Preparing for and Responding to Isaac

From our individual congregations to our wide ecumenical networks, Week of Compassion partners have been busy preparing for Tropical Storm Isaac.

 

Tropical Storm Isaac struck the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba over the weekend and has continued into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Associated Press has reported eight fatalities in Haiti and two in the Dominican Republic. Winds and flooding have destroyed and damaged tents that still house some survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. There are news reports of damaged homes, flooding and mudslides in Port-au-Prince, but the damage to structures in the city is not extreme. In northwestern Haiti, where Church World Service (CWS) supports agricultural cooperatives, winds and rain have damaged houses, destroyed gardens and killed livestock. The poor construction of houses in this region has increased the impact of the disaster, with roofs blowing off and other serious structural damage.

 

In the Dominican Republic, the southwestern region was the most affected. The winds knocked down many trees and severely affected agricultural areas, such as banana plantations. The storm surge cut off a highway and downed electrical and telephone lines, cutting power to most of this region. In Cuba, Isaac struck the entire country and was especially intense in the east. Many families in vulnerable areas weathered the storm with friends or in storm shelters. CWS has not received reports of serious damage in Cuba.

 

Isaac is now expected to intensify to hurricane strength and approach the U.S. Gulf Coast tomorrow. A hurricane warning is in effect from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana, including New Orleans. FEMA is warning that southeast Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could see storm surges of 6 to 12 feet. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have all declared states of emergency.

 

Our partners at Church World Service currently have staff on the ground gathering more information from our partners in Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic regarding local needs. CWS will monitor the continued impact of Isaac and respond to immediate and long-term needs. We have also been in touch with the Latin American-Caribbean office of Global Ministries, and they are connecting with their partners in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to assess local needs.

 

We have also contacted the regional offices in the predicted path of the storm, who are working with their churches, local disaster prevention systems, and other networks to make sure plans are made and needs are met, should the storm continue its current trajectory.

 

Josh Baird of Disciples Volunteering has encouraged both patience and preparedness. Though media reports are serving as a constant reminder that the storm will likely land in the New Orleans Area on Wednesday, marking the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Josh reminds us that “Caution, preparedness, and evacuation are appropriate; alarm is not.” There are still variables that may affect the path of the storm. No matter the scale of Isaac, Week of Compassion will respond through our trusted partners, and we will meet needs as they arise.

 

If you would like to reach out in Courageous Compassion to help us provide for the needs emerging from Isaac and other storms, please consider a gift to the Week of Compassion Disaster Response Fund.

 

While we wait for more information, the best thing we can do is calmly prepare, gather information, and reach out. Through your generosity, we are, as a church, able to do precisely that.

 

Peace,

Brandon

Food Crisis in Malawi and an Opportunity to Help Children during Domestic Disasters

Food Crisis in Malawi

During the 2011/2012 rainy season, the Southern African nation of Malawi was severely impacted by flooding and erratic rainfall.  As a result of the floods, a majority of crops have either been submerged in water or washed away completely. When farmers replanted following the dry spells, worms attacked their crops. Likewise, during the time when water and moisture content was critical for plant growth, dry spells resulted in wilting of plants leading to low crop yields. People displaced by the effects of this extreme weather sought shelter in some upper lands and government offices.

This pattern of flooding and drought has severely impacted the food security situation of communities in Malawi. Forecasts show that an estimated total population of 1,630,007 will need food assistance in the 2012/2013 consumption season in this nation of 14.8 million people.

Week of Compassion is providing support through ACT Alliance partners who are focusing efforts in several regions where they have the presence and capacity to respond:

  1. Assisting 15,280 people with food aid for seven months.
  2. Ensuring recovery of the affected populations through implementing recovery activities. 
  3. Reducing morbidity and mortality among children under the age of five and the affected population for a period of 3-5 months, by providing clean water and education concerning sanitation and hygiene.
  4. Preventing acute malnutrition in children under the age of five and preventing nursing and pregnant women from reaching levels of moderate to severe malnutrition for a period of five months.
  5. Providing psychosocial and other critical services to the affected communities.

Such assistance will help provide a transitioning bridge for the affected communities until the next harvest season, as well as providing skills and services that will meet related physical and mental health needs.

Thank you, as always, for your generous support of Week of Compassion.  Your commitment to emergency needs has allowed us to respond to this crisis.  Likewise, your support of sustainable development projects through Week of Compassion helps us partner with communities in Malawi and beyond to build new capacities for farming and maintaining food security.  If you feel called to respond to this life-giving, hope-building ministry, please visit here.

Thanks be to God for your generous hearts!

Children’s Disaster Services Fall Workshop Schedule

Week of Compassion’s partners at Children’s Disaster Services have planned a number of workshops for the fall of 2012.  Since 1980 Children’s Disaster Services has been caring for children after disasters in shelters and assistance centers by providing specially trained and certified volunteers to care for children who have experienced a disaster.  Volunteers provide a calm, safe and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by a disaster.  All workshops are open to anyone over the age of 18.  Please visit the CDS website for more information.  To register online, visit here.

Workshops are being held in the following areas:

Johnson City, Texas
September 7-8, 2012

Johnson City United Methodist Church
105 North LBJ Drive
Johnson City, Texas 78636
Contact: Nancy McDougall E-Mail: nancymcd@nctv.com  325-388-3752 (h) 210-416-1196 (c) or
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option 5

          
Modesto, California
October 5-6, 2012

Modesto Church of the Brethren
2301 Woodland Ave
Modesto, CA 95358
Contact Diana Messamer – e-mail DMessamer@comcast.net  209 601-1070 (c)  or
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option

 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
October 5-6, 2012

New Hope Christian Church
12323 South Pennsylvania Ave
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Contact:  Sean Shenold - e-Mail Sean.Shenold@gmail.com 405 885-7739 (c) or
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option 5

 

Rodney, Michigan
October 12-13, 2012

Camp Brethren Heights
9478 Brethren Heights Rd.
Rodney, MI 49342
Contact Erica Fitzpatrick e-mail: ericafitz@yahoo.com  616-532-1634 (h) 616-550-1278 (c) or
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option 5

 

Orlando, Florida *
October 27-28, 2012 (Saturday-Sunday)

Camp Ithiel
2037 Hempel Avenue
Gotha, Florida 34734
Contact:  Judy Bezon – e-mail jbezon@brethren.org  410 635-8734 (w) or
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option 5

*This workshop is being offered in conjunction with the yearly conference of the International Association of Emergency Managers and the American Red Cross in Central Florida.  Both IAEM and community members are welcome to register.  The cost of this workshop is $75. 

