The Season of Waiting

The room at the hospital was packed with people. Of the many images of East Africa that remain vivid in my mind’s eye, the wall-to-wall crowd in the waiting room of the HIV/AIDS department of the Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania is one that will be always with me.

It is an image of waiting.

Literally hundreds of people had come from near and far, some walking for days or even weeks, in hopes of receiving medical treatment and care. Their long, expectant faces barely looked up when I and my colleagues from IMA World Health entered the room. We had come to monitor the health programs Week of Compassion and other members of IMA World Health had funded and supported. As we opened the doors and were confronted by the crowds living with HIV/AIDS, it was perfectly obvious just how long many—if not most—of them had been there, waiting. Waiting…

Waiting to be tested, finally, to find out whether or not they had HIV or AIDS. Waiting for life-prolonging medicines and treatment. Waiting for counseling and support from nurses, hospital staff, and others living with HIV/AIDS who could offer solidarity and understanding. Waiting for the affirmation that they did the right thing by coming to the hospital and seeking treatment and not allowing the stigma of AIDS dissuade them from getting the help and support they need and deserve.

While in East Africa, the news I received from the Horn of Africa only seemed to get worse. The scenes of children, women, and men waiting for water and food and a safe place seemed unending. I couldn’t help but wonder just how agonizing it must be for a mother to have no other recourse than to wait, as her children look up at her asking for something—anything—to eat. How does one wait under those circumstances? How does one wait for rain, when, in the meantime, there is nothing to drink, bathe in or wash with? What must it be like for the 13 million people affected by the drought and famine across Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to wait in refugee camps for their lives to change? How would you find the internal strength to continue waiting to survive yet another day when all around you points to death?

How would you wait for that?

Advent is a season of sacred waiting. At Week of Compassion, we’re admittedly not very good at waiting. We never, ever want to wait to get life-changing and often even life-saving help to those who need it most. We know that you don’t want us to wait to respond to human need and suffering in the world. We know that you count on us to work immediately, effectively, and efficiently. Most importantly, we know that those who need our help and hope wouldn’t want us to wait, but to act. To reach out. To make a difference. To trust God to work through our gifts and resources to transform those lives that otherwise do way too much waiting…

As we wait for the birth of the Christ child, may we hold close all those who have no other choice but to wonder and to wait…

Thanksgiving Hope in the Midst of Suffering

One of the questions I hear the most is, “How do you remain hopeful when you so regularly witness such tremendous human need and suffering in the world?”  
My answer?  “For as many needs as there are in the world, I believe with all my heart that there are at least that many solutions.” 
Each of you is a solution.  Each of you is a response to human need.  Each of you is already a part of our movement of courageous compassion as we, together, share our resources and change lives.  For you are your best offering. 
I remain hopeful because of each of you.  I remain hopeful because of the seemingly invincible women, children, and men who--day in and day out--wake up yet another day even though they’re not sure how they’ll survive.  But get up they do, to do their best to feed the kids and work the land and fetch the water and grow the crops and love one another abundantly despite the lack all around them.  I remain hopeful because of the partnership we share with people all over the world who receive hope and another day to live, thanks to our generosity, faith, and compassion. 
For that hope I give boundless thanks. To you.  To all those in need whom we accompany. 
And I give all the honor, glory, and gratitude to our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who is Hope Incarnate. Praise be to God!

Time To Serve: Disciples Volunteering Offers Opportunities for 2012

Disciples Volunteering organized work groups at the 2011 General Assembly in Nashville, TN.

Josh Baird serves as Director of Disciples Volunteering. Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering work in partnership to help Disciples respond to needs in communities recovering from disasters. Josh offers this update on three opportunities for mission in 2012.

Disciples Volunteering, in partnership with Week of Compassion, local congregations and their Regional or Area ministries, is currently seeking Mission Teams for 2012. As a ministry based on partnership and serving side-by-side with others, Disciples Volunteering develops relationships with community-based Long Term Recovery Committees and other local partners, supports local decisions, and organizes volunteers to assist in the recovery for as long as we can be of service. Disciples Volunteering is in the midst of planning mission opportunities in three communities recovering from disaster, and invites you to explore ways you can volunteer with us in the upcoming year.

Tuscaloosa, AL was among the numerous communities hit by a tornado in late April of this year. The record-breaking outbreak wrought devastation across the south. Disciples are coordinating their response through First Christian Church, Tuscaloosa and Cottondale Christian Church. Mission Teams are needed through much of 2012 to rebuild homes, build relationships, and be present as signs of hope in a community in need of rebuilding. Tuscaloosa is also the location for Disciples Volunteering’s Alternative Spring Break, Feb. 26 – Mar. 31. The recovery in Tuscaloosa is only just beginning. With a steady stream of Mission Teams, Disciples have the opportunity to make a lasting impact in the area.

Communities along the Gulf Coast continue to recover from the hurricanes of 2005 and 2008. First Christian Church, Slidell, LA, is hosting Mission Teams for work in communities north and east of New Orleans. Through First Christian, teams are matched with Northshore Disaster Recovery, an ecumenical recovery group that has rebuilt nearly 13,000 homes since late 2005. Meanwhile, First Christian Church, Lake Charles, LA, offers the only fully operational recovery center in its parish and serves communities across southwest Louisiana. Because so many other recovery groups have closed their doors in the parish, First Christian has inherited enough open cases of people seeking assistance to keep the recovery going for several more years.

Disciples volunteers hard at work

Disciples are also working behind the scenes and on the front lines in Joplin, MO, to prepare space and opportunities to help with the community’s rebuilding effort. When all of the pieces fall into place, Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion will extend the call to come and stand with the people of Joplin, serving as help is needed in their long-term recovery.
For information on any of these opportunities to serve, please visit Disciples Volunteering on the web, email Brenda Tyler or Josh Baird, or call the Disciples Volunteering office at 1-888-346-2631.

Just a Few More Days to Submit Proposals!

You are invited to submit a Presentation Proposal for the 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry. The theme for 2012 is, “Sacred Hospitality: Compassion and Community in the Wake of Disaster." This theme grows out of the need for the faith-based community to adapt its work in the midst of economic and social change to meet humanitarian needs caused by disasters while maintaining CWS's traditional mission of serving the most vulnerable while practicing good stewardship.

Topical themes for the presentations and workshops include:

  • Hospitality in Disaster Care: Integrating Effective Spiritual and Emotional Care Practices
  • Hospitality in Stewardship: God's Generosity, Human Response and Advocacy
  • Hospitality in Shared Response and Recovery: Make New Friends and Keep the Old

Each subdivision will explore the changing nature of response to natural, technological and human caused disasters by tapping the collective yet diverse experience of our participants. This process will identify issues affecting disaster ministry in the future and suggest forward thinking yet practical responses to human needs.

If your application is accepted, Church World Service will pay your forum conference fee, meals and lodging.

We kindly ask that you return the completed downloadable Presentation Proposal by November 21, 2011 to Barry Shade, Church World Service Emergency Response Program at If you have questions, you may also call (361) 389-0402.

Africa's Worst Drought in a Generation: How Will We Respond?

We will soon be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with our families and our churches. In a year of many challenges and opportunities, we give thanks for the blessings we have received and remember those who are less fortunate.

This year, I ask you to remember our sisters and brothers in the Horn of Africa. The United Nations has declared that southern Somalia is in the midst of a true famine—a situation so bad that more than 3 in 10 children are acutely malnourished and people are dying daily. A severe drought has killed crops and livestock across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, leaving more than 13 million people without enough food.

