A Thaw at the Border

Humanitarian assistance to Haiti has been aided by a thaw at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. To read more about this encouraging development, click here.

Indonesia Earthquake

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake has hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, prompting a tsunami alert that has since been lifted.

The quake's epicenter was 127 miles northwest of Sibolga, the BBC reported; three aftershocks were felt in the northern province of Aceh, which was badly affected by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami. There have been no reports of casualties, damage or of a tsunami following this quake, reports Church World Service Indonesia Director Michael Koeniger and former WoC intern, Bonnie Carenen, now also a member of the CWS Indonesia staff.

Week of Compassion, as always, will respond through CWS to the quake if necessary. CWS, which has a long history of working in Indonesia, provided a major response to the 2004 tsunami and its aftermath.

There for the Long Haul

When the levees broke in New Orleans, our entire church felt called to respond. 

Congregations from across North America contributed millions of dollars, and more than 1,100 mission groups have contributed 432,000 hours, and counting, in response to the ongoing needs along the Gulf Coast. Through the partnerships of Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, the Great River Region, and many on-the-ground long-term recovery organizations, we have been able to rebuild more than 170 homes and restore hope to countless people in serious need. 

Our work is far from complete, though. Most calculations estimate that the recovery process will take at least five more years, and some estimate as many as ten more years will be required to restore and repair New Orleans. Some of us have forgotten about the Gulf Coast. Our news reports celebrate a Saints Super Bowl victory as proof that the Gulf Coast is back, but simply ask anyone who has served with a work group repairing a roof or rebuilding walls, and they’ll tell you just how far we have to go. 

Disciples congregations have likewise responded faithfully to the earthquake in Haiti. Often noted as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has long received disaster- and development-related support from Week of Compassion. The January 12th earthquake compounded a tenuous development situation with a natural disaster. The ensuing displacement of thousands of people to the Dominican border and from the crowded metro area of Port-au-Prince to outlying rural areas with few resources to support such an influx of people has been another wave of the disaster. 

The needs are immense. It will not only take many resources, but also much strategizing to put together the most precise, effective, and ethical response. Haiti cannot afford a “do-over” if we respond swiftly yet foolishly. We must distribute the resources we have received in a strategic, wise, effective and sustainable manner. Our partners on the ground have consistently asked us to accompany them for the long-term—which we know will be years to come. Funds have already been allocated for the initial emergency response phase. Your generous gifts have been put to work on the ground, through our partnerships with Global Ministries (CONASPEH and the House of Hope), Church World Service, the ACT Alliance, and IMA World Health. Vulnerable populations such as children and the disabled have been helped, countless hygiene and baby kits have been distributed, clean water service has been restored to many communities, psycho-social services have been offered, and displaced people have been welcomed, fed and sheltered.

We are, however, in this for the long haul—as we always are. Your faithful offerings will continue to make a difference. In any successful disaster response, a sustainable and effective response must also include a solid plan for the longer term rebuilding and development phases. For example, as a member communion of Church World Service, we are currently in conversation with Habitat for Humanity International on ways to respond to needs for shelter and housing. The Habitat initiative has three phases—emergency shelter, transitional shelter, and more permanent housing structures. The permanent housing will take seriously indigenous aesthetic and cultural concerns while employing architecture that is structurally sound and appropriate to Haiti’s climate. The initiative will employ Haitian labor and skill in as many ways as possible. Engaging such a problem takes time—much more time than simply throwing together cookie cutter shelters. 

The people of Haiti are at the center of our response, just as the people most affected along the Gulf Coast are at the heart of our Hurricane Recovery Initiative. The trust that you have invested in Week of Compassion is likewise important—and we do not take it for granted. We invest your gifts in initiatives that will have a long-lasting, life-changing, and life-affirming effect on the people of Haiti. The contributions received in these few months must be used over the next several years. 

Help us prepare for The Next Haiti or The Next Hurricane. We were able to respond directly to needs in Haiti within 48 hours because of your undesignated offerings to Week of Compassion. Your gifts to WoC allow us to respond to disasters when they occur. And they allow us to continue to be there for the long haul. That’s who we are as Disciples. 

One Rhythm, One World

ACT International has long been one of Week of Compassion's primary partner organizations. ACT stands for Action by Churches Together and is based in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Ecumenical Center of the World Council of Churches. ACT is the largest alliance of Christian humanitarian agencies in the world -- and Week of Compassion is a part of that awesome alliance. Through our membership in Church World Service, we also work through ACT to respond to disasters, serve refugee and displaced populations and engage in long-term sustainable development. The ACT Alliance is operational on the ground in Haiti and is one of our primary implementing partners in and around Port-au-Prince. Through our work together, WoC is present and active in so many places of great need the world over, thanks to our partnership with the ACT Alliance. We are grateful for this, just as we are grateful to you for enabling us to be such an effective and efficient ministry in the lives of many. 

For a closer glimpse of the lives that we are learning from, accompanying and serving, please take a few minutes of your day to watch this video update (with captions). You won't regret it! Please consider sharing it with your congregation. Through the sharing of our resources, we are helping to change lives. 

2010 Haiti Earthquake Relief

Since Haiti was struck by a massive 7.0 Earthquake on January 12th, North American Disciples congregations have responded out of faith, hope, and a radical sense of generosity.

In keeping with that faithful generosity, Week of Compassion has striven to be efficient, effective, and transparent in helping coordinate the ways that Disciple contributions have made a difference in the lives of the people of Haiti. As you will see from the brief report below, Disciples congregations have contributed nearly $1.7 million to relief and development efforts through our ecumenical and denominational partnerships. The generosity of congregations and individuals from all over North America has given us the ability to not only contribute to immediate relief efforts but also to commit to long-term recovery and re-development in Haiti.

The situation in Haiti is a challenging one. 