 

Denver, Colorado
November 2-3, 2012   
      

Highland Christian Church
3401 West 29th Ave
Denver, CO 80211
Contact Donna Killen – e-mail drkillen6@msn.com  (h) 303-838-7321  (c) 720-935-4205  or   
Children’s Disaster Services, 410-635-8735, or 800-451-4407, option 5

 

A Fair Trade Pilgrimage

In July, Amy Kay Pavlovich represented Week of Compassion as part of an Equal Exchange delegation to Los Colinas Coffee Cooperative and other important partners in El Salvador.  Equal Exchange is a Fair-Trade partner of Week of Compassion through the Disciples Coffee Project. Following a devastating storm that dumped a year’s worth of rain on Central America in eleven days in October 2011, the co-op lost about 15% of their coffee crop and all of their corn and beans. The road they used to ship their coffee out was also washed out by the storm.  Along with other interfaith partners, Week of Compassion provided a grant to provide emergency food aid, and help the co-op rebuild the road. 

Amy Kay is an ordained Disciples Minister who owns Just Good Trade, a Fair Trade store in Jacksonville, IL.  She also serves as Chaplain at MacMurray College. Amy Kay grew up in a Kansas farm family and served two churches in Missouri for 11 years before moving to Illinois.  She and her husband Dane have been married 16 years and love their two boys: Sebastian (7) and Atticus (4).   

Amy reflects on her trip in this week’s update:

Dearest Disciples Friends –

It is my pleasure to return greetings to you from the people of El Salvador! 

Last month, I represented Week of Compassion as part of a delegation of 13 people made up of Equal Exchange staff and representatives from other partner denominations.  We not only learned about the history of the country and its current political situation, we were graciously invited to live with farmers in the Las Colinas cooperative for three and a half days.  As a Disciples minister and Fair Trade store owner, I am so proud to have participated in this journey.  My time in El Salvador has given me hope for developing deeper partnerships as we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. 

We heard first-hand about the difficulties endured by the Los Colinas Coffee Cooperative over years of oppression and forced coffee labor.  We heard of their lives through 1980-1992 when the country was broken by a terrible Civil War.  We heard of their appreciation for Week of Compassion, Catholic Relief Services, and a Fair Trade market built in partnership with Equal Exchange.  They were able to accomplish so much with their recent WoC grant! Roads were rebuilt (an extremely difficult process), water ways made better and a wall was improved.  For more details about Los Colinas’ recovery effort, funded by the grant from Week of Compassion and other members of the Equal Exchange Interfaith Coffee Project, please visit my blog.

Thanks to some well-placed aid and all of the cooperative’s hard work and perseverance, they now have high hopes and dreams for their future.   Members want their children to go to high school and maybe even college someday.  They want better care for their water sources so that there is always good water for their homes and coffee harvesting.  They want to grow their relationships with coffee buyers so future generations will have access to fair markets.  Their dreams moved each of us in the delegation.

After full days with the delegation, “Christians for Peace in El Salvador” (CRISPAZ), the organization that accompanied our group, hosted the Unitarian Universalist representative and me for two days of extended learning about artist cooperatives.  We visited fortunate, prosperous groups that thrived even through the country’s Civil War, as well as other groups who needed to seek safety as refugees during those years.  When those displaced by the fighting returned, no homes or churches remained.  Everything had been leveled from extensive bombing.  Even now, as their communities have slowly rebuilt, these groups of talented and motivated artists are without resources or market access.  In one instance, nine women share one embroidery hoop because that is all they can afford.  They have one partially working sewing machine.  My heart was just broken as we heard from these groups without so much but with great skill and desire.  They brought to life what Amy has reminded me many times:  despite the difficulties we encounter, we carry on.  We must.     

As a movement of Disciples, we will stand with all of God’s people and work toward wholeness together.  We will reach out to those who have been told and shown that they are expendable through war and economic oppression.  We will respect one another and live on in such a way that God’s peace can be known on earth as it is in heaven.

May it be so!

Amy Kay Pavlovich 

For more information about the Disciples Coffee Project, follow this link:http://www.equalexchange.coop/doc/

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief
Malawi, food crisis
Philippines, Manila-Luzon flood
Missouri, Joplin Community Recovery Effort

Responding to Returnees from Angola

Long after some conflicts have been resolved, we are still called upon to reach out in compassion to those whose lives were forever impacted by the conflict.  Often, WoC responds to those the rest of the world—certainly the mainstream media—has long forgotten.  This is the case in the African country of Angola.  Due to Angola's lengthy (1975-2002) civil war, large numbers of Angolans fled the country seeking safety in neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia. Others fled the country in 1961 at the time of de-colonization (from Portugal) and stayed across borders for more than 40 years.

The Angolan authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimate that there are more than 114,000 Angolan refugees still living in neighboring countries who are likely to return when conditions improve within the country. The repatriation of refugees from the neighboring DRC began at the Uige border on May 1 of this year. In the coming months, authorities expect between 8,000 to 12,000 people to be returning to Angola. The majority of them are women, elderly people, orphans and single mothers.

The Angolan government has created three reception camps for such people. Returnees stay there for three days before being referred to villages for reintegration.  Problems vary from challenging to poor conditions at the camps to equally poor conditions in areas where the returnees are being resettled—including no transportation, no access to portable water, and poor health and education services. This is leading to conflicts in the resettlement areas.  A shortage of rainfall has also been problematic as the drought worsens and contributes to the challenge of food insecurity. The United Nations claims that 1.8 million Angolans may soon require food assistance.