A crisis this big should be on the front pages of our newspapers. We must not ignore it!

There are several ways that you can help today. Through our partners at Church World Service and in the ACT Alliance, people of faith are providing food and other essential aid in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. While a civil war continues in Somalia, our humanitarian workers are reaching people in the country and in enormous camps along the borders. Displaced persons and vulnerable rural households in Somalia are receiving emergency food aid and access to sanitation through the work of our partners at Norwegian Church Aid.

In Ethiopia, multiple partners, including Lutheran World Relief, are working to provide emergency food and water, as well as long-term sustainable food and water interventions to drought-affected regions.

CWS has expanded emergency food distributions through local partners in Kenya's Eastern Province, as well as working with the Kitui Diocese to distribute drought-resistant seeds. CWS’s "Water for Life" program continues to help develop water sources in drought-affected areas of Kenya's Rift Valley and Eastern provinces, and has included the construction of 14 sand dams, 11 shallow wells, three borehole wells, one earthen dam and 12 rainwater tanks in 18 Kenyan communities last year.

Please consider joining with Week of Compassion in supporting this response.

Second, please speak out about the need for continued U.S. humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Aid that saves a life or creates a more secure future for children is not wasteful spending.

Our leaders need to hear this message now more than ever. Write a letter to your Congressional representative or local newspaper; sample letters are available here and here.

Finally, pray for those who are hungry in the Horn of Africa and around the world. In our places of worship and at our dinner tables, let us remember those in need as we give thanks for the abundance we have received.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Guatemala, floods and mudslides
Illinois, resettled refugee assistance
Oklahoma, earthquake damage

Tackle Hunger with Us in 2012!

January 16 – February 5, 2012

The number of Americans living in poverty is the highest it has been in 52 years. One in seven households in our nation is food insecure, which affects more than 16 million children. This is why we need YOU! The good we do lasts all year!

Souper Bowl of Caring (SBoC) is a national movement of youth working to fight hunger and poverty in their own communities around the time of the Super Bowl football game. In the weeks leading up to or on Super Bowl Sunday, young people take up a collection (many use a soup pot), asking for one dollar or one item of food for people in need. They give 100% of their donation directly to the local hunger-relief charity of their choice. Last year over 250 Disciples of Christ congregations participated in Souper Bowl of Caring. That single act contributed over $100,000 to the fight against hunger. Nationally, more than 260,000 youth collected over $81 million in dollars and food for local hunger-relief charities. What a tangible way to demonstrate Jesus’ love and compassion to our fellow neighbor in need!

Be part of this movement to tackle hunger in America! Learn more and register your church today at to receive your FREE 2012 Playbook with resources to help make your collection a success.

More information on Souper Bowl of Caring and hunger in America can be found here. Please share this information with your friends, colleagues, and congregations and encourage them to join the team that tackles hunger!

Floods Continue to Affect Thailand

Heavy monsoon rains have been plaguing South East Asia since July and have severely affected one-third of Thailand's land mass. A total of 3.4 million acres of farmland--a landmass 13 times the size of Hong Kong--is submerged under water.

More than one-third of Thailand remains under water and more than 12.3 million livestock have been seriously affected. Authorities say the death toll has exceeded 307, while at least three people are still missing. More than 2.4 million people, including 700,000 children, have so far been affected.

In addition to the loss of life, the flooding has exacted a heavy toll on homes, businesses and infrastructure. The floods have so far incurred losses of US $1 billion.

More than 2 million tons of un-milled rice have already been destroyed during the flooding, affecting the economy of one of the world's largest exporters of rice. Transport links to the main ports in Bangkok and Laem Chabang have also been badly disrupted.

Church World Service (CWS) is responding as a member of the ACT Alliance--specifically, ACT forum members in Thailand, which include CWS, Diakonia, Dan Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid. CWS is utilizing as its local implementing partner the Church of Christ in Thailand, known as CCT.

Initial efforts have included the work of CWS-supported members of CCT's team conducting assessments. In addition, food distribution has been underway in Bangkok, as has the distribution of food and non-food items in Ayutthaya and Chai Nat provinces for more than 1,200 households. Various small-scale feeding programs are also underway throughout the country.

Longer term, efforts are focused on providing immediate relief and recovery support to 22,400 flood-affected households in Chiang Mai, Chainat, Uthaithani, Phatumthani, and Ayutthaya provinces.


  • Distribution of cooked food will benefit 18,800 households in Chainat, Ayutthaya, and Phatumthani provinces.
  • Survival packs will benefit 2,500 households in Uthaithani, Chainat,Ayutthaya and Bangkok provinces. These include rice, instant noodles, canned fish, milk powder for babies, crackers, drinking water, body soap, body powder, toothpaste, tissue and essential medicines for headaches and minor injuries.
  • 500 households will benefit from shelter assistance, and livelihood assistance will benefit 600 households in Uthaithani and Chainat provinces. This part of the response will assist at least 500 fishermen who have lost their fishing equipment. The support will  enable them to resume fishing and fish raising again. About 150 housewives who had worked as daily food suppliers will also be supported in order to resume their cooking establishments.

To make a contribution to Week of Compassion to help support these and other efforts around the world, click here or send a check to WoC, PO Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Nicaragua, flood relief
Thailand (2), flood relief
Cambodia, flood relief
Gaza/West Bank, capacity building and training
Turkey, earthquake
Philippines, typhoon relief
DR Congo, conflict and displacement
Ghana, flood relief

Responding to the Earthquake in Turkey

Through our trusted ecumenical partners, Week of Compassion is responding to the major 7.2 earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey on Sunday, October 23. First estimates project over 200,000 people are affected. At this writing 366 have died and thousands have been left homeless.

Nearly 1,000 buildings have been destroyed in the disaster zone, with the town of Ercis the worst hit.

Many impacted families live in remote villages. Week of Compassion’s Turkish partner through the ACT Alliance, Support to Life, is concentrating its relief efforts on affected rural regions. 

A longtime partner of ACT Alliance member Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Support to Life has extensive experience in emergency and reconstruction aid after severe earthquakes, as in Bam, Iran in 2003, and in Kashmir in Pakistan in 2005. In a first step, several thousand people are being provided with food and shelter materials. 

Week of Compassion will also respond to relief efforts undertaken by Global Ministries partners. 

Submissions Requested for 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry

A Note from the Church World Service Domestic Disaster Forum Planning Committee:

Do you have anything to say about responding to disasters?

You are invited to submit a Presentation Proposal for the 2012 Church World Service Forum on Domestic Disaster Ministry. The theme for 2012 is, “Sacred Hospitality: Compassion and Community in the Wake of Disaster." This theme grows out of the need for the faith-based community to adapt its work in the midst of economic and social change to meet humanitarian needs caused by disasters while maintaining CWS's traditional mission of serving the most vulnerable while practicing good stewardship. For more information, click here.

Flooding in Thailand

Cambodia is experiencing the worst flooding in more than a decade due to typhoons and greater-than-average rainfall. Floods are also seriously affecting neighboring Thailand. So far 315 people have died from floods and monsoon-related accidents in Thailand; more than 8.6 million persons living in 61 provinces have already been affected, CNN reports. Week of Compassion partner Church World Service staff in Thailand reports that more than 700,000 homes have been destroyed. It is very possible that the floods might cause losses of up to US $1 billion.