 

  • The death toll from the earthquake stands at approximately 230,000
  •  An estimated 1.2 million Haitians are homeless
  •  And long term rebuilding costs are estimated at $13.2 billion

Through denominational partners like CONASPEH, we have been able to respond to emergency needs of communities in Port-Au-Prince and beyond; through ecumenical partnerships with Social Services of Dominican Churches (SSID), Church World Service, and ACT Alliance, 2,000 Haitian families in a border settlement on the Haiti side of the Haiti/DR border have received food, shelter, and health resources; our partnership with Church World Service has also provided immense assistance to vulnerable children and people with disabilities, as we have coordinated efforts with Service Chretien d’Haiti, ChristianAid (UK), the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (COPJ) and House of Hope.

THANK YOU for what you have done. THANK YOU for your courageous compassion. Our work continues, and we will keep you updated as the ways we respond continue to evolve in response to the situation on the ground. 

Week of Compassion Haiti Giving as of 3/16:

$2,003,108

As of March 15, 2010, Week of Compassion has provided:

$55,000 to DOM for Haiti Relief (for CONASPEH and House of Hope)
$115,067.84 to CWS for Haiti Relief
$100,000 to ACT Alliance for Haiti Relief
$5,000 to IMA World Health for medicine boxes for Haiti
$10,500 to Church Extension for U.S. Haitian congregations in the NE Region needing solidarity and support

Y-T-D Provisions Total: $285,067.85

What's New with Week of Compassion?

There’s always something new with Week of Compassion! We never know day to day what we might be called upon to respond to; you never know how your faithful and generous gifts to Week of Compassion may be needed. As you probably know, we respond to human need around the world, on average, every other day. In order to keep you informed, we have decided to “tweak” the ways that we write and send out these email updates. Starting next week, we will be sending out two weekly emails. On Tuesdays, you will receive an email very much like the email updates you are used to receiving, written by Amy, Brandon, or one of our great partners across the world involved in the relief, development, and refugee ministries of Week of Compassion. On Thursdays, you will receive an email entitled “What’s New with Week of Compassion?” and there will be a digest of quick reads, links, and resources that you can use in communication with your church, community, and friends about the work and witness of Week of Compassion, as well as a list of the places we have responded during that week.

Thank you for your faithful support. It is our hope that this helps keep all of us “in the loop” about the ministry you, our partners in the pews, partners overseas, and staff are doing together. We give thanks to the God of peace, hope, and creative grace who gives energy to this critical and compassionate ministry.

Week of Compassion in Action

Chris Herlinger of Church World Service sends back this report of work being done on the grassroots level in Haiti:

A sense of family: The quiet, localized efforts of Haitians assisting fellow Haitians

As Fontil Louiner sees it, faced with the reality of damaged homes and lost income, he and more than two dozen family members and friends had no alternative but to pull up stakes and leave the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“We had no other choice. We couldn’t stay,” said the 39-year-old video technician who recently returned to his hometown of Petite Riviere, in the northern department of Artibonite.

But in doing so – and helping establish a 500-meals-a-day feeding program in Petite Riviere -- Louiner not only became part of a wider exodus out of Port-au-Prince; he also became part of a story that has often been overlooked in the rush of recent images and narratives of international aid workers assisting Haitians.

For more on this story, click here.

Souper Bowl OF Caring

Thanks to so many congregations, youth groups, and individuals, Souper Bowl of Caring is rejoicing over another successful year of congregations, schools and other charitable individuals joining together to make a difference in the fight against hunger.

So far, 225 Disciples of Christ congregations have donated more than $90,000 in cash and food items to charities as part of the Souper Bowl of Caring! 

Thanks to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the thousands of other groups that have reported, the national total is more than $8 million...and growing! Together, we are fighting hunger and poverty while transforming the time around the Super Bowl into a movement of giving and serving. Thanks to many of you who contributed a portion of your Souper Bowl offerings to Week of Compassion.

If you participated, make sure your church has been added to the national total.

REPORT your Souper Bowl of Caring results online today by clicking here

Music for Haiti: “To Haiti With Love”

Woodmont Christian Church recently sponsored “To Haiti With Love,” a benefit concert featuring Disciple Musicians Andra Moran, Thom Schuyler, Gabe Dixon, and many others, including special guest Vince Gill.  Pictures are available here.

The work goes on! As always, we give great thanks for your faithful ministry with us. What we can accomplish together, with God’s grace, is pretty incredible. Thank you for your daring, creative, courageous compassion.

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. 

Chile earthquake: ACT works with the government

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile - one of the most powerful recorded – has killed more than 700 people, but the figure is expected to increase. Troops are being deployed to help with rescue efforts and prevent looting. A curfew is enforced in some areas. Basic supplies are to be distributed as rescuers reach worst-hit areas.
 
The government has started its emergency operations to deal with the destruction caused by the massive earthquake. Juan Salazar of ACT member FASIC, is a member of the government’s National Emergency Committee. He says damage is worse than reported. “The information that arises each time indicates that the effects are much greater than originally assessed,” Salazar says. He has met Chilean president Michelle Bachelet for discussion on the emergency response.
 
“The city is in chaos”
Worst hit is Concepcion. The president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH), Rev. Gloria Rojas, reports that the situation in the city is chaotic, with much destruction. Some affected families are housed in church buildings and have lost everything. Many people are staying on the streets because their houses are partially destroyed or who fear new aftershocks.
 
It is starting to rain in the region, increasing fears the situation may worsen.  No fuel is available, which makes movement difficult, and water is scarce. Communities are using bottled water. They are sharing food with the nearest neighbors. The Lutheran Church is ready to assess the affected areas together with other organizations.
 
ACT support
ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna says many ACT members are ready to support the work CWS is doing in Chile, and some are already in place. “Our members will try to supplement the effort of the government, especially in communities where our local partners have been operating for years.”
 
Church World Service works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile. As part of the international ACT Alliance network, CWS will provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter.
 
1.5 million homes destroyed
President Bachelet said two million people had been affected by the earthquake. It is feared the damage may cost tens of billions of dollars.
 
