Volunteer Voice

Alex Morse is a Church World Service Volunteer in the Dominican Republic as well as a former Global Mission Intern of Global Ministries. In this brief note, Alex updates us all on the fantastic work being done in Haiti by the Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID), another great partner organization of Week of Compassion as well as Church World Service and the ACT Alliance.  Alex highlights the best ways North Americans can put their resources to use in Haiti’s recovery.  For more about the great work being done by SSID, be sure to check out www.SSIDonline.org. Alex also encourages those who want to follow his work by subscribing to his email newsletter by emailing him at Alex.P.Morse@gmail.com 

Hello Everyone,

It has been almost two months now since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, and since I arrived here to work with Social Services of the Dominican Churches.

The last month has been interesting getting to see how different non-governmental organizations are responding to the needs, and learning about all the different parts that go into responding to a massive disaster.  I have also been involved in working with SSID's new project that they have with Church World Service and Christian Aid, where we are providing food, water, and shelter to 2,000 people.  That is in addition to the other 23,000 people that we are supporting in five other camps.

On top of all the demands of feeding and providing shelter to 2,000 people, we are also trying to meet SPHERE standards in the process.  SPHERE is a set of minimum standards that humanitarian groups try to meet in response to disasters or refugee situations. For example, we are trying to provide 2,100 calories of food per person per day, three liters of drinking water per day, adequate shelter from the rain, and mattresses for sleeping.  The idea is that by following these standards, risk of disease and malnutrition can be reduced, and it also helps to protect the dignity of people living in the emergency camps.  When there is not adequate food or water, people can be forced into desperate situations, and are prone to abuse from those with resources.  

More about SPHERE and our project can be found here and pictures from the camps can be found here.

The last time I was in Jimani working on our project I was surprised to run into two Disciples pastors organizing a mission trip. I was grateful to hear that they have been advised by Global Ministries not to come.  First, the situation in Haiti for now has been incredibly peaceful, but the situation is not stable and could quickly change. 

Second, much of the work that needs to be done in the rebuilding of Haiti at this point requires either the skills of  very experienced specialists working on infrastructure projects, or physical labor, which can and should be done by the Haitians as they should be as involved as possible in the rebuilding of their country.  Mission groups responding to emergencies often do not have the required skills (unless it is a team of doctors or civil engineers), and are often less able to do construction or clean up projects as they aren't used to building with local materials or able to speak the language, and so they only distract from the work at hand.

After meeting with the pastors I began to wonder what it would cost to send down a mission group, and what those resources would be able to buy if put into the hands of a responsible organization like SSID.  Having worked on the budget for our camps that feed 2,000 people every day, I have a good estimate of the costs of supplying an emergency camp, and after a little research I was able to put together an estimate of the costs for a a group of 12 people to come from Chicago and work for one week in Haiti. Assuming that they stay in the cheapest hotels, a no frills mission trip for 12 to Haiti would cost around $10,986.60 without covering any budget for projects. 

For the cost of a group of 12 to visit we could:

  •  Feed 2,000 people for 6 days. 
  •  Feed 13,200 people for 1 day. 
  •  Provide shelter for  1,569 families (about 5,000 people). 
  •  Provide clean drinking water for one month to 4,171 people. 

or

  •  Provide sheets and mattresses for 304 people.

As satisfying as it is to work alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters, at this point the money is more urgently needed, as supplies can be purchased easily here in the Dominican Republic.  I hope those considering mission trips right now to Haiti or Chile will take these numbers into consideration, and decide whether supporting a grassroots project is a better use of resources than what a trip would cost.  From my perspective, the answer is pretty clear.  

Please continue to lift up Haiti in prayer as the rainy season begins, and for those suffering right now in Chile.

Alex Morse
Church World Service Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

CHILE UPDATE

Week of Compassion responded immediately to the earthquake in Chile with solidarity grants to our Global Ministries partners and by contributing to the initial $15,000 grant sent by Church World Service for relief efforts.

ACT and CWS members in Chile have pulled together to form the Inter-Church Emergency Committee Chile 2010.  The groups’ main goal is to respond in a coordinated way as ACT members and serve the most affected communities. Participating denominations and agencies are: Methodist Church of Chile, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mision Apostolica Universal Church, FASIC, SEPADE, EPES and CLAI Chile.

A CWS assessment is currently under way, and we will contribute once their appeal is issued.  If you would like to contribute to the relief effort, you can now designate gifts for earthquake relief in Chile here.

Thank you for your continued vigilance in these affected regions.  Week of Compassion stands with the people of Haiti, Chile, and all over the world—and we stand with our faithful congregations in North America who dare to step out and respond with Courageous Compassion.  For all of you who celebrated Week of Compassion over the last week, for those of you who will give in the coming weeks or who gave at some other point throughout the year, we thank you, and we are thankful for you.