Efforts now focus on trying to protect the capital of Bangkok from rising flood waters, with millions of sandbags being placed in and around the city. WoC, along with CWS, is monitoring this situation and will respond accordingly. CWS is responding as a member of the ACT Alliance--specifically through ACT forum members in Thailand, which include CWS, Diakonia, Danish Church Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and the Church of Christ in Thailand, known as CCT. CWS-supported members of CCT’s team are conducting assessments, and food distribution is already beginning in Bangkok, as are the distribution of food and non-food items in Ayutthaya and Chai Nat Provinces for more than 1,200 households.

Horn of Africa Crisis

Currently, there are over 13 million people dying, starving, and being displaced in the Horn of Africa. This is a crisis like no other. It is the worst drought in 60 years and the worst famine in 20 years. Every six minutes a Somali child is dying. Every six minutes. 

In many ways this has been a neglected emergency. 

I would urge us, my Disciples, to not neglect this emergency. Too many people are in great need. We can do something about that need. Our sisters and brothers in Kenya have had no choice but to eat their own seed supplies; through CWS we are supplying them with drought-resistant seeds. We are also constructing sand dams and shallow wells in the Rift Valley and Eastern provinces of Kenya. To take a look at this work in action, I highly commend to you this beautiful video:  

                                  Click here to view video.

In Somalia and Ethiopia we are working through our ACT Alliance partners to provide significant food aid and hygiene supplies, as well as desperately needed nutritional supplements. We are also helping to supply aid to Somali refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps and to those in the Ethiopian Dolo Ado camps. For a more detailed account of our ecumenical humanitarian work, visit here

There is enough for all.

Thank you for your Courageous Compassion, and for sharing your resources and literally saving lives. 

This Week's Responses

Sustainable Development and Long-Term Recovery
Botswana, capacity building
DR Congo, capacity building
Zimbabwe, pastoral leadership support
Syria, youth education and teacher training
Palestine, peace-building
Poland, education and human rights

2011 3rd Quarter Response Fund Report

The Compassion Response Fund is an allocation the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee makes each year to enable WoC to respond quickly to requests for emergencies, disasters and other urgent and unexpected needs that arise. For 2011 the WoC Committee has allocated $471,449 for the Response Fund; it is the single largest item in the WoC program budget. In addition to what is budgeted for the Response Fund, WoC receives designated gifts for the Fund and for specific disasters, countries and situations that further enhance our capacity to respond to emergency needs and appeals.

Below is a brief report of grants made from the Compassion Response Fund and other designated disaster response accounts through September 30, 2011. Contributions for the Response Fund are needed and welcomed and will be used 100% for emergency response to humanitarian needs in the world.

Africa: [104,000]
$5,000 – Angola, flood relief
$5,000 – Chad, refugee assistance
$15,000 – East Africa, drought relief
$10,000 – East Africa, assistance to returnees
$5,000 – Ethiopia, drought relief
$21,000 – Kenya, drought relief
$17,000 – Liberia/Ivory Coast, humanitarian aid
$5,000 – Madagascar, Cyclone Bingiza
$5,000 – Malawi, massive flooding
$5,000 – Somalia, drought relief
$5,000 – South Sudan, emergency preparedness
$6,000 – South Sudan, assistance to returnees

East Asia and the Pacific: [187,563]
$10,000 – Australia, flood relief
$150,063 – Japan, earthquake/tsunami
$22,500 – New Zealand, earthquake
$2,500 – Philippines, fire damage
$2,500 – South Korea, mudslides

Latin America and the Caribbean: [391,589]
$11,000 – Brazil, flood/landslide recovery
$10,000 – Colombia, flood relief
$5,000 – Dominican Republic/Haiti, Hurricane Irene damage
$150,000 – Haiti, earthquake
$50,000 – Haiti, agricultural revitalization
$60,905 – Haiti, children and youth House of Hope
$50,000 – Haiti, medical needs
$52,184 – Haiti, housing
$2,000 – Mexico, assistance to pastor’s family
$500 – Mexico/U.S., winter freeze

Middle East and Europe: [33,000]
$6,000 – Egypt, emergency assistance
$6,000 – Iraq, Iraqi refugee crisis in Lebanon
$21,000 – Libya, humanitarian aid

Southern Asia: [48,500]
$10,000 – India, Orissa floods
$5,000 – Indonesia, Mentawai Is./tsunami
$2,500 – Indonesia, assistance to displaced
$20,000 – Pakistan, flood emergency
$11,000 – Sri Lanka, flood/cyclone relief

General: [18,000]
$18,000 -- 2011 ACT Alliance Rapid Response Fund
    Cambodia/Thailand, aid to displaced
    Tanzania, bomb explosion
    Malawi, flood relief
    DRC, cholera outbreak
    Nepal, refugee camp fire
    Swaziland, drought relief
    Uganda, landslides and floods

Domestic: [265,730]
$1,000 – Alabama, storm damage
$11,250 – Alabama, tornado relief
$5,000 – Appalachia, emergency heating assistance
$295 – Arizona, resettled refugee assistance
$500 – Arkansas, flood relief
$750 – Arkansas, tornado relief
$1,750 – Florida, storm damage
$100 – Georgia, storm damage
$647 – Georgia, resettled refugee assistance
$1,000 – Georgia, church fire
$11,350 – Great River Region, pastoral care
$4,225 – Illinois, flood relief
$750 – Kansas, tornado relief
$3,450 – Kentucky, flood relief
$1,000 – Louisiana, storm damage
$1,500 – Michigan, mission station support
$200 – Mississippi, tornado relief
$1,500 – Missouri, flood relief
$42,625 – Missouri, tornado relief
$2,500 – Montana, flood relief
$750 – Nebraska, flood relief
$1,000 – New Hampshire, resettled refugee assistance
$5,000 – New Jersey, hurricane/flooding
$9,500 – North Carolina, tornado relief
$1,000 – North Carolina, church fire
$31,000 – North Carolina, hurricane relief
$2,500 – Oklahoma, fire damage
$7,750 – Oklahoma, tornado relief
$2,000 – Oklahoma, storm damage
$14,900 – Pennsylvania, flood relief
$1,700 – Tennessee, storm damage
$4,750 – Tennessee, flood relief
$750 – Texas, resettled refugee assistance
$12,750 – Texas, wildfires
$11,088 – U.S./Mexico, emergency needs
$26,000 – U.S., 2011 spring storms
$6,000 – U.S., 2011 Missouri River System Floods
$10,000 – U.S., Hurricane Irene
$1,000 – Virginia, fire damage
$8,000 – Virginia, tornado relief
$2,500 – Virginia, earthquake damage
$1,750 – Virginia, hurricane and earthquake
$1,150 – Virginia, storm damage
$5,000 – Washington, fire damage
$500 – Washington, D.C., hurricane
$5,000 – Washington, D.C., earthquake damage
$1,000 – West Virginia, storm damage

Famine Relief in East Africa

A woman stands amid tents in a refugee camp near Mogadishu, having walked for several weeks, sleeping at the homes of people on the way. ACT has provided food, water, shelter and sanitation to the new arrivals. Photo courtesy of ACT Alliance

The East African drought continues to deepen, and an estimated 13.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Two years of failed rains have produced the most severe drought in the region since 1950. The failure of harvests and the death of livestock have led to malnutrition rates in excess of 30 percent in most drought-stricken areas, according to the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission.