Restoring public service
Jose Abumohor, of Chile's national emergency centre, said efforts were already under way to restore public services. "The aim is as soon as possible that we manage to reach a state of normality," he said. Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said Chile did not want aid offers to be "a distraction", adding: "Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little."

Earthquake Strikes Chile, Triggers Tsunamis: Week of Compassion Reaches out to Partners

A devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early this morning, Saturday, February 27, 2010, shattering buildings and bridges, killing at least 78 people and setting off a tsunami that threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.

Messages of compassion, concern and support have been sent to Rev. Ulises Muñoz, Obispo Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile; Rosario Castillo, Educación Popular en Salud (EPES); Dora Canales, Comunidad Teológica de Chile, Disciples/UCC-Global Ministries Partners, and Elena Huegel, missionary with Global Ministries. 

Praise be to God, we have received news from the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Chile, who has not heard of any deaths of church members.  There was some damage of homes in Curico and Talca, but homes were not destroyed.  Elena Huegel, our beloved friend and missionary, was in the mountains at Centro Shalom with the whole staff.  Everyone is well and they are on their way down from the mountain.  Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. 

Church World Service emergency response staff have also been in contact with colleagues on the ground in Chile, who report their people are safe. CWS has worked in Chile to provide emergency preparedness training and assistance to the country's sizable population of Colombians, displaced to Chile by conflict.  CWS works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesia Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile.

As part of the international ACT Alliance network, CWS will work to provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter to those affected by this disaster.  CWS staff continue to be in contact with people in Chile and colleagues in other ACT Alliance agencies to ensure a timely and responsible response.  CWS staff are also preparing for a tsunami response in Hawaii should any be needed.

Week of Compassion emergency solidarity grants were immediately authorized for three Global Ministries partners in Chile and Church World Service to support relief initiatives.

Week of Compassion and Global Ministries staff are monitoring the unfolding disaster situation and will continue to update you as we receive more information. 

How Can You  Help?

1. Pray for the people of Chile, their leaders, our partners, and emergency response workers.

2. Please help the people of Chile by sending or donating on-line gifts to Week of Compassion, designated for Chile Earthquake and Tsunami Relief.

Thank you for your ongoing support, trust, and courageous compassion.  We continue to trust in God's ubiquitous presence and love.   

Response to Earthquake in Chile

Week of Compassion continues to monitor the situation in Chile. We pray for those affected. We will post more information very soon with opportunities for you to donate. Please check our site and Facebook page soon.

UPDATE: 2/27/2010 02:19PM CST

SITUATION: A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit central Chile early today, causing damage throughout the South American country and triggering tsunami warnings in the Pacific basin.

As of mid-afternoon today, the death toll stood at 122 in Chile though is expected to rise, The New York Times reported. Damage was particularly heavy in Concepción. That city,  Chile's second-largest metropolitan area, is located only 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

The tsunami warning was issued throughout the Western Hemisphere, and in Hawaii, low-lying areas there are being evacuated.  The tsunami already reached Peru, with some coastline damage.

The Times reported that the Chilean quake is being called "vastly more powerful" than the 7.0-magnitude quake that caused massive destruction in Haiti last month.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in her country saying:  "We have had a huge earthquake -- We're doing everything we can with all the resources we have." The president said international assistance was not yet needed.

"Chile has a pretty strong national emergency management system in place and has dealt in the past with a number of catastrophic disasters," said Donna Derr, who coordinates emergency response for Church World Service.

Derr added: "While there are historic areas in the country which are certainly most extremely vulnerable in events such as earthquakes, most of the newer housing has been built to earthquake mitigation standards
which are now required there; there is also a strong regional system in place for provision of resources, such as search and rescue operational assistance between Chile and its neighbors."

RESPONSE: Church World Service has been in contact with local partners in Chile, including Fundación de Ayuda de las Iglesias Cristianas, known by the acronym FASIC, and the Methodist Church of Chile and with members of the ACT Alliance. ACT Alliance members active in Chile include the Lutheran World Federation and the regional organization Centro Regional Ecuménico de Asesoría y Servicio, known by the acronym CREAS. The partners in Chile are conducting assessments.

CWS staff have been in contact with the Hawaii Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. CWS has long ties in Hawaii with the VOAD and with the United Church of Christ, a CWS-member denomination.

UPDATE: 2/27/2010 03:07PM CST

 

We just got news from the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Chile.  He has not heard of any deaths of church members.  There was some damage of homes in Curico and Talca, but homes weren't destroyed.  Elena Huegel, the missionary, was in the mountains at Centro Shalom with the whole staff.  Everyone is well and they are on their way down from the mountain.
 
Susan M. Sanders
United Church of Christ

 

 

Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep!

A Week of Compassion Reflection on John 21:15-19

How do we love well? To love well speaks to the quality of our love, not the quantity. I don’t believe Jesus was asking Peter how much he loved him, but simply, how did he love him. How do we, then, as followers of Jesus the Christ, love well?

 “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What is Jesus really asking Peter here? Peter, caught a bit off guard, says, “Of course, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus responds by saying, “Ok then, feed my lambs.” 

A second time Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds again, perhaps a bit more frustrated, “Yes, Lord, you know that I do!” This time Jesus says, “Then tend my sheep.” Tend my sheep. We’re not only feeding now, but tending, caring for the whole animal, not little lambs any longer, but full-grown sheep. 

Tend my sheep, Jesus said. Take care of one another; accompany your sisters and brothers on the journey to healing. Commit to them for the long haul.

But Jesus asks Peter yet a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” This time Peter gets totally exasperated. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” to which Jesus says, “Ok then, feed my sheep. For very truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished. But when you grow up, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt around you and lead you to where you do not want to go.” After this he finished his inquisition of Peter by saying, “Follow me.” 

Follow me. Yet we find it challenging just to follow the news! Feed my sheep, Jesus said. To love me is to follow me. To follow me is to care deeply, effectively and appropriately for others, and this means standing up for those the world has forgotten and speaking out for those who are in misery and poverty. To love me is to follow me; this also means doing the unpopular and the misunderstood. It can even mean risking our very lives.    

