-346-2631, or visit this registration website.

1,251 Refugees Resettled

We also join in celebration with Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries. Through Week of Compassion’s support, 1,251 persons who fled persecution in their own countries were given the opportunity for a new life last year. This critical ministry, directed by Jennifer Riggs, helps coordinate a variety of resettlement efforts all over the United States. RIM's report is available here. For more information about your church getting involved in refugee resettlement, contact Jennifer by email or phone: jriggs@dhm.disciples.org or (888)346-2631 toll free or (317)713-2643 direct.

Week of Compassion Special Offering

The actual Week of Compassion Special Offering is scheduled for February 21-28. If you have not received your materials for this important week, please be in contact with Elaine at ecleveland@woc.disciples.org. It is because of your generosity that we are able to respond in immediate, effective and faithful ways to so much human need all over the world. And it is because of YOU that we are able to engage in this important ministry of compassion. We are sharing resources and changing lives. Praise be to God! 

Where in the World Has WoC Been This Week?


Haiti, earthquake relief
Haiti, medical needs
U.S., 2010 winter storms

Zambia, food security
Mozambique, food security
Kenya, water wells
Zimbabwe, water wells
Croatia, peacebuilding and non-violence education

For a full listing of responses to date in 2010, click here.