Week of Compassion’s primary ecumenical partner, Church World Service, is supporting efforts of ACT Angola Forum member Igreja Evangélica Reformada de Angola (the Angola Evangelical Reformed Church), known as IERA.  The WoC and CWS-supported ACT Alliance response is already providing 200 families -- about 1,000 persons -- with rice; beans; vegetable oil; bars of soap; buckets; and blankets.  We will continue to respond over the long-term with food, utensils, tools, shelter and seeds.  Long-term food security will be an important priority, including determining the precise nutritional needs of affected villages.  The food security component of our response is key and over the next 12-18 months a strategy of food and nutrition security—through education, food supplement and seed provision and health monitoring with 400 returnee families is planned.  This strategy is aimed at reducing food and nutrition insecurity. 

Other possible long-term responses include a water supply project and training for returnee leaders, as well as possible psycho-social support for returnees.  As always, we want to respond holistically to the needs of our sisters and brothers.  Thanks to you, WoC is able to respond to emergency needs as well as long-term, sustainable development essentials. 

Thank you for your courageous compassion as we continue to reach out to those long forgotten. 

WoC Welcomes New Staff

Week of Compassion is thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Young to our staff.  Elizabeth begins her service as Administrative Assistant this week; we hope you will join us in welcoming her and celebrating her joining our team.

Elizabeth Young is a lifelong Disciple and the daughter of two Disciples ministers.  Her life has been shaped by her experiences with and connection to God, her church, the larger Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) community, and the General Church ministries.  Elizabeth studied English Writing at DePauw University and enjoyed participating in the college mentoring and leadership program.  Since college, Elizabeth has worked in marketing and customer service roles as well as project management.  Though ministry is in her genes with over eleven ministers in her extended family, lay ministry has been Elizabeth’s calling and she enjoys volunteering her time with her local church and the Indiana Region.  She especially loves working with children and youth.   Elizabeth is thrilled to be a part of the ministry of Week of Compassion and to participate in the good it does every day.  She lives in Noblesville, IN with her husband Jeff and two young children, Charlie and Maggie, who keep her very busy and full of joy and laughter.      

Elizabeth is based in our office at the Disciples Center in Indianapolis.  She can be reached at eyoung@woc.disciples.org and (317) 713-2442. 

We give thanks to God for the gifts that she brings to our ministry and look forward to many years together! 

As always, we are grateful to YOU for your ongoing partnership, generosity, and courageous compassion.  Though our staff is small, our church is great.  You are, indeed, the centerpiece of WoC.  

Making a Difference in the Horn of Africa

A severe drought struck the Horn of Africa last year, and millions of survivors are still in crisis. Conditions improved in areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia following rains in late 2011 that allowed crops and pastures to recover in early 2012. However, rains have been uneven and later than normal in the first half of 2012, causing many communities to experience crop failures this year. A food crisis continues to affect an estimated 2.2 million people in Kenya, 2.5 million people in Somalia and 3.2 million people in Ethiopia according to the World Food Program. Climate change continues to make seasonal rainfall more erratic.

Last year, Week of Compassion’s primary partner organization, Church World Service (CWS), carried out emergency food and seed distributions through local partners in Kenya and supported ACT Alliance members in providing food, water and other emergency aid in Ethiopia, Somalia and Somali refugee camps in Kenya. CWS is continuing to help drought-affected communities in four areas of Kenya: Mwingi and Kitui districts, Eastern Province; Kwale District, Coast Province; and Baringo District, Rift Valley Province and is focusing on improving child nutrition and helping rural communities adapt to drier conditions.

In February, CWS launched a project in partnership with Kenya's Ministry of Health to improve the nutritional status of 3,000 children under 3 years old. Through the project, CWS is providing micronutrient supplements to undernourished children less than 3 years of age and nutritional education to their mothers. The micronutrient supplements contain 14 important vitamins and minerals in powder form. Mothers are taught to mix the supplements into semi-solid foods, such as rice or porridge, to serve to their children. Mothers also consume the fortified foods themselves and pass the nutrients to their nursing infants through breast milk.

Previous studies by the World Food Program, CWS and other organizations have shown that micronutrient supplements reduce anemia among young children, decrease malnutrition and contribute to healthy development. CWS staff are observing similar results in Mwingi and Kwale districts. "I have witnessed situations of children, when we started this program in February, they were weighing 6 kilos, and now they are weighing 12 kilos," said Sammy Mutua, emergency coordinator for CWS Africa. What good news!

As part of this project, CWS is training 36 local women to serve as nutritional "extension workers" in their villages. These women will teach other local women about nutrition and organize weekly gatherings to monitor young children's health. CWS is developing educational materials for nutritional extension workers to use with community members who are semiliterate or illiterate. CWS is paying nutritional extension workers a stipend and purchasing 36 scales to use in weighing children. CWS is planning to begin distributing a nutritional food mixture such as Unimix as part of the child nutrition project, according to Mutua. This would include ingredients such as corn flour, soybeans, oil and milk powder.

Since January 2012, CWS has also worked with the Kitui Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya to help drought-affected communities build two sand dams in Kitui District. Sand dams are concrete structures that store water in the beds of seasonal streams under a thick layer of sand. Local people will be able to access the water for irrigation or household use throughout the dry season through nearby shallow wells. In addition, CWS and the Kitui Diocese are helping farmers in Kitui District adopt agricultural methods that are better suited for erratic rainfall. Two hundred and fifty local farmers have participated in three-day workshops on improving planting techniques and creating small dams or “catchments" to store rainwater on their land. CWS has also provided the farmers with digging tools.

