The Week of Compassion Committee held its semi-annual meeting November 7-9 at the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Regular meetings of the Committee are important for sustaining this ministry by giving members the opportunity to worship together, to receive updates, learn about emerging trends, consult with staff, and to respond to emergency requests from global partners.
Recent disasters inspired Week of Compassion's generous donors to increase their support for emergency response and long-term recovery. Over $1.7 million have been received so far through the end of October for response to the recent hurricanes. Close to $200,000 have been distributed to families and congregations impacted by Hurricane Harvey in South Texas and over $150,000 have been distributed to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Florida for Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Nate. For all disasters in 2017 to date, Week of Compassion has responded with over $1 million to communities all over the world.
The Committee prayed and considered specifically the widespread impact of the recent hurricane disasters in South Texas and Puerto Rico. Close to $1 million were set aside for long-term recovery efforts to help rebuild communities in South Texas over the next several years. Updates were given on the most recent responses to Puerto Rico relief efforts, where Week of Compassion has been working with partners to send in thousands of hygiene kits, tarps, water filters, and foods to Disciples communities and partners on the island. The work of rebuilding Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands is just getting started, and the rebuilding process will take years. Extensive coordination and communication between partners will be needed. Week of Compassion staff will visit Puerto Rico at the end of the month to assess the damage and visit with emergency response partners to create a plan for long term recovery.
In addition, the Committee heard in-depth reports from Jen Smyers, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service on the current state of refugee resettlement programs in the United States; and Alex Morse of Foods Resource Bank on the partnership between WoC and FRB in Latin America. The work of supporting sustainable development is an important part of Week of Compassion's overall work in building a better world. Week of Compassion continues to support its partners in helping communities be resilient and sustainable. The committee approved close to $200,000 in sustainable development proposals, supporting a variety of programs from women's empowerment program in Eastern Europe to helping children have access to schools in the Chaco in South America.
Executive Director Rev. Vy T. Nguyen shared with the committee other disasters that have taken place this year but have not received much attention or support from the global community. The committee approved sending an additional $100,000 in emergency relief support for internally displaced people in Iraq and Syria, refugees in Angola and the Chad Region, drought relief in East Africa, and flood recovery in Bangladesh. "It is easy to lose hope when we see and hear so many disasters happening around us," commented Rev. Vy T. Nguyen. "But our partners around the world are doing incredible work and need our support. Our partnership enabled them to provide water that gives life, and hope in search for safe homes, and much, much more."
Your generosity and support allows the church to be present with the suffering and in solidarity with the vulnerable. Thanksgiving reminds us that the spirit of sharing with others begins with faith in and gratitude for God's blessings. An abundant harvest inspires both thanks and giving. As we offer thanks in this season, we give: comforting the weeping, healing the wounded, feeding the hungry, and protecting the vulnerable.