The availability of food continues to decline in Ethiopia and Somalia, with famine newly declared in several Somali districts. Conditions in parts of Kenya are expected to improve somewhat, if anticipated rains arrive in October. Even with rain, however, pastures in Kenya will not begin to recover until December, and crops will not be ready for harvest until January, February and March.

Because of famine and conflict in Somalia, about 25,000 refugees fled to camps around Dadaab, Kenya, in September alone. More than 444,000 Somali refugees now reside in the Dadaab camps.

Week of Compassion partner Church World Service (CWS) has expanded emergency food distributions through local partners in Kenya's Eastern Province. In Mwingi district, funds from CWS have enabled the Kitui Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya to distribute corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to 1,107 households so far. Many residents who are receiving food are carrying out projects to conserve topsoil and water, such as removing silt from sand dams that will store water during the next rainy season.

With support from WoC and CWS, the Kitui Diocese is also distributing drought-resistant seeds so residents can plant crops including corn, beans, cow peas and sorghum. A total of 1,400 households have received seeds so far. These distributions are necessary because families have eaten their own seed stocks out of hunger. In Kibwezi district, funds have enabled the local partner organization, Community Resource Management, to distribute food to about 100 households as of Sept. 23.

CWS continues its longstanding "Water for Life" program to develop water sources in drought-affected areas of Kenya's Rift Valley and Eastern provinces. Through this program, CWS helped construct 14 sand dams, 11 shallow wells, three borehole wells, one earthen dam and 12 rainwater tanks in 18 Kenyan communities last year. If you are a member of a congregation who has organized a “Wine into Water” fundraising event for Week of Compassion, your gifts have been directed to CWS’ “Water for Life” program—and they are already at work. 

Through our other major implementing agency in the Horn of Africa, the ACT Alliance, we are supporting organizations in providing food, water and other emergency aid in many areas of Ethiopia and Somalia, including Somali refugee camps in Kenya. ACT members active in Ethiopia include Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Lutheran World Federation, International Orthodox Christian Charities and Christian Aid. ACT members active in Somalia include Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Norwegian Church Aid and Lutheran World Federation.

This is a dire situation and will continue to be for the autumn and winter months. Please give generously to our sisters and brothers in need

WoC Responds to Immediate and Ongoing Relief Efforts across Asia

Radha and her husband, Poona, are among the displaced in Mirpurkhas District, Sindh. Photo: Donna Fernandes, CWS

Pakistan Flood Relief – Needs Are Urgent
Heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan are causing widespread damage, particularly in the southern province of Sindh. Some 5 million residents of Sindh have been impacted. In Sindh alone, approximately 700,000 homes have been damaged, and more than 1.7 million acres of crops are affected.

Tens of thousands of people are residing in 1,484 temporary camps. The majority of these people lack access to shelter, food, medicines and clean drinking water. This has worsened what were already serious and grave conditions of poverty. With the loss of farm fields and livestock, families have lost their sources of income to buy food. Inadequate access to health facilities is increasing concern for waterborne diseases and nutrition deficiencies. The current situation also worsens food and drinking water shortages already prevalent in rural areas.

Thus, as part of a coordinated response by members of the ACT Alliance and Church World Service, Week of Compassion is contributing to responding to the floods in Pakistan. Through CWS, we are providing food and non-food items (including food packages, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats), shelter kits, hygiene kits and health services.  

To donate to Pakistan relief, please visit here.

An Update: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief
A devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a massive tsunami that washed away several coastal cities, destroyed critical infrastructure, crippled more than 7,000 businesses, and was primarily responsible for the death of a confirmed 15,776 people. In addition to the fatalities, as of Sept. 8, confirmed injured were 5,929 persons, and 4,225 are either still missing or are unaccounted for. Some 450,000 people were made homeless by the disaster. The World Bank has estimated the total economic cost of the disaster to be around $235 billion, or 4 percent of Japan’s GDP, the costliest natural disaster on record. Although Japan’s GDP is expected to rebound late in the year or early next year, some have said that Japan’s net wealth has been permanently reduced.

Infrastructure was particularly hard hit in this disaster -- 120,000 buildings-including houses, factories, offices, schools and community centers-were destroyed by the tsunami. Of these, 78,000 were washed away. A further 220,000 buildings were damaged. The hardest-hit towns along the coastal areas of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures are still struggling to recover.  Some towns saw more than half their population lost. Since moving into temporary housing from the evacuation centers, many survivors have become more susceptible to depression and alcoholism, since many of them now live alone, separated from the communities that provided them with moral and practical support. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is also a problem.

The earthquake and tsunami also destabilized the Daiichi nuclear power station in Fukushima, causing reactors to overheat and leak radiation. The nuclear crisis is still posing challenges, and the company in charge of the plant has indicated that it could take the rest of the year for them to get radiation leakage fully under control.

Through Church World Service, Week of Compassion continues to support a broad group of partners, including some of those under the umbrella grouping Japan Platform, or JPF, an international emergency humanitarian aid consortium of 32 Japanese non-governmental organizations, the business community and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CWS has also provided some support to the Japan Ecumenical Disaster Response Organization, known as JEDRO, which is an effort inclusive of the National Council of Churches of Japan. Through CWS, we have been able to contribute to our ecumenical efforts to provide food aid; pest control and sanitation; mud and debris clearance; psychosocial support; and support to women and children. 

Through Global Ministries East Asia and Pacific Office, Week of Compassion is also supporting efforts of the United Church of Christ Japan and the Tohoku Disaster Relief Center. The earthquake that devastated Japan and subsequently resulted in the tsunami which caused the nuclear reactor malfunctions is by far one of the most unique disaster situations to ever face the country. Thus, in addition to providing aid to the people in the Sendai area, where missionary Jeffrey Mensendiek is based, WoC is supporting Global Ministries’ efforts to purchase Geiger Counters to monitor the radiation levels in the air. The main concern is the radioactive contamination of the food in this area. To read more about this particular aspect of our response, please visit here

In addition to these relief efforts in different parts of Asia, Week of Compassion, of course, continues to respond in other places of dire need such as the Horn of Africa. We will be sending out a more thorough update, including a report from Executive Director Amy Gopp’s recent trip to East Africa, in the days to come. 

We thank you for your ongoing faith, trust, and commitment to courageous compassion. And for believing, deep down, that THERE TRULY IS ENOUGH for ALL. May it be so.

Children’s Disaster Services Training

Helping turn helplessness into hope

by Myrna Jones

Myrna Jones is the retired director of admissions, Phillips Theological Seminary, and member of Bethany Christian Church in Tulsa.

June 2, 2011. 9:00 a.m. Lisa, five years old, walked through the maze of cots in the Joplin Red Cross Shelter with her mother to the Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) child care center. Lisa’s family lost everything in the Joplin tornado, and had been living in the shelter more than a week.

As soon as her mom signed her in to our center, Lisa found me and we began our daily ritual. “It’s time for you to go to bed now," she told me as she gently led me to the corner of the child care center and directed me to lie down on blankets on the floor. She put a soft pillow under my head, covered me with soft blankets, and put a teddy bear between my arm and my chest. After getting several books from the reading center, she asked,"Which of your books would you like to hear tonight?” I chose a book, and Lisa sat beside me and “read” me the book while pausing to pat me each time she turned a page. I pretended to sleep, awaken, and then we went to play with the other children and caregivers in the centers.