Finally, CWS is beginning a project to help two villages in Mwingi District and one village in Baringo District to build greenhouses. The greenhouses will allow these communities to grow tomatoes and other vegetable crops throughout the year. Each village will build two greenhouses with support from CWS. As part of the project, villagers have agreed to save a portion of the proceeds from their greenhouse gardens in a community fund to meet future emergency needs in their villages. Each greenhouse will benefit approximately 90 households.

Thank you for supporting these life-changing programs through your gifts to Week of Compassion. In the face of even one of the harshest drought and famines on earth, we Disciples are making a difference. Glory be to God for your courageous compassion and generosity.

Click here to donate now to Week of Compassion.

Social Entrepreneurship: A New Tool in Building up Our Partners

A good investment is measured by its return.

This is a basic principle of entrepreneurship. While a traditional business measures return in terms of pure financial profit, the last couple of decades have seen a number of creative, committed people use tools of entrepreneurship as a way to find solutions to extreme poverty in communities all over the world. In doing so, such ventures, often dubbed as examples of “social entrepreneurship” help us expand our understanding of what constitutes a return.

Week of Compassion works with partners that work to change lives through social entrepreneurship. For these partners, Equal Exchange and Prosperity Candle, return might look like a co-op that gives coffee farmers leverage in a negotiation, allows them to support schools and other community needs, and provides mechanisms for democratic decision-making. It also might look like a small business that not only gives a refugee an opportunity to support her family, but to earn pay for her labor for the first time-ever. In other words, return may include financial profit, but is more comprehensively measured, including a focus on how the partnership empowers people on the margins.

Equal Exchange and Week of Compassion partner together on the Disciples Coffee Project, a great partnership that provides our congregations and church members an opportunity to buy expertly roasted, ethically grown and traded coffee to serve at church’s coffee hour or at home, support small farmers, and support food security projects of Week of Compassion. As part of the Disciples Coffee Project, Equal Exchange contributes 15% of all Disciples purchases to a Small Farmers Fund which helps us support a number of agricultural development projects in Central America, Central Africa, and other areas where our partnerships and Equal Exchange co-ops overlap.

Our relationship with Prosperity Candle is quite similar. Working with women in Iraq, Burmese refugees in the United States, and soon launching a venture in Haiti, Prosperity Candle empowers women by training them in all the aspects of candle making, providing them with hard and soft skills, and by marketing beautiful gifts that allow these women to earn a living wage, helping them to support their families and finance their dreams. Gifts purchased through Week of Compassion’s partnership with Prosperity Candle help support the Women's Empowerment Fund.

Because both Equal Exchange and Prosperity Candle share Week of Compassion’s commitment to accompany communities affected by poverty, war, or violence, and partner with them as they utilize their own human capital to build their communities, these partnerships have been a natural step for Week of Compassion as we continue to search for new ways to live out the Gospel.

When you choose to support The Disciples Coffee Project or our Prosperity Candle Partnership, you’re investing in our brothers and sisters. You’re investing in families, in communities. You’re helping people all around the world achieve dignity.

You’re not just buying a cup of coffee or a candle.
You’re making change.

- Brandon

MEE MEE: A Story from Prosperity Candle

Mee Mee heard that the soldiers were coming. She took hold of her son and frantically joined the rest of the villagers who were running toward the Thai-Burmese border, where the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was located. Her husband was in another village running in the opposite direction, Mee later learned. After the soldiers’ pursuit ended, Mee returned home to her small village in Koechi, Burma.

Between 1997 and 2000, Mee Mee and thousands like her lived under the constant threat of violence from Burmese soldiers. Many people would take temporary refuge in the jungle, and return home to their village after soldiers left the area, only to do it all over again days later. About once a week, Mee and others would be on the move to avoid capture, rape, or death by soldiers.

During one incident, Mee’s husband ran ahead of his wife to secure food for his family. Her husband was spotted by soldiers and shot. The bullet shattered a portion of his ribcage, leaving him severely wounded as he journeyed toward the jungle with his family for safety.

For three months, Mee’s husband hid and moved the family with a debilitating wound at his side. He received no medical care, except for Mee’s tending.

“I was afraid to return to Burma,” Mee said through an interpreter. “I feared dying. I cried and cried every day,” she continued.

Mee’s husband eventually drew enough strength to walk five days toward a small village in Thailand where they learned the location of a hospital and a refugee camp. When Mee and her husband finally arrived at the hospital, he underwent immediate surgery and later recovered.

Life in the jungle for those fleeing Burmese soldiers was indeed terrifying and difficult. Makeshift bamboo tents with only roof and floor coverings became suitable temporary dwellings. Many women including Mee gave birth to children in the jungle. Mee’s then six-year-old son assisted in the delivery of his sister named Eh Ku Hser. Her name means love - cold - sweet. “Cold” in Burmese culture means so as to not pass through the fire of life, as heat represents troubled times.

“I hoped my daughter would be free from difficult and troubling times,” said Mee. “I did not want her to go through what I had experienced,” she continued. For Mee, the birth of her daughter in the midst of darkness, torment and fear, was a symbol of hope for a new life to come.

With the help of UNHCR, Mee and her family were able to resettle in West Springfield, MA. There, Mee met Moo Kho Paw, another woman who emigrated from Burma, and who was working with us as a candle-maker in Florence, MA. Prosperity Candle helps refugee women who have escaped areas of conflict rebuild their lives through the art of candle making. Moo Kho recommended that Mee join the organization, and Mee gladly accepted.

“I was excited to be out of the house,” said Mee, “I was raised to believe that because I was a woman, my role was to remain at home and raise my family,” she continued. “While many Burmese women want to do more for themselves, they are often encouraged to remain homemakers.”

She has become a talented candle-maker with Prosperity Candle, and her strength and resilience continue to be an inspiration to many.

Adopted from Judith Santiago’s Hope in a Time of Crisis: a Mother’s Day Story, originally posted here

2012 Compassion Response Fund Quarterly Report

Week of Compassion is your Disciples relief, refugee and development mission fund. Thanks to you, we equip and empower disciples to alleviate the suffering of others through disaster response, humanitarian aid, sustainable development and the promotion of mission opportunities. Each quarter we strive to provide you with a brief report on all that you have helped us make possible through Week of Compassion. Today we send you our mid-year Compassion Response Fund Report for 2012.  