Do you love me? What Jesus is actually asking Simon Peter is, “Do you agape me?” Agapan, in New Testament Greek, is a verb meaning sacrificial, redemptive love, often understood as the highest form of love. “Do you love me in this way, Peter?” And he responds, “Yes Lord, you know that I am your friend; I have such affection for you,” using the Greek verb philein. But this kind of love between friends or even family is not necessarily agape love. Jesus asks again, “But do you love me? You’re not hearing me! What is the quality of your love, Peter?” After all that time being a disciple of Jesus, after all that work and commitment, Jesus asks him only then to follow him. Follow me, he says to Peter. If you love me, follow me. Give all that you have right back to God. This is what it means to love me well. 

It is often a long, painstaking, arduous journey to learn to follow Christ. It takes courageous compassion. It takes a commitment. It takes sacrificial giving so that others may not suffer but have enough. That’s loving well. On your own journey of discipleship, what is the quality of your love? Do you love Christ the way Christ loves you?, with a love so powerful that it rises out of the rubble? a love so pure that even in the darkness and total chaos, surrounded by post-earthquake debris, it sings songs of praise to God all night long? a love so profound it leads you to the cross? 

Do you love him? Do you love him? Do you love him? 

Love well. Feed Christ’s sheep. Please give sacrificially to this year’s Week of Compassion Special Offering so that we are able to meet the needs of God’s people each and every day. 

Where in the World Has WoC Been This Week?

DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY & REHABILITATION

DR Congo, educational support
DR Congo, rural community support
Egypt, interfaith dialgue & conflict resolution

"Beyond the CNN Effect"

Week of Compassion - Around the World, Around the Year

Steve Cranford, a retired Disciples minister and member of Bethany Christian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent us this great reminder:

"We have responded generously to the Week of Compassion's relief efforts in Haiti, and we are glad to know that our church is involved in providing life-saving assistance to those suffering people.
 
Wouldn't it be wonderful if, for the remainder of this year, there were no more earthquakes, no floods, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no tsunamis? Wouldn't it be wonderful if, for the remainder of this year, there were no more violent conflicts, no more refugees fleeing from their homes? Wouldn't be wonderful if there were no more famines, if no more children died of starvation?
 
But when has there ever been such a year? From bitter experience, we know that there will be more natural disasters and human conflicts that create more suffering. And we want to be there. We want to be there so we can extend the compassion of Jesus Christ. We will be there through the Week of Compassion.
 
Every year in February the Christian Church receives a special offering that creates a rapid response fund so that when disaster strikes, whenever and wherever people hurt, whether in Oklahoma or in the far corners of the earth, we are there.
 
That's why we give to the Week of Compassion."
 
Steve gets it exactly right. Our Compassion Response Fund gives us flexibility and the ability to act quickly. Within 24 hours of the earthquake in Haiti, funds had been wired to Global Ministries, enabling them to respond to the relief efforts of CONASPEH, a grassroots ecumenical council of churches in Haiti, and to the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (the House of Hope in Port au Prince), as well as to Church World Service and ACT International.

Your contributions to the appeal for earthquake relief in Haiti have been generous. We've raised over $1.3 million. However, in order to respond to the immediate needs that emerge whenever a disaster strikes--whether it's on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, or a windstorm that never makes the news, but does serious damage to a neighborhood--we need your continued Courageous Compassion.

Likewise, because of your faithful giving, we are able to accompany communities in places as diverse as El Salvador, Armenia, even North Korea, as they seek to develop new sources of sustenance and self-support.

To the alleviation of suffering due to disaster and chronic poverty, we are able to respond effectively because of your continued, courageous support.  To see all of the places where you've been able to make a difference in the last year, click here. This is cause for celebration! This is what YOU have done, through your gifts to Week of Compassion!

If you have given to the appeal for Haiti, thank you so very much. Consider making a difference in yet another way--with a gift to this year's Week of Compassion Special Offering. It is a way that we as Disciples can share God's love with the entire world: where systems, structures, and hopes have been broken, we can contribute to new life by stepping out with communities in Courageous Compassion.

Video Update from Earthquake Survivor, Rick Santos, IMA World Health

IMA World Health is WoC's primary partner organization providing health and medical assistance to those in great need. Many of you have assembled IMA Medicine Boxes or Safe Motherhood Kits for the Congo or for Haiti. Medicine Boxes are in great demand in Haiti currently; follow the link for more information.

IMA's Director, Rick Santos, was one of our ecumenical colleagues in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Rick was trapped under the rubble for 55 hours, but made it home. He recently recorded this message for Week of Compassion about the ongoing relief effort. We are so appreciative of Rick and his entire staff at IMA World Health; they are such an important partner for us Disciples!

 

"From dust you were made and to dust you will return."

Every year, when Lent rolls around, something about these words, spoken during the imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, gets to me.

If you're like me, you're often so overtaken by work and daily stresses that you zoom through life on auto-pilot, and any contemplation about what it means to be alive-any time taken to consider our mortality-feels like a luxury.

This year, thoughts of dust bring up images of rubble and dust in Haiti.  The massive devastation there has raised our awareness of what it means to be mortal, vulnerable, and in need.  The Generosity of Disciple congregations, individual church members, and people who, looking for a way to help, found Week of Compassion, has been staggering.  The reports of the response our partners have engineered on the ground have been breathtaking.

Mortality.  Dust.  Generosity.  Life.

These are the things that are swirling around my head as we head into Lent.

This Sunday is not only the first Sunday of Lent, but it is the first of the two Sundays set aside for our Week of Compassion special offering.  This offering funds our general Compassion Response Fund-an important part of Week of Compassion's ministry that allows us to respond immediately, efficiently, effectively, and for the long haul.   Because of the Generosity of Disciple Churches across the country in 2009, we were able to wire $10,000 for earthquake relief to Haiti from the Compassion Response Fund within 24 Hours of the first report.

Because of your generosity, we can respond before the dust has even cleared.