We had fun with puppets, easel painting, playdough, dress-up clothes, puzzles, and many other creative opportunities that offered Lisa and the other young children in the center a therapeutic release and opportunity to play. After lunch, Lisa asked if we could “rock”. She snuggled on my lap in a rocking chair, and was immediately asleep – perhaps dreaming of the bed that she lost, and so convincingly recreated for me earlier in the day.

While Lisa, other children and their volunteer caregivers were playing in the CDS center, their parents were meeting with representatives of the American Red Cross, FEMA, Salvation Army, and other agencies who could help them with the process of rebuilding their lives out of the chaos left by the storm. When the tired parents retrieved their children from our center at the end of the day, they were a few steps closer to having a home other than the shelter that was now their refuge, and their children were full of stories about the fun they had experienced.

Lisa is just one of the thousands of children and families whose lives have been turned upside down by storms, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of Church of the Brethren, is one of our Week of Compassion partner ministries. Working in shelters and service centers under the umbrella of Red Cross and FEMA, CDS has cared for tens of thousands of children, the ones most likely to be forgotten while adults address emergency needs after a disaster. Unfortunately, disasters continue to occur, families continue to be displaced from their homes, and children continue to need a safe and nurturing environment in which to play and learn while their parents cope with their new reality. To fill this need, more volunteer childcare givers will be needed.

I’ve been privileged to serve as a volunteer caregiver for CDS after floods in Georgia and the Joplin tornado. Few experiences in my life have given me the deep personal satisfaction and sense that I was meeting a tangible need as providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence for these young children and their families. It has been a joy to be “on the ground” in a volunteer capacity with one of our Week of Compassion partners. If you have a warm heart, patience, team spirit, and a sense of adventure, I hope that you’ll consider attending one of the Children’s Disaster Services training sessions listed below that are scheduled in different parts of the United States this fall. The workshops train volunteers to understand and respond to children who have experienced a disaster. Following the workshop, participants will have the option of pursuing accreditation as a CDS volunteer. Accreditation involves background checks and references.

You can learn more about Children’s Disaster Services by visiting their website at The video on the home page has more information about serving in a CDS center. If you’d like to visit with me about details of the training or serving as a CDS volunteer, I’d love to hear from you.

- Myrna Jones

Fall Training Information

October 7-8, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Central United Methodist Church 1013 Polte Road Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284 Contact: Local Coordinator, Sharon McDaniel - 360.724.3246, or Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

October 14 & 15, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Ben Hill United Methodist Church 2099 Fairburn Road Atlanta, Georgia Contact: Local Coordinators: Carrie Yoder,, 770.634.3627, Mike Yoder, or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5. This workshop is in conjunction with the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. To register, please go to or print out the registration form at the bottom of this page and send it along with the registration fee to the CDS office.

October 21 & 22, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday First United Methodist Church 106 East Main Street Victor, NY 14564-1304 Contact: Local Coordinator: Dot Norsen, 585.924.7516, or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 4 & 5, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Bethany Christian Church 6730 S. Sheridan Road Tulsa, OK 74133 Contact: Local Coordinator: Myrna Jones,, 918.749.6612, cell- 918.688.0240 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

November 11-12, 2011
5:00 p.m. Friday - 7:30 p.m. Saturday Somerset Church of the Brethren 606 Berlin Plank Road Somerset, PA 15501 Contact: Local Coordinator: Paul Liepelt, 814.445.8853 or the Children’s Disaster Services office 410.635.8735 or 1.800.451.4407, option 5.

Clean-up Buckets are Needed

The United States has been greatly impacted by a vast number of domestic disasters this year. In responding, our partners at Church World Service have exhausted their supply of clean-up buckets. These kits are incredibly helpful for communities making their first steps toward normalcy. If you would like to put together one of these important tools for response, or if perhaps your youth, women's, or men's groups, would like to do so, please follow this link.

Praise be to God for your ongoing courageous compassion for all those in need.

We are so blessed to serve alongside you!

(And a special thanks to our dear friend Myrna Jones for her story in today’s update!)

Responding to Texas Wildfires

As wildfires continue to rage across Texas, Week of Compassion has been in touch with the Christian Church in the Southwest and is continuing to monitor how the wildfires are impacting communities in its path. 
We have communicated with the Southwest Regional Office, the Northeast and Bluebonnet Area Offices, and with our ecumenical partners at Church World Service, and can report the following:
  1. We stand ready to respond to any needs emerging from our congregations, whether those needs are evacuations, damage or destruction to houses, or other emerging issues affecting our congregations and their members.  Please be in touch with your Regional or Area Office to report needs, as Week of Compassion is coordinating our response through those offices.
  2. Our partners at Church World Service are currently on the ground assessing the impact of the wildfires in order to determine how best to coordinate a larger scale ecumenical response.  As soon as details emerge, Week of Compassion will work with Church World Service to respond.
  3. If you would like to reach out to those affected by the wildfires, you may do so online by partnering with Week of Compassion.  
Please keep all of those affected, in harm’s way, and all of those first responders on the front lines, in your prayers.
Thank you for care and concern as you respond with us.  We are beyond grateful for your Courageous Compassion.  
Thanks be to God for you all.

One Yard at a Time: Responding to Hurricane Irene


Rev. Hollie Woodruff serves as Chaplain to the College at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, and advises Barton's "Campus Compassion" Student Organization. She offers this reflection on helping with local cleanup efforts.
Before the winds and the rains from Hurricane Irene pounded North Carolina's coast, the "Campus Compassion" student organization at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina, already had plans in place to help neighbors clean up after the storm.
Created through Barton College's relationship with Week of Compassion, Campus Compassion seeks to empower young adults to alleviate the suffering of others by paying attention and responding to a world in need. Its purpose is to motivate students to educate themselves about the community and world in which we live and bring about positive change. This happens through topic studies, volunteer work in the community and responding with courageous compassion to the community at large when a crisis occurs.
The day after the storm, I met Campus Compassion students on Barton's center campus with rakes, gloves, and water in hand as we ventured out to see how we could reach out to our neighbors and bring order back into their lives following the chaos created by Hurricane Irene.  
For hours we worked our way around the perimeter of campus, moving large branches to the street and raking leaves. Our work didn't seem extraordinary to us, but for those who did not have the means to do it themselves because of illness, age, or immobility, the impact of our students' help was immeasurable. It was strenuous, repetitive work on a hot, humid day, but I never heard one person complain; this is the kind of work our students of Campus Compassion look forward to.
When I asked our students why they chose to spend the afternoon helping, new student Crystal Weideman, shared, "I know what it's like not having a support system, and, when your home and community are affected, it's not only a lot of work and costly, but it really jolts your sense of security. That is why I am helping."  
And help they did. With every neighbor we met, we were given names of others needing help, and students volunteered their time not only on Sunday but also for the days that followed.  
During our service in the neighborhood, we saw glimpses of God's Beloved Community as we became acquainted with neighbors and each other. We met Ms. Boomer, a feisty, older woman who, although unable to work in her own yard, gave back to us by refilling our water bottles. Her gratitude was visible in her radiant smile and her excitement to just have "some young people around" as she put it. We also met Ms. Deborah, a middle aged woman who was already out cleaning her yard. She was grateful for the help and told us we "just saved her a lot of time."   
There are many ways to respond to natural and human disasters, but for young people who don't always have the means to contribute financially, this was a tangible way to for them to respond. "It's fun" said freshman Lisa Williams. "It's not always physically comfortable, but I have enjoyed this. I have laughed and made new friends!"    
Today's world requires us to be a people of response - people who come together to offer assistance in a multitude of forms to those affected by tragedies of natural and human catastrophes. Campus Compassion is inspired by the legacy of Week of Compassion, a legacy defined by its ability to immediately respond to those affected by disasters is possible because of the generosity of others. Through Campus Compassion, we hope our work and service will emulate that of Week of Compassion while encouraging and inspiring that same sense of generosity.
Through Barton's Campus Compassion program, we are living out not only the mission of Barton College, but also of Week of Compassion and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).