The Compassion Response Fund is an allocation the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee makes each year to enable WoC to respond immediately, effectively and efficiently to requests for emergencies, disasters and other urgent and unexpected needs that arise. For 2012 the WoC Committee has allocated $500,000 for the Compassion 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. Currently, WoC has made a disaster response an average of once every 2.5 days.

Below is a listing of grants from the Compassion Response Fund and other designated disaster response accounts. Contributions for the Response Fund are needed and welcomed and will be used 100% for emergency response to humanitarian needs in the world. During these difficult economic times, it is the vulnerable, the poor, the diseased and the hungry-those sisters and brothers WoC serves and accompanies-who feel the most impact. Thus, it is with great joy we share with you, our partners in this compassionate and critical ministry, the following report. And we thank you, once again, for your courageous compassion.

Africa:
$10,000 - South Sudan emergency relief
$5,000 - Mauritania food security
$12,000 - Sudan/Darfur humanitarian response
$4,250 - Democratic Republic of the Congo malaria epidemic
$2,000 - Congo Brazzaville emergency relief
$12,000 - South Sudan humanitarian relief and conflict resolution in Jonglei
$25,000 - Sierra Leone and Liberia rural development
$15,000 - DRCongo severe storms in Mbandaka
$10,000 - Sahel (West Africa) food crisis
$12,000 - Burkina Faso food crisis
$5,000 - Cyclone Giovanna and Tropical Storm Irina in Madagascar
$12,000 - Kenya election preparedness
$10,000 - Assistance to Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia
$403 - Zimbabwe children’s education

East Asia and Pacific:
$12,586 - PhilippinesTropical Storm Sendong
$2,500 - Philippines earthquake
$2,500 - Philippines landslide

Latin America and the Caribbean:
$2,500 - Haiti emergency food distribution in the bateyes  
$25,000 - Haiti post-trauma resilience training

Middle East and Europe:
$12,000 - Syria humanitarian crisis
$12,000 - Lebanon medical support for Iraqi refugees
$9,000 - Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, humanitarian crisis
$10,000 - Syria humanitarian aid in Homs
$12,000 - Eastern European severe weather
$2,500 - Gaza Ahli Hospital
$10,000 - Syria emergency response

Southern Asia:
$15,000 - Thai/Burma refugee support on border
$5,000 - Thailand flood recovery
$5,000 - India earthquake in Sikkim
$5000 - Pakistan rehabilitation for flood affected in Sindh

General:
2012 Rapid Response Fund

- Mozambique cyclones
- Water support to Congolese refugees in Rwanwanja, Uganda
- Landslides and floods in Bulambuli District, Uganda
- Water, sanitation and shelter assistance to the displaced in North Kivu Province
- Assistance to Sudanese refugees arriving in Kakuma Camp, Kenya
- Cold snap and severe snow fall in Romania
- Angolan returnees from DRCongo


Domestic:
$500 - Ohio, emergency assistance
$1,000 - Missouri, fire damage
$750 - West Virginia, house fire
$1,000 - Iowa, food security for children      
$5,000 - Virginia, infants emergency pantry
$1,300 - Texas, emergency refugee assistance
$500 - Ohio, emergency refugee assistance
$200 - North Carolina, solidarity grant for family of shooting victim
$1,500 - Pennsylvania, emergency refugee assistance
$1,000 - Pennsylvania, emergency food assistance
$1,000 - Texas, severe storm damage, Juliette Fowler Homes
$2250 - Tennessee, emergency refugee assistance       
$25,000 - Missouri, tornado recovery
$6,100 - Missouri, flood recovery
$600 - Long-Term volunteer training
$10,000 - severe storms and tornadoes across North America
$1,000 - Kentucky, tornado response volunteer efforts
$750 - Indiana, tornado damage in Henryville
$1,150 - Indiana, tornado damage
$1,500 - Kentucky, tornado damage
$2,000 - Missouri, tornado damage
$500 - Tennessee, tornado damage
$800 - Indiana, tornado damage
$250 - Indiana, tornado damage
$1,000 - Missouri, tornado damage
$5,358 - Church World Service Blankets + Program
$3,500 - Missouri, flood damage
$5,150 - Ohio, flood damage
$1,000 - North Carolina, tornado damage
$1,000 - Texas, tornado damage
$1,000 - Kansas, tornado damage
$3,750 - Oklahoma, tornado damage
$750 - Oklahoma, tornado damage
$400 - Kansas, tornado damage
$450 - Ohio, flood damage
$10,000 - Joplin, Missouri Long Term Recovery Committee
$1,900 - Iowa, tornado damage
$10,000 - Joplin, Missouri, tornado recovery
$1,000 - Missouri, flood damage
$1,500 - Alabama, mission station support, tornado recovery
$5,000 - Kentucky, tornado recovery
$750 - Colorado, wildfire relief
$2000 - Missouri, tornado recovery
$2700 - Kentucky, tornado response in Eastern KY
$3090 - Colorado, wildfire recovery

Update on Colorado Fires

Week of Compassion is responding to record breaking wildfires as they ravage parts of Colorado. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of homes have been destroyed and more than 30,000 people have been displaced near Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city.

Week of Compassion has been in contact with the Central Rocky Mountain Regional Office and churches in affected areas, and we stand ready to respond as needs emerge. In addition to providing support to Heart of the Rockies Christian Church for their ecumenical community efforts, we have provided solidarity grants to individuals affected in Colorado Springs. We will offer continued support as more needs are reported.

Our partners at Church World Service will also be providing material support such as blankets, hygiene and cleanup kits to affected areas in the coming days, and will be lending organizational and logistical support as Long Term Recovery Committees are organized.