And because of your faithfulness, we'll be there long after the last news crew packs up to go.

We're not only your disaster relief mission fund, but we are your sustainable development mission fund as well.  Chronic poverty, disease, refugees leaving war-torn villages-these are more than just abstract issues.   They affect people as profoundly as devastating earthquakes, and we address them because of what you give on any Sunday throughout the year.  From water projects in Kenya and Zimbabwe to agricultural development in Nicaragua and Armenia and North Korea, your gifts through Week of Compassion make a remarkable difference in the lives of people working for a better life.  Whether it's through ongoing recovery and rebuilding work on the Gulf Coast or supporting our Refugee and Immigration Ministries help our congregations set up a home for a just-arrived family from Bhutan, we can be present thanks to your gifts.  Week of Compassion is around the world, around the year.  

While our lives spin madly onward, in the van heading to soccer practice, the plane headed to the next meeting, the combine pulling in the last bit of the harvest, and at the helm of the grocery cart in the checkout line, we can pause-turning our fleeting time into sacred time, and our gifts into life abundant.  We can pray.  We can give. We can make a difference.  

We invite you to help us continue to make a difference-not only in the lives of those suffering in Haiti, but also in the lives of those all over the world who are also still in need.  Give generously to our Week of Compassion special offering so that when the next disaster strikes, we will once again be ready to respond, thanks to you and your courageous compassion. 

- Brandon Gilvin, Associate Director

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?

DISASTER RESPONSES:

Haiti, earthquake relief
Haiti, medical needs
U.S., 2010 winter storms
 
DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY & REHABILITATION:

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.

News from "House of Hope" and the Haiti Income Assistance Tax Relief Act

Polycarpe Joseph is Director of FOPJ (Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice). Through Global Ministries and Church World Service, Week of Compassion supports FOPJ´s program "House of Hope," a community-based educational program for children performing domestic work ('restavek' work) in Carrefour-Filles, Port-Au-Prince.  This account was sent to Week of Compassion by Martin Coria, Church World Service Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, who recently met with Polycarpe. 

Though he is still coming to terms with the earthquake himself, Polycarpe Josephas and his 17-person staff team are still finding the ability to serve others in need day after day. All but two members of the staff lost their homes, and are making do living on the streets and in parks. Every day in the middle of the street and surrounded by destroyed buildings, they prepare and serve a hot meal for some 600 people. "We need rice, beans, sardines, cooking oil, sugar and water. Thanks to another CWS partner, SKDE, we just found a safe place where to store food items. Before, we had to keep small quantities in different places for security reasons.

"Some food items can be purchased in Port-au-Prince but prices skyrocketed. A sack of rice cost $200 before the Earthquake, $400 two days ago. We need 3 (50 kilogram) sacks of rice to feed 600 people every day."

FOPJ is a community-based project that provides education and recreational activities for 125 children (aged 6-13) working as domestic servants for families in this neighborhood of Port-Au-Prince. FOPJ was part of a 15-member network of Haitian agencies with similar programs serving more than 2000 children.

When the earthquake struck, dozens House of Hope children were at the program. Today the building is destroyed but all 125 children served by the program are alive. "Other colleague projects of our network have lost between 20 and 60 kids," Polycarpe reports, "The roofs of classrooms full of kids fell down."

Polycarpe went on to say "Food is essential, but we must also work on emotional recovery very soon, now. There will be a lot of people with mental illnesses as a result of the earthquake".

That is why this week a group of Haitian volunteer social workers started supporting FOPJ staff in working with children.

"Children should play, sing, dance." Because lack of facilities, activities are taking place in open spaces.

Polycarpe has heard many people in Port-Au-Prince express a desire to leave the desolation of Port-Au-Prince and move to the countryside. In order to do so, they need support-both for transportation and for settling in the host communities.

Among the many things that have made an impression on Polycarpe is the rapid response and signs of solidarity from partners in the Dominican Republic.  He also mentioned the important role of faith and churches now and in the future of Haiti, "the churches have to do important theological and pastoral work. God is life and hope. God loves life; God doesn't destroy it. Churches need to work to promote people´s active engagement in reconstruction efforts and healing processes.

"And we all need to pray for dry weather because heavy rains in Port-Au-Prince would be a second disaster." 

Through Church World Service and Global Ministries, Week of Compassion has helped FOPJ with emergency funds to purchase food items locally, donated food items transported from Santo Domingo, and support for emotional and psychological recovery of the staff. CWS health and school kits and larger quantities of food are being transported to FOPJ, now that a safe place for storage has been established.

Haiti Assistance Income Tax Relief Act

The Senate and House have unanimously passed legislation that allows taxpayers to deduct cash charitable contributions to aid victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The bill was signed by President Obama on Friday, January 22, 2010.  This includes contributions to local congregations designated for Week of Compassion Haiti Relief. 

Under this law, a donor who makes a cash contribution for the relief of Haitian earthquake victims after January 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010 can take a tax deduction for the gift for either 2009 or 2010. The law refers to this as an "acceleration" of the contribution deduction, since it may be claimed on the tax return filed for 2009, even though given in 2010. 

Churches that receive gifts from members are not required to issue a second contribution letter to members who choose the accelerated method.  Members who make gifts to their church for Week of Compassion Haiti Relief and who choose the accelerated contribution method are required to keep their own record of the contribution.  When their 2010 statement is issued from the congregation, the donor is expected to modify their deduction on their 2010 Tax Forms.  Members who took the accelerated method are advised to keep a second copy of the 2010 contribution statement from the church with their 2009 tax records.   

The law addresses the Federal contribution deduction. Donors will need to check their own states' for conformity and should consult with their tax advisor.

Compassion and Aid Received in Haiti

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve inevitably heard about the difficulties of getting aid, supplies, and medical care to those affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

While it is true that the delivery of aid has been hampered by many factors, including infrastructure-related challenges, Week of Compassion can assure you that aid is reaching many of those who need it.