Hope Rising in Joplin

There’s a lot going on in Joplin, Missouri.

That’s the first thing you notice when you drive through town. Everywhere, you see hand-painted or custom-printed signs that read “Rebuild Joplin.” A local coffee shop sports a gigantic map of the city with pushpins marking the May 22nd tornado’s path. 

There is as much work going on as there was when I first visited Joplin a few months ago, but the nature of the work is definitely shifting from immediate relief and clean-up to longer-term recovery.

First Christian Church is winding down its ministry as a distribution center for those affected by the tornado, and South Joplin Christian Church is still a construction zone, filled with a crew repairing damage throughout the building. The church's leadership is looking beyond the repairs and has started to make plans for the future. A long-term recovery committee has emerged and begun its work, and Week of Compassion partner Church World Service has helped provide support and training for the committee.

Picture taken in the days following the tornado in Joplin, MO.Geographically, Joplin sits on the Southwest edge of Missouri, a short drive from many communities in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas with active, mission-minded Disciples churches who have provided courageous, compassionate leadership in offering relief and clean-up to tornado damage in Joplin.

Last Wednesday, I gathered with Disciples pastors from Joplin and the neighboring tri-state community, committed lay leaders and ecumenical partners, and Ozark Lakes Area Minister Dr. G. Michael Weinman to flesh out a long-term recovery plan among Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, the Ozark Lakes Area, and supportive congregations. We had a great meeting, and I am happy to announce that things are in motion. 

As is almost universally the case with initiating a long-term recovery process, there are many pieces in play, including city zoning ordinances, recruiting and training disaster response case managers, and streamlining a volunteer coordination system for recovery, but, thus far, the plans are as follows:

  • Disciples Volunteering and South Joplin Christian Church will launch a mission station in Joplin sometime between November 2011 and February 2012. Neighboring churches in Neosho, MO, Pittsburg, KS, and Columbus, KS, will complement this initiative by offering additional and overflow housing for volunteers. Once the mission station opens, registration for week-long Disciples work groups will be managed by Disciples Volunteering.   
  • First Christian Church, Bentonville, Arkansas, will continue to provide housing for short term (1-3 days) volunteer work groups. Easily accessible for churches traveling from the south, FCC-Bentonville can be contacted for more details by following this link.
  • We are continuing to explore a partnership with the United Church of Christ in supporting the work of the South Joplin Christian Church Mission Station. As longstanding ecumenical partners, we’re all excited about the possibilities, and we’re working hard to make sure our policies and procedures are complementary.

As Joplin rebuilds, we are, through our partnership with Disciples Volunteering, ready to make things happen, and ready to be part of long-term, sustainable solutions. Thank you for the prayers, gifts, and hopes that you have all brought to the table, as we have prepared for this recovery. We’re looking forward to what our partnership brings forth.

For more information about Disciples Volunteering’s Disaster Response Programs in Joplin, MO, and in Tuscaloosa, AL, please visit their website

Hurricane Irene Update

Hurricane Irene has left extensive flood and wind damage from Puerto Rico to Maine, as well as causing at least 40 deaths; more than 4 million homes are still without power and more than 10,000 people are housed in FEMA shelters.

Our partners at Church World Service report that more requests are coming in for relief supplies. Most recently, the Salvation Army of North Carolina, based in Greenville, requested Baby Kits, School Kits, Health Kits and Emergency Clean-up Buckets.

The response to Hurricane Irene will rapidly deplete supplies of these emergency resources, especially Clean-Up Buckets. All efforts to replenish our supplies for future emergencies are greatly appreciated. Information on Clean-up Buckets is available at the Church World Service website.

As long-term recovery groups begin to form, CWS can provide small start-up grants to help them get started. CWS emergency response specialists are also receiving requests for assistance and providing advice on disaster recovery efforts. Specialists can be reached via the contact info at this website.

Responses Made 8/22-8/26

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Florida, storm damage
Virginia, earthquake

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
North Carolina (2), hurricane relief
Virginia (2), earthquake relief
Virginia, hurricane relief
New Jersey, flood relief
Washington, D.C., hurricane relief
Dominican Republic/Haiti, hurricane relief

After Hurricane Irene

Over the weekend, Hurricane Irene made its way across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. As you might have gathered from media reports, while the actual damage caused by the hurricane never reached the level many feared or predicted, many folks sustained serious damage in North Carolina, and areas across the Northeast are experiencing significant flooding. Millions are without power, and the entire East Coast is tentatively making its way back to a "new normal."
Week of Compassion is currently working with Regional Ministries to assess needs in affected areas. We have already responded to nearly 20 families in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as provided support to help with cleanup and recovery for North Carolina's beloved Camp Caroline. We will continue to respond as we receive information.
Week of Compassion partner Church World Service has provided affected areas with blankets, as well as hygiene and cleanup kits. Their staff is currently on the ground, assessing damage and strategizing further ways to respond.
It is through your generosity that we are able to respond quickly and efficiently. If you would like to help those affected by Irene-related damage, or help us prepare for future disasters, you can contribute here
As always, we are so grateful for your hope, your faith, and your willingness to respond. Today, as the skies clear, we pray with you for recovery in affected areas, and give thanks that life--even in the midst of loss and tragedy--goes on.

East Coast Prepares for Hurricane Irene

Chris Herlinger of Church World Service sends the following update concerning Hurricane Irene:
The U.S. Eastern Seaboard braced for Hurricane Irene today, with rains generated by the storm starting to fall in North and South Carolina. The storm could affect a large swath of the East Coast, from the Carolinas up to New England. While authorities and citizens were making preparations for Irene, the National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm today from a Category 3 to a Category 2 hurricane. Authorities warn that the storm continues to be a major and dangerous threat.
Church World Service emergency and domestic disaster response staff will be in contact with FEMA, state Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster and existing long-term recovery groups. Likewise, in preparation for use by evacuees in shelters, CWS is providing affected areas with blankets and kits. Today, for example, CWS is sending 600 woolen blankets, 600 hygiene kits and 600 cleanup buckets to the Chesapeake (Maryland) American Red Cross, and will make more available as needs arise.
Contributions to disaster response efforts can be made here.

Week of Compassion Responds in the Caribbean

While Hurricane Irene is now making its way up the east coast of the United States, its effects have already been felt in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
According to Felix Ortiz, Global Ministries' Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Dominican Evangelical Church is currently responding in the towns of Cambita and San Cristobal, areas where several families have been affected. In two regions of Haiti, flooding has affected at least 435 people, displacing people, destroying crops and animals. Coordinating teams of CONASPEH, the Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti, are assessing the situation and preparing to respond. Week of Compassion is grateful for the opportunity to partner with both CONASPEH and the DEC, offering support through Global Ministries to both responses.
While we all remain concerned about what may happen as Irene makes landfall, we continue to pray and prepare. We are counting on your Courageous Compassion and partnership should needs arise. Thank you for being part of this ministry, and for making your compassion a real, tangible force in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Surviving the Drought: Preparing for the Next One

Women carry stones to build a sand dam in Kibauni, Kenya. Church World Service and its partners are helping drought-stricken communities build sand dams, which hold water in the sandy beds of seasonal streams. Photo by George Arende.