As images of the fire blanket the news, we keep all of those affected in our prayers. If you would like to reach out in Courageous Compassion to help those affected, please follow this link

Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

Yet another conflict in the Middle East, many might think. It is often difficult, and certainly confusing, to follow the chain of political events that have happened across the Middle East since the so-called Arab Spring of last year. Uprisings across the region led to outright revolutions and political change, and Syria has attempted to follow suit. In March 2011, popular protests began in Syria, but were confronted by harsh government crack-downs which spired into catastrophic violence. As you have undoubtedly tracked, the ensuing situation in Syria has been anything but easy to watch. For well over one year now, far too many people have died-over 14,000 according to latest reports-and it does not seem as if the fighting will stop any time soon, as the ceasefire brokered by the UN has been violated by both the government and opposition forces. It also appears that the conflict is becoming more sectarian in nature, which could ultimately lead to all-out civil war.

In addition to the fighting, high rates of inflation, unemployment, and economic sanctions have meant great hardship for the Syrian people. Our colleagues from International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) report that “the combination of increasing levels of violence, poor access to services, and disruptions in livelihoods is putting more lives at risk.” IOCC is the primary partner organization implementing our coordinated ecumenical relief efforts in Syria, supported by Church World Service (CWS). Colleagues at Church World Service have confirmed that “thousands of Syrians have fled their homes, choosing to escape the violence. Many have migrated to neighboring countries, and many are arriving to more stable areas of Syria. Rough estimates indicate that large numbers of internally displaced persons are arriving into the capital of Damascus from high-conflict areas throughout the country.” Through CWS, IOCC, and the ACT Alliance, Week of Compassion has provided health care, medical treatment, baby kits, hygiene kits, blankets, rent assistance, fuel, food packages, clothing, and psycho-social assistance.

Your gifts to WoC are already at work as we respond through these ecumenical partners as well as through the Middle East Area Office of Global Ministries. Since the violence has escalated and the tragedies seem to mount daily, WoC has channeled funds to Global Ministries local partners in the region. To join in prayer with the Syrian people, click here. For other information from our Global Ministries partners, click here.

What is clear is that people are suffering. Our sisters and brothers, connected to us as fellow children of God, are in need. The pain we feel in witnessing the many deaths and ongoing violence is profound. To reach out with courageous compassion to those facing unthinkable violence, hunger, and displacement, please [link to donate page].  “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Thanks be to God for the opportunity to honor our Syrian brothers and sisters.

When Did We See You a Stranger?



Today is World Refugee Day. For decades, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has sponsored and resettled refugees-persons outside of their country of nationality who are unable or unwilling to return because of persecution (or a well-founded fear of persecution) on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Since 1949, our Refugee and Immigration Ministries, funded predominantly by Week of Compassion offerings, has resettled approximately 35,000 refugees. Responding to Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger is one way we live out the Gospel. After all, our own Savior was a refugee, with nowhere to lay his head.

Currently, there are more than 15.5 million refugees in the world. As climate change becomes more evident, affecting especially those in developing areas, we have coined a term for a new type of refugee: the “environmental refugee.” Also on the rise is the number of people fleeing to cities-“urban refugees”- rather than to often remote refugee camps. There are tens of thousands of displaced persons no longer searching for a temporary shelter or camp but rather have had to search for long-lasting, durable solutions to displacement. These solutions are few and far between-and this has become a critical aspect of the immigration and refugee ministry we carry out ecumenically. While we Disciples have helped to resettle 35,000 people, there are still countless numbers of God’s children roaming the planet, desperate for a place to call home. Thus, we still have much work to do to continue to welcome the stranger, the displaced, and the vulnerable in our midst. For weren’t our ancestors once, too, aliens in the land of Egypt?

For more information on our denominational work to welcome the stranger, click here.

For information on our ecumenical collaboration with Church World Service and its long and effective history of immigration and refugee ministry, click here.

For a church bulletin insert to help your congregation acknowledge World Refugee Day this Sunday, click here.  

Colorado Wildfires Response

Week of Compassion is currently monitoring a wildfire sparked by a June 9th lightning strike in northern Colorado that has destroyed more homes than any other in state history.


According to the Associate Press, west of Fort Collins, a blaze which has destroyed more than189 homes has been 55 percent contained, while 250 acres of private land west of Craig continues to burn, prompting a significant number of evacuations.

Week of Compassion has been in contact with the Central Rocky Mountain Regional Office and churches in affected areas, and we stand ready to respond as needs emerge. As of today we have already responded with a solidarity grant to Heart of the Rockies Christian Church for their ecumenical community efforts.

Our partners at Church World Service will also be providing material support such as blankets, hygiene and cleanup kits to affected areas in the coming days, and will be lending organizational and logistical support as Long Term Recovery Committees are organized.

We continue to pray for those who are providing emotional and spiritual care, from chaplains to mental health providers, and invite you to keep those who are fighting the fires and providing the many types of care required by such a disaster in your prayers, as well.

If you would like to reach out with Courageous Compassion to help those in need, please visit here.

We give thanks to God for your support of the most vulnerable, be they displaced because of conflict around the world, or because of natural disasters close to home.

Food Insecurity in Tanzania

You will rarely, if ever, hear the staff of Week of Compassion refer to “hunger relief” when we discuss the anti-hunger projects and programs we fund. Instead, we refer to “food security” which more accurately describes what we are aiming to do: not merely alleviate or relieve hunger, but to accompany folks to becoming food secure for the long-haul.

So, what is food security? People are “food secure” when they have regular access (either through production or purchasing power) to sufficient food for a healthy and fruitful life. It is not humanitarian assistance; food security is ensuring that communities have available food, access to that food, and the other conditions and elements necessary to actually partake of that food (access to enough clean, potable water; adequate sanitation; etc.). Out of the approximately 7 billion people on earth, it is estimated that 925 million are currently food insecure.

In Tanzania, it is no exception. We received reports this week that the ACT Alliance has been closely monitoring the food security situation in the country. In the northern and central regions, especially, there is a worsening drought situation. They are now experiencing persistent food shortages due to environmental shocks, pastoral pressure and unpredictable rain which have affected food and cash crops production. The series of prevalent poor harvests for the past several years have led to chronic and transitory food insecurity for many households.