Martin Coria, Church World Service Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, now based in the Dominican Republic and working closely with Servicio Social de Igelesias Dominicana (SSID), noted that with pre-positioned CWS kits and blankets, SSID was able to provide relief to the victims of Haiti's massive earthquake in the first twenty-four hours of the disaster. On Wednesday, January 13, SSID sent a flight with supplies to Port-au-Prince, and their staff was able to see the needs firsthand and quickly provide the most crucial supplies and assistance.

Since then, CWS has established a storage and distribution center in the Dominican Border Town of Jimani, and has begun to provide assistance for Haitians who may try to enter the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Thanks to you, we have helped make possible the following CWS aid and supplies:

• An air-freight arrived on Jan 22 in Santo Domingo. The shipment contained 500 CWS blankets; 1,125 baby kits, 10,595 hygiene kits; 720 tubes of toothpaste; and 25 flashlights with batteries. 
• A second shipment, by ocean ship, is to arrive in Santo Domingo on Feb. 2. It contains 500 light-weight CWS blankets; 13,325 hygiene kits; and 375 baby kits.
• Another shipment is also expected to arrive in Santo Domingo on Feb. 2 with 2,950 blankets; 3,150 baby kits; and 7,215 hygiene kits.
• An air shipment of 60 cartons of IMA World Health medicine boxes is expected to arrive in Santo Domingo today, January 26. Each box contains enough essential medicines and medical supplies to treat the routine ailments of about 1,000 adults and children.

 Coria also reports that:
• The Episcopal Church of Jimaní has given its building to be used as long as needed for doctors, rescue teams, visitors and volunteers. There are 30 mattresses and secure space to store supplies. This will serve as the hub for CWS and partner operations. A storage/supply center for 100 containers has been established.
• A first aid clinic and emergency room has been located in the Christian School of Parisien, in Haiti, some 8 kilometers from the Haitian/DR border - about two hours from Port-au-Prince. There is space and capacity for no more than 30 patients at a time, and it is secure.
• Food and supply distribution sites have been established across the border through Haitian churches and managed through different Haitian non-profit organizations and community leader associations. The hub of a five-center distribution network is located in Pétionville.

Disciple Don Tatlock, CWS Latin America and Caribbean program manager, continues work with distributing supplies to those in Port-au-Prince, noting the strength of CWS's already-existing relationships in helping to determine priorities for CWS distributions.

Likewise, through Church World Service’s participation in the larger ACT Alliance international ecumenical partnership, Week of Compassion donations have gone to the construction of temporary water systems, providing water purification materials, tents and food packages.

For more information and details, you can check the resources on Week of Compassion’s Haiti site, which include podcasts from Don Tatlock and Donna Derr, CWS director of emergency response, as well as links to CWS and ACT.

We continue to lift up the people of Haiti, all those on the ground working for the recovery effort, and all those who have offered their resources to aid with the relief effort. Week of Compassion is committed to Haiti for the long term. Once the news cameras are gone and the celebrity telethons are long forgotten, we will still be at work in Haiti. Thank you for making that possible. 

Haitian Refugee Resettlement, Orphan Adoption, and Temporary Protection for Haitians in the United States

As news outlets report on the earthquake in Haiti, three of the issues consuming the headlines are refugee resettlement, adoption of Haitian orphans, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in the United States. Jennifer Riggs, Director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries, a ministry funded by Week of Compassion and administered by Disciples Home Missions, offers the following important information:
 
The U.S. government is constantly reassessing the situation and changing its plans about how to deal with the crisis as related to Haitians in the United States and Haitians who may try to come to the United States. The following is the current situaion on these issues.
 
1.  No Haitians are being considered by the U.S. government for resettlement into the United States. In fact, efforts are underway to prevent Haitians from getting in boats and attempting to come to the United States on their own. If any Haitians do make it to the United States, they will most likely be placed in the Krome detention center in Miami or in tent cities nearby and will not be allowed to be resettled. Guantanamo Bay is being prepared to receive those who are picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard on their way to Florida.
 
2.  There is no program for the care of or adoption of Haitian orphans into the United States. A few orphans have been allowed into the country because they lived in American-run orphanages and/or were already in the process of being adopted by Americans. These were children who were orphans before the earthquake. In all disaster situations, children are never sent to another country until there is certainty that their parents and other relatives are not alive. It is possible that in the future there may be a program for the adoption of Haitian orphans, but that would be months away. If such a program was developed, the preferred location for the placement of those orphans would be within Haitian communities in the United States.
 
3.  Haitians living in the United States may now apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). They have only six months (from 1/21/10) to apply for TPS and have to have been in the Unites States as of 1/12/10. Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) is consulting attorneys and beginning to prepare information to help Disciples Haitians determine whether or not applying for TPS would be a good decision in their individual situations. Church World Service is working to determine which of its refugee resettlement offices could provide legal assistance for Haitians in filling out the proper forms. In the next few weeks, RIM will make available a guide to help Haitians think through their options, understand the requirements of TPS, and know where and how to apply for TPS.
 
The crisis in Haiti is complex, touching on each aspect of the work and witness of Week of Compassion gifts—Relief, Development, and Refugee issues are all at the heart of the long-range response to which we are committed. We will continue to update you on all aspects of our ministry as the relief, refugee and development mission fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Thank you so much for your work and generosity. It is truly an honor to partner with each and every one of you.
 

Haiti: One Week Later

It is during times such as these that we learn what it truly means to live in faith, hope, and love. 

Week of Compassion’s partner agencies on the ground in Haiti and across the border in the Dominican Republic are responding to the crisis. Your generous gifts are making a significant difference in the relief efforts. There are challenges, but there have also been fantastic accomplishments in the immediate aid efforts in Haiti. We will keep you updated in a variety of ways, including our Haiti Relief Efforts page -- please check it often for updates, resources, photos and stories. We want to know what your church is doing to help us respond to the tragedy, so please send us your updates, too.  