Tim Shenk is a communications officer with Church World Service, one of Week of Compassion's trusted implementing partners. He is currently on assignment in Kenya, reporting on the drought that is ravaging East Africa. He sends back this report.
As you drive east from Nairobi, the Kenyan countryside becomes progressively drier. Long grass becomes yellow and eventually disappears. Bare, reddish soil is all you can see in the barren fields.

This is the East African drought, a vast disaster stretching across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and beyond. Two years with scarcely any rain has withered fields and pastures, putting more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In Kaikungu, a rural community of about 6,500 people in the Mwingi district, Eastern province, spiky green sisal plants are about the only crop that survives. In normal years, farmers grow plenty of peas, corn, beans and sorghum, but the drought has forced the community to seek food aid.

evertheless, local farmers are working hard to become self-sufficient. Since 2007, humanitarian workers from Week of Compassion partner Church World Service and the Anglican Church of Kenya have been helping the community build structures to capture and store water.

These include a borehole well, two concrete tanks filled from a hilltop water catchment and six "sand dams," which hold water in seasonal streambeds under a thick layer of sand.

If not for these water points, life in the community would be far more difficult. Local people walk anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to fetch water, instead of the grueling, daylong treks people make in other drought-affected communities.

Water has made it possible for some families to grow vegetable gardens and to keep a few livestock long into the drought. Jessica Mutinda, 28, told me that without local water points, her family's four cattle, 10 goats, four sheep and two donkeys would already be dead.

Because of water points, relief workers can report that severe malnutrition is still rare in Kaikungu, but the same cannot be said for the rest of Mwingi district.

 Women in Kibauni, Kenya, wait for a food distribution to begin. Photo by George Arende.

On August 15, 250 local people gathered in Kaikungu to dig silt out of the community's sand dams, restoring their capacity to hold water. To support their work and meet immediate needs, Church World Service and the Anglican Church of Kenya provided packages of corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to each participant. The food will last their families about a week, and weekly distributions are planned for the next five months.

Click here to view video.

The next rains should come in October, with another six months until crops can be harvested. These seasonal rains cannot come too early for the millions of people in this region who depend on rainwater for subsistence. In Kaikungu, at least, it might not be too late.

Want to help respond to the famine in East Africa? Join our movement of Courageous Compassion by following this link.

Responses Week of 8/15-19

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Oklahoma, storm damage relief
Haiti, earthquake relief and recovery
Japan, earthquake/tsunami
Kenya/Horn of Africa, drought and famine

Food Security Is Everyone's Issue

Seven-year old Habiba Hassan Nur, who with her family recently arrived from Somalia, cooks a meal of beans in a new extension of the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya. Already the world's world's largest refugee settlement, Dadaab has swelled in recent weeks with tens of thousands of recent arrivals fleeing drought in Somalia. The Lutheran World Federation, a member of the ACT Alliance, is manager of the camp, and in July opened this new extension to begin housing the newest refugees. Photo: ACT Alliance

Food security means that people have access to food that is both affordable and nutritious and do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.

For the last several days, I’ve been attending the Foods Resource Bank Annual Meeting in Des Moines, IA. Part family reunion, part seminar, the FRB Annual Meeting is one of my favorite meetings. For one, it attracts an incredibly diverse array of people: our ecumenical partners like Church World Service; farmers and other folks who support our local growing projects and whose hard work and imagination provide funding for food security projects all over the world; and international guests who have great firsthand stories to share about their work addressing hunger in places like Bolivia, Zambia, and Sierra Leone.

Of all of the things that were helpful about this meeting, there were two things that struck me about it. For one--despite the scant coverage it has received in the media--everyone wanted to talk about the famine in the Horn of Africa. Many of us gathered, whether ecumenical partners, staff, or growing project team member, have been in this region, fallen in love with it, and are deeply—deeply—troubled by this famine and its impact on people. As we have reported over the last several weeks, people from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are facing significant needs: lack of food, lack of water, and an increasingly desperate refugee situation as people search for both. Presenters alluded to the famine in panel discussions, participants prayed for the displaced and hungry as we gathered for meals, and in informal discussions, we all discussed the ways our organizations were responding—and how we might work together to do even more.

Second, I was thrilled by all of the young people I saw at the meeting. Youth who managed their own growing project. Youth excited about making a difference in the world, talking about how we all have a responsibility to work alongside food insecure communities. A teenager who traveled with her dad to Bolivia to see firsthand the agricultural development work she had heard about in church. Her voice, her experience, and her hope for the world were truly inspiring.

Then, as I was taking a quick moment to check my email and the Week of Compassion Facebook page, I noticed that Nathan Hill, Minister of Church Life at East Dallas Christian Church, had written a new blog entry focusing on the famine and had even taken his youth group on a mission trip where they learned about hunger-related issues, sustainable development, and how the systems we rely on to deliver food offer incredible abundance—but are also incredibly fragile.

When I asked Nathan to reflect upon what his youth group experienced, he wrote:

Our youth got a firsthand look at the disparities in different parts of the world and how we are called as people of faith to make good choices for our bodies and for our neighbors. Already, this knowledge is opening up possibilities of ministry and connections in our community, like finding a local beekeeping project in another part of Dallas, feeling more personally connected to famine in the Horn of Africa, and inviting the church to do away with Styrofoam products. In addressing hunger in such a real way, the stories of Jesus feeding the hungry crowds became real to them.
Encouraging his youth to explore ways they can build on their newfound passion for working for a world where everyone has access to sufficient, nutritious food, Nathan asked them—as well as everyone else who reads his blog or visits his Facebook page—to consider partnering with Week of Compassion to respond to the famine in East Africa.

If you, like those of us who gathered in Des Moines or the youth of East Dallas Christian Church, are concerned about the people of East Africa, you, too, can join our movement of Courageous Compassion.

The people of East Africa are our neighbors. Right now, our neighbors need emergency food and other famine-related help. The regions in which they live will also require careful responses that help communities develop and sustain themselves. We, through our network of committed partners, can contribute to both. This is our work.

Let’s get to it.

- Brandon

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Swaziland, drought relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery
DR Congo, women's income generation

“It’s What Makes You Get Up at 5 AM”: Responding In East Africa

Click here to view video.

As the first major drought and famine of the 21st century threatens 11.6 million people in the Horn of Africa, Week of Compassion has responded, utilizing our relationships with trusted partners Church World Service and the ACT Alliance.

As you have likely noticed in scant media coverage of the region, the drought situation in the Horn has reached crisis levels. According to USAID, some 2.85 million people currently require humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

Unprecedented numbers of Somalis are crossing borders into neighboring countries. In June alone, more than 55,000 people fled across the borders into Ethiopia and Kenya--three times the number of the preceding months. Thousands of people are taking huge risks every day to walk hundreds of miles, hoping to reach the safety of refugee camps and feeding centers. They are being forced to make appalling choices, including leaving weak and disabled loved ones on the road to certain death. Famine is expected to be declared throughout the entire southern Somalia region within days.
CWS and ACT Alliance implementing partners Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) are taking the lead in our shared response in the region. NCA’s work is featured in the video above. The following dispatch from ACT communicator John Davison highlights LWF’s emergency and post-emergency programs at three of the border camps at Dadaab, which currently house some 358,000 refugees, with more arriving daily. Your generosity makes this response possible. 