The Famine Early Warning System Tanzania Food Security Update has been continuously reporting food insecurity prediction, and specifically highlighting nine regions that will be the most highly stressed in June - December 2012. The regions include Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Iringa, Mwanza, Mara and Tabora. While these may seem like just names to most, they represent places where our Week of Compassion dollars are at work. They remind me, especially, of the people that I know in those places after visiting our programs there. These are not mere names. They are communities of people-our sisters and brothers-those who are now at risk of food insecurity.

So as we enjoy these summer months, where strawberries and sweet corn are plentiful (at least where I come from), let us not forget to remember those in these areas of Tanzania. Please know that Week of Compassion has already responded to this drought and food insecurity situation through our partners in the ACT Alliance, and will continue to do so should more needs arise. For that, we thank you for your ongoing commitment and support.

May we all work for a world that is food secure-not one where we continually have to relieve hunger, but one where all regularly have enough to eat. 

Week of Compassion Supports Small Farmers and Sustainable Development the World Over

The Week of Compassion Advisory Committee met for their annual spring meeting from May 22-24. The Committee had the privilege of gathering in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, at the site of our partner organization, Equal Exchange. For the past five years, Week of Compassion and Disciples Home Mission have together partnered with Equal Exchange Co-Op to help support fair trade efforts with small stakeholder farmers around the world. For decades, as stated in our Purpose and Priorities Guidelines, one of WoC’s priorities has been to “directly benefit small-scale farmers and the urban poor.” Through our Disciples Coffee Project, Disciples purchasing coffee or other fairly traded products through Equal Exchange (such as tea, chocolate, almonds, etc.) have been able to support small farmers directly, have enjoyed delicious and robust coffee, and have supported Week of Compassion’s Food Security Fund. With every pound of coffee Disciples of Christ purchase, 15 cents comes right back to WoC’s Food Security Fund so that we can support more agricultural assistance projects. The Committee was able to meet with the Equal Exchange staff, tour the facilities (including the amazing coffee roasters!), and experience an authentic “cupping” (a coffee tasting) in the Quality Control Lab. If you are not yet a part of the Disciples Coffee Project, or would like more information on Equal Exchange and fair trade in general, please click here.

In addition to deepening their knowledge of fair trade and WoC’s support of small farmers, the Committee also reviewed many proposals for sustainable development projects around the globe. The annual budget for Sustainable Development projects for the 2012 fiscal year is $305,000. The Committee approved a total of $157,000 in projects at their May meeting. We were pleased to approve the following development programs through Global Ministries, Church World Service, and IMA World Health:

Tanzania - Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control - $10,000
                                                                   
Tanzania - Combating Burkitt’s Lymphoma in Children - $20,000

South Africa - Ons Plek Girls Shelter - $6,000

Kenya - Biamiti School Improvement Project - $10,000                                 
                                                                   
Republic of Georgia - Empowering Youth at the Tbilisi Youth House Foundation - $18,000
                                                                   
Chaco Region, South America - Food Security for Indigenous Weenhayek Communities - $18,000

Paraguay - Teko Joja Ha Pora Project (Community Development and Human Rights)- $20,000
                                                                   
Israel/Palestine - Interfaith Program for Educators and Principals - $5,000
                                                                   
Philippines - Organic Farming and Poultry Project - $10,000
                                                 
Afghanistan - Orthopedic Workshop and Physical Therapy Center - $20,000
                                                                   
Sri Lanka - Strengthening Interfaith Relations - $10,000
                                                                   
India - Emmanuel Boys Hostel - $10,000

Week of Compassion understands sustainable development as Church World Service defines it, which is to “promote durable institutions of civil society that empower communities to ultimately become self-reliant and free from dependence on external aid.” In addition to the extensive responses WoC makes to relief and emergency situations as they arise, we are equally called to respond to requests for self-help and to promote the development of people victimized by economic, sociological, educational, or spiritual privation. We also aim to fund programs which get to the heart of the root causes of poverty, hunger and injustice.

We thank you for your ongoing support which allows us to continue to channel resources to communities that offer people the opportunity to be empowered and involved in their own development.

Thanks for your courageous compassion! What a joy it is to serve with you! 

Call for Writers

Have you always wanted to be published? Share your unique voice! We're seeking writers of liturgy, prayers, communion meditations, sermon ideas, activities for children and youth, and more for the special offering materials supporting the 2013 Week of Compassion. To learn about this Call for Writers, click here, study the guidelines - then get writing!

The deadline for entries has been extended to June 15, 2012. If your entry is selected for use, you will be compensated. We encourage anyone interested in contributing to submit an entry or two! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Executive Director Amy Gopp, agopp@woc.disciples.org, Chairperson of the Ecumenical One Great Hour of Sharing Committee.

We look forward to publishing more Disciples voices in our next Week of Compassion Guide and materials. Thank you in advance for your courageous and creative compassion and contributions!

A Memo for Joplin, One Year Later

Florence Coppola, Josh Baird, and Jill Michel tour a Memorial Park commemorating those injured or lost in the 2011 Joplin tornado

When Anderson Cooper leaves, there is still work to do.

Over the two and a half years I’ve served the church through Week of Compassion, these have been the words I’ve said to myself after every major disaster we’ve faced.  In a way, it is my own internal memo: a reminder that media coverage may stop but that the lives of those affected by disasters continue with all of the complications, grief, and uncertainty of a long slog back to normalcy.

I go over this internal memo today, the anniversary of the 2011 Joplin tornado, as I think about the many partners we’ve worked with over the last year, including Church World Service, Rebuild Joplin, Joplin’s Long Term Recovery Committee, Mike Weinman and Jeni Brown in the Ozark Lakes Area office.