Partner Efforts: 

  • Don Tatlock, a Church World Service responder and member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), reports that much of the initial response has involved searching and identifying survivors. Sanitation and security issues have pushed many people from Port-au-Prince into rural areas, as well as toward the border with the Dominican Republic. Such migration is making it difficult, at times, to verify the survival of some local partners and colleagues.

    Travel logistics continue to be very complicated, as the road running from the Dominican border to Port-au-Prince, already difficult to travel, is even more overwhelmed than usual. In order to ease the flow of aid, the United Nations is currently working to organize air transport for Aid Groups in order to transfer supplies and Aid personnel between the border and Port-au-Prince, as well as transporting supplies from Port-au-Prince to outlying areas affected by the quake, many of whom have received no aid.
  • Our partners at Action by Churches Together (ACT International) have a rapid response team on the ground. Social Services of the Dominican Churches (SSID) is providing staff support, office space, and logistical support to ecumenical responders. The response will not only include relief in Port-au-Prince and rural areas affected by the earthquake, but as displaced persons may soon migrate toward the Dominican border, the response may well include providing services to meet their needs. More details are available here.
  • Additionally, Haitians in America currently facing deportation have received Temporary Protected Status for 18 Months, as well as the potential for Haitian refugee resettlement.  Florida and New York, two states with significant Haitian populations, are gearing up for both repatriation and the extension of stay for those under Temporary Protected Status. The ACT appeal will include funds for repatriation aid and assistance.
  • Church World Service has thus far concentrated its efforts on helping distribute its disaster response kits, so Disciples Churches should keep those donations coming! CWS is also helping to support local partners that meet the needs of children by providing baby and hygiene kits and other support. For more details, please follow this link.

Pray-Pay-Stay:  Responding as a Congregation, Region, or Individual:

We have received so many notes from across the country, detailing the ways you have all given and responded. 

The needs have not changed drastically. The need for CWS baby and hygiene kits is ongoing, as is the need for donations of blankets to Church World Service for emergency response, as detailed here.

We also continue to field questions about the need for on the ground volunteers. The needs on the ground require very specific skill-sets, and there is absolutely no system of support for individuals or church volunteer groups at this time.

The US Department of Health and Human Services is requesting the aid of some medical professionals through the medical reserve corps. There is a credentialing process, and again, the needs and requested qualifications, including fluency in French or Creole, are quite specific.  However, HHS also encourages interested medical professionals to seek credentials, as this buoys their roster in the event of other needs for disaster response. Those with requisite skills can seek credentials here.

Except for this specific instance, it is not time for volunteering in Haiti. Once our partners alert us to opportunities, we will pass that information along.

For the time being, we ask you to be creative, resourceful, and discerning. Please check out the great things being done by Disciples Churches, worship resources, and other opportunities available on our Haiti page. If nothing else, remember that we have many Haitian Disciple Churches here in the United States. Pray for them. Send a card of support their way. If they are in your community, organize with your church a time of fellowship and support with our fellow Disciples.   

In the midst of this terrible disaster, we have seen great things from you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Keep up the amazing work, and let us know how we can be supportive. 

Peace,
Brandon Gilvin

 

Your Gifts Already at Work in Haiti

Through the largest global alliance of Christian humanitarian agencies, Action by Churches Together (ACT), Week of Compassion is already on the ground in Haiti.  Your generous gifts and offerings are already at work.  In the chaos of aid distribution, ACT Alliance members, including Church World Service (CWS), are managing to get food, temporary shelter, water cleaning materials and expertise to the Haitian capital.  

Prospery Raymond, country manager for ACT member Christian Aid, reports he is concerned there may not otherwise be enough food in the country to last more than a few days.  The streets are still thronged with homeless people, walking for hours to find food and water.  As well as widespread destruction of homes, schools and other buildings, major damage has been done to key water, electricity and road systems.   Port-au-Prince's heavily congested airport is finally allowing some aid to get through.  

Proud to be part of one of the largest alliances working on relief in Haiti, Week of Compassion is grateful for our partners in the ACT Alliance.  Currently, there are four member church agencies working in-country:   

  • Christian Aid reports it has started distributing food and tents, hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans and water purifiers to 15,000 people in eight communities, targeting areas getting little help from other agencies.  It has also sent in a medical team through a specialist healthcare organization.  CA hopes to source food from markets in Haiti if possible, but all other items will definitely need to come in from outside. The team in Haiti is co-coordinating with colleagues in the Dominican Republic to source materials there where possible.
  • Lutheran World Federation is constructing a camp for ACT members at its compound, with additional space for member staff.  Cooking facilities are provided, and Internet connection is good.  Water supply is problematic.  LWF plans to recruit supplementary staff.    
  • Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe has programmed delivery of 15 tons of food relief together with Caritas Germany.
  • Lutheran World Relief plans to send a shipment of food products.
  • Church World Service and Christian Aid offices are ready to serve as a base for receiving emergency items.  ACT member staff in Santo Domingo is on the way to Haiti, including CWS staff member Don Tatlock.  
  • Norwegian Church Aid is prioritizing water sanitation equipment and psychosocial work.  It has sent a team of water engineers, a communicator and a logistician.  Two Norwegian advisors with expertise in gender and children's' protection are also going.

ACT members report that buildings remain very fragile and continue to collapse.  Rain has compounded the situation of the million people without shelter. The border with the Dominican Republic remains insecure. Health risks of contagious diseases are getting serious. Other towns are also badly affected and many areas outside Port-au-Prince remain unexplored. A number of staff from ACT members in the country remain unaccounted for-we are still searching for them since the earthquake.    

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $562 million intended to help three million people for six months. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon describes the situation as one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades and implored for calm in the beleaguered capital.  The number of dead is still unknown, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 200,000, the BBC reports. 

In the midst of this horrific tragedy, we can be comforted knowing that we are doing something. We are already there, thanks to our amazing partnerships.  We are not helpless. Together, we can do so much.  God is there, too.   Even in the rubble.  

Let us keep the faith. Thank you for your courageous compassion at such a time as this.