Sagul Mohammed Omar, 24, has just arrived with her five children in the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled drought-stricken Somalia in recent weeks, swelling what was already the world's largest refugee settlement. Photo: ACT/Paul Jeffrey

The day begins early for Soraya Musau at Dagahaley refugee camp.

She is out of her tent by 5 AM, waking her staff for another demanding day. By this time newly arrived refugees from Somalia have already begun to gather outside the gates of the compound, seeking food, water, basic necessities – and hope.

The camp is one of three in the Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya. Dagahaley is now receiving the most new refugees – on some days more than the other two camps combined. The highest figure at Dagahaley alone was 1536 in one day, while the total for the three camps has reached more than 60,000 since the refugee emergency was declared on June 6.

Welcoming new arrivals
The crowds are mostly patient and quiet as they wait to enter the reception centre. Some carry bundles of belongings. Many have nothing but their children. All are hungry and exhausted after a journey from Somalia that can take more than three weeks on foot.

For Soraya and her 11 staff, the task is a daunting one.

In the next few hours, all these people have to be guided through the newly-constructed reception centre. Their names will be recorded by government officials. Everyone will be given a colored and numbered wristband, entitling them to food for 21 days and a selection of other goods, such as jerry cans for water, cooking pots, sleeping mats and other essentials to ensure their immediate survival.

Their children also will be inoculated and receive milk, shoes and clothing donated by the local Muslim community, complementing the aid donated by the international community.

Most vulnerable
The first task of the team, however, is to quickly identify the most vulnerable people in the crowd:  unaccompanied children, those with an old person, or someone with a disability. They are brought to the front to begin the process first.

The remaining crowd is then divided by family size, with the largest going first. Men on their own go through last, many impatient to be reunited with their wives and families who traveled before them from Somalia.

It is a long, tiring, dusty process for all involved. And it is a process that is replicated by staff at the other two camps of Ifo and Hagadera.

Tempers do occasionally fray, but most of the refugees seem to lack the energy for any form of confrontation. Soraya has only one security person in her team to help with crowd control, although there is a big security presence in the reception centre itself.

Untiring engagement
After eight weeks of this punishing routine, where the day can go on until 11 PM, all the effort is taking its toll.

“Both myself and the staff are really worn out,” says Soraya, the day before reluctantly leaving for a well-earned week’s break at home. “But I really don’t want to leave my centre.”

One incident in particular has made a great impact on her. On June 30 riots broke out among the new arrivals outside Dagahaley. Two people were shot dead by police and a further 18 injured. The staff was evacuated and the reception centre remained closed for two days. But these inevitable procedures had tragic consequences.

“A family had travelled for 22 days and arrived at 4 AM. But one of their children died in the night: a one-and-a-half-year-old girl. When I woke up and found that, it was heartbreaking,” says Soraya.

But she adds that they have to carry on and remain functional, otherwise they are of no use to the refugees.

“A case like that really shakes you. But on that day 1318 people came, so you didn’t have the time to respond emotionally,” says Soraya. “At the end of the day you do recall and recount what you have seen. It’s what makes you get up at 5 AM.”

In the midst of tragedy, we give thanks not only for the ecumenical relationships that make such responses possible, but also for your support and partnership. These efforts to bring relief and offer long-term solutions to those suffering are a testament to your hope and generosity. If you wish to reach out in Courageous Compassion, please consider contributing here.

For more reports from East Africa, please follow this link.

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
New Zealand, earthquake
New Hampshire, resettled refugee assistance
South Korea, mudslides
North Carolina, church fire

Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
China, water project

Digging for Hope: Japan Journal

Associate Director Brandon Gilvin visited Japan in June as part of an ecumenical delegation monitoring our relief efforts in the country. This update includes a report and reflection on the relief efforts he encountered on that trip.

The smell was overwhelming. We had just gotten out of the van in Rikuzentaka, a fishing village on the coast of the Iwate prefecture in Japan, and everything around us smelled intensely fishy, reeking of saltwater and death. 

The tsunami had decimated Rikuzentaka, killing more than 8,000 people, and displacing or otherwise affecting more than 30,000 others. 60% of the area’s medical doctors were affected, further weakening a damaged response infrastructure. 

The rural areas affected by the tsunami, generally poorer with a much older population than Japan’s metropolitan areas, face serious challenges in rebuilding their local economies, which often were dependent on the production of factories destroyed in the wake of destructive water.

But as waves struck these factories, it was not only the local economies that were left damaged and vulnerable. Waves crushed a seafood production plant in Rikuzentaka, covering nearby streets with dead fish, waste, and oil. Because the tsunami struck in the winter, the waste was merely one detail among many of a complicated, large-scale clean-up effort: but the weeks wore on and summer approached, rotting fish drew bugs, and a district of Rikuzentaka that once housed the livelihoods of so many became a serious threat to public health.

Through our partnership with Church World Service, Week of Compassion is supporting the Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICCO), which, in addition to providing psychosocial services and other care for survivors, is leading efforts to clean and disinfect the areas where Rikuzentaka’s fish processing plant once stood.

For an afternoon, we joined a NICCO-sponsored team responsible for clean-up, which included an entomologist who studied and cataloged insects infesting the rubble from the tsunami, helping other teams to determine the most effective approaches for clean-up and disinfection.

We then visited the station where the rubble was transported and disinfected, before being taken away to be properly disposed of.

In the weeks that have followed my return from Japan, I’ve told as many people as I can about this aspect of NICCO’s work. For one, I was fascinated by how intricate the process was, how attuned to detail the NICCO staff was, and how, while an essential part of the recovery process, public health issues like disinfecting insect-infested rubble are rarely the sorts of things that we focus our attention, energy, or media strategies on.

But such issues are part of a comprehensive strategy that takes long-term recovery seriously, and it is for this reason that I am thankful for partners such as Church World Service, who focus on long-term recovery, invest in sustainable futures for vulnerable communities, and seek out partners with local knowledge, invaluable skills, and the trust of their communities. 

As I made my way back to our van, stalking my way through the muck of ocean and factory waste, I found myself feeling as grateful as I was disgusted. The generosity of all of you—those who pray and give and along with the people of Japan—enables us to reach out in Courageous Compassion, to find hope amidst heartache, and to develop solutions that serve so many people left vulnerable in the wake of disasters. In the weeks that have followed, as I have watched your generosity serve the vulnerable in other places -- Joplin, MO; Kenya and Somalia; Birmingham, AL -- my gratitude has not waned. It has only grown stronger.

Thank you for making a difference. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Church World Service has provided a report on this recent trip on their website.  Please check it out as well.  

For more information about the economic issues faced by rural communities in Japan following the tsunami, please check out this article.

For more video of Brandon’s trip to Japan, drop by his YouTube Channel, which you can find here.

Responses Made the Week of 7/18-7/22/11

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Oklahoma, wind damage
Somalia, drought relief
Ethiopia, drought relief
Liberia/Ivory Coast, humanitarian crisis
Malawi, flood relief
South Sudan, emergency preparedness
Pakistan, flood emergency

Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
East Africa, water and sanitation

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
East Africa, drought relief
Kenya, drought relief
South Sudan, humanitarian assistance