- Amy Gopp

Haiti Search and Rescue Efforts Underway

 

Miracles do abound. We are absolutely thrilled that the delegation from the Tennessee Region who had traveled to Haiti are on their way home today. Praise be to God! 

Likewise, late last night, I received word that our colleagues Rick Santos and Sarla Chand from Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) World Health were found and rescued. I could hardly believe my eyes when I actually saw Sarla on CNN -- being carried out of the rubble alive. According to Church World Service colleagues, they survived by sharing lollipops that Rick had bought for his two young sons. Trapped under the rubble of the hotel, this is how they found sustenance. They have been sent by helicopter to the U.S. Embassy and will be evacuated from there. 

Another IMA World Health colleague, Dr. Bill Clemmer, whom Sandra Gourdet, Area Executive for Africa, and I just visited in the Congo late last November, also sent this word. "The group was attending an NTD (neglected tropical diseases) workshop at the Hotel Montana in Port au Prince at the time of the earthquake that reportedly buried over 200 persons in that particular hotel. Yesterday afternoon, after three days without word, we were starting to lose hope. Last night a French rescue team found a group of survivors that were buried under the cement but protected in an enclave between two columns. A handful were pulled from the rubble including Rick and Sarla. There are few dry eyes in our office this morning. Our hearts are heavy for the significant devastation and loss of life in Haiti ...but we are so thankful for wonderful news!"

Our colleagues Sam Dixon from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Cliff Rabb were also found trapped beneath the rubble of the hotel but as of yet have not been extracted. Please continue to keep them in your prayers.

Many of you have asked about people volunteering to go to Haiti. At this point, please know that the most effective, efficient and immediate way to help is to send donations to Week of Compassion. Second, continue to encourage all of your churches to assemble emergency kits (baby and hygiene) for CWS - this is a wonderful hands-on project for people of all ages. Many of you have already organized kit-assembling events at your churches this weekend. We would encourage you all to contact local media outlets to gain as much media exposure as possible. The more emergency kits we are able to provide, the more people we will help in Haiti.  

It is not necessarily helpful at this time to travel to Haiti. The airport in Port au Prince is currently overwhelmed, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for folks to get in or out. The Haitian-Dominican border may open this weekend, but nothing is guaranteed in a crisis like this. Our CWS colleague and fellow Disciple, Don Tatlock, has been in close touch with me; he is now in the Dominican Republic. Our partner in the Dominican Republic, the Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas, SSID, has already airlifted material aid to Haiti and will continue to do so. They are equipped and on the ground able to immediately react.

In addition, our ACT Alliance implementing partner organizations, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Christian Aid, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH), and Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), are already in Haiti and operational. Your dollars are already at work.

THANK YOU for your generous gifts of compassion. Please remind folks that 100% of what you give to Week of Compassion goes directly to Haiti Earthquake Relief efforts. 100%. We are doing an amazing thing here -- together. And this is only the beginning of the recovery. Let us continue on, in prayer, in hope and with courageous compassion.  

 

WoC Haiti Response

Week of Compassion continues to respond to the horrific devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. I’ve had the privilege of watching so many of you from all over the country (and a couple from outside the U.S.) come together and respond to the great need caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Thank you, thank you, thank you—so much. Here is the latest report detailing our ecumenical response to the crisis:

  • Church World Service (CWS) is currently planning a two-pronged response. The first includes a bilateral response with two of our partner organizations on the ground in Haiti. Second, CWS will be coordinating a response with Christian Aid as part of the response of Action By Churches Together (ACT) International. Currently, a team of communicators, including the CC(DOC)’s Don Tatlock, Church World Service liaison for Central America and the Caribbean, is on its way to assess the situation, supply Week of Compassion and other partners with information, and help develop the most appropriate response.
  • Our historic partner from the Dominican Republic, Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID), will be transporting material supplies such as tarps, as well as CWS blankets, hygiene kits, and baby supply kits. This delivery will empty the shelves of the CWS warehouse. Congregations and individuals are highly encouraged to help out by putting together kits to replenish the supply. It’s easy, quickly done, and can be a great project for church groups of just about any age. Instructions and a list of contents are available at this site. This is an urgent need.
  • Lutheran World Relief, which currently chairs the ACT Forum in Haiti, is coordinating the overall ACT response, and is working with Norwegian Church Aid, which is currently assessing  the situation on the ground, to provide water sanitation and water delivery in Haiti.

By giving to Week of Compassion, you have already become part of this response. Your willingness to step up and provide much needed resources to the people of Haiti is inspiring, and I’m incredibly heartened by your generosity.

Some other things to note:

  • This Sunday would be a great opportunity for your churches to take up a special offering for the Week of Compassion response to Haiti. If you choose to do so, please make sure that church members make their checks out to the local church indicating that it is for Week of Compassion. This will allow your church to combine all of the gifts and send one check to Week of Compassion, expediting the delivery of these gifts to our partners on the ground.
  • Gifts can always be donated online at our website.
  • We’ve received word that the delegation from the Christian Church in Tennessee that was visiting Haiti is safe. There is very little communication from them otherwise, though we have heard that their guesthouse was destroyed by the earthquake. Please pray for their safety and well-being. The delegation from the Great River Region is also fine; they are currently in the Dominican Republic. Global Mission Intern Erin McKinney, who works with our partner Caminante in the DR, is with the group and is also safe.  
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has more than 40 Haitian Churches in the United States and Canada. As is the case for many people living in Diaspora, news like this from home can be devastating and can affect close family members. Please keep our churches and all Haitian Americans in your prayers. We have been in touch with our Haitian churches and their pastors already today. 

There are still many unknowns—in terms of the safety of many of those affected, in terms of the response, and the long-range affect this will have in Haiti. The United States government will be taking a key role in the recovery, with corporations such as UPS and FedEx chipping in aid delivery services. There is much to do among these unknowns. Thank you for courageously responding. Thank you for compassionately responding. We will keep you updated as more information emerges. We’re grateful, as always, to be able to partner with all of you in this important ministry.

Peace,
Brandon