I remind myself of the nimble skill and entrepreneurial spirit of churches surrounding Joplin:  First Christian-Pittsburg, KS; First Christian-Neosho, MO; First Christian-Columbus, KS; First Christian Church-Bentonville, AR, and all of the volunteers they housed in the weeks that followed the tornado, as well as those who contributed to the building of the incredible Mission Center Facility at South Joplin Christian Church.

Disciples and UCC Volunteers Work Hard Repairing a House in Joplin

I count the names of my amazing colleagues in the United Church of Christ, Florence Coppola, the executive for National Disaster Ministries, and her corps of Long Term Volunteers like Biff Barner and Howard Self.  Over a year of planning, brainstorming, dreaming, and praying, praying, praying, they have been the perfect partners for supporting a long term recovery.

 I find myself giving thanks for my colleague at Disciples Volunteering, Josh Baird, whose pastoral presence bring comfort and hope that equals his technical expertise and experience.  He, too, has enlisted an amazing group of Long Term Volunteers who will help staff the mission station—folks who will provide welcome, guidance, and leadership for groups who come to be part of the rebuilding. 

I remember, above all, pulling into the parking lot of First Christian Church, Joplin, and meeting two incredible pastors, Jill Michel of South Joplin and Faye Blevins of First Christian.  Over the last year, they have shown leadership that is nothing short of inspiring, and the churches they pastor have shown grace, hospitality, and hope that is nothing short of Christ-like.

I go over all of this as I consider this memo to myself and I quickly draft another for all of those names I’ve counted and all of those whose names I’ll never know—the folks who hung Christmas wreaths on FEMA trailer doors, who stood in line at First Christian’s distribution center, those who are volunteering on weeks I won’t be able to visit, and those who still mourn the loss of a loved one.

We remember.

We are still with you.

You are part of us.

Amen.

Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa

Unusually low rainfall has devastated food crops across the Sahel, a vast African region south of the Sahara desert, affecting an estimated 15.5 million people in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. As conditions continue to deteriorate, more than 1 million children under the age of 5 are expected to experience severe malnutrition in the Sahel this year, according to UNICEF.

Due to inadequate rains in 2011, the region's grain harvests are 2.6 million tons below normal. The prices of staple foods have risen across the region, and some of the hardest hit communities have only 15 percent of the grains they need.

Political upheavals in North and West Africa are also contributing to the food crisis. Conflicts in Ivory Coast, Libya and northern Nigeria have affected migrant workers who provide financial support to their families in the Sahel. A new outbreak of violence between rebels and government forces in Mali has displaced more than 220,000 people since January.
Week of Compassion, through its partner Church World Service, is helping to provide food and other emergency assistance to more than 83,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal through Christian Aid, a partner through the ACT Alliance. This includes targeted distribution of nutrition packs, with locally purchased food items, to malnourished children and their mothers.

We are also teaming with CWS to help communities supply their own food through projects led by Christian Aid. These interventions provide farmers with seeds, tools and animal fodder, support community cash-for-work projects to control erosion, subsidize rice sales by local farmers and promote sustainable livestock management. Assessments are underway to identify the most vulnerable households in the targeted communities, such as those with malnourished children or people with disabilities, and to provide them with further food assistance or cash transfers.

Relief efforts may be expanded to include people fleeing violence in Mali who are displaced within the country or in neighboring Burkina Faso.

As always, we will continue to keep you informed about this situation as it progresses. If you would like to reach out in Courageous Compassion and support this and so many efforts both in North America and abroad, simply follow this link.

We give thanks to God for the work of our partners making a difference on the ground, and we give thanks for your generosity and support. We are all part of the Body of Christ, working with communities to be part of the solution to hunger and food insecurity.

Masbore village, Zondoma province, Burkina Faso. Food shortages could leave as many as two million people at risk in Burkina alone.

Photo: Christian Aid.


Call For Writers

The Call for Writers for the 2013 Week of Compassion Leaders Guide is now online!

Share your unique voice as a writer! We're looking for writers of liturgy, sermon ideas, activities for children and youth, and more for the special offering materials supporting the 2013 Week of Compassion. To learn about this Call for Writers, visit the link above, study the guidelines - then get writing! Deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.

 

Remembering Alabama and Nashville, Preparing for Disasters of All Kinds

In a time when our media-dependent attention spans are remarkably short, anniversaries might seem easy to forget.

A year goes by. People move on to other concerns. Another year goes by. People miss them.

But for communities affected by disaster, there is no forgetting.

The last few days have seen the passing of the first anniversary of the tornadoes that wreaked havoc across Alabama in 2011 and the second anniversary of the torrential rains that flooded Nashville and other communities in middle Tennessee.

Through our remarkable partners at Disciples Volunteering  and congregations from across North America, we have been able to make sure that these areas were not forgotten.   2010-11 saw significant Disciples presence in the rebuilding effort in Nashville, and though DV is no longer operating a mission station in the Nashville Metro area, Disciples impacted several recovering neighborhoods through our partnerships there.


Disciples Volunteers work on a Nashville area home as part of General Assembly Outreach

 

A year after tornadoes struck Alabama, Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering are supporting an ongoing response in Tuscaloosa, AL, where volunteers work with local partners to support recovery efforts, continuing to meet needs in communities impacted last year. 


Storm Damage in Alabama, spring 2011

 

Across the country, we are also continuing to support ecumenical responses in a number of communities, some of which never made the news. Through our partners at Church World Service, we are helping provide training for Long Term Recovery Committees, access to material resources for affected communities, and facilitating recovery in countless ways.

By pooling our resources together and reaching out with Courageous Compassion, we are making a difference in communities affected by disasters, and we are preparing for the next “expected unexpected,” knowing that needs will arise, though we know not where. We can prepare for the next time, though.

After all, God calls us to respond to people at their most vulnerable moments, often when they are lost in a pile of recovery-related red tape and wondering if they have been forgotten.

And this is a call we do not forget.

Even a year later.

Making a Difference this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is approaching! Why not honor the mothers in your life by sharing a gift that makes a difference in the lives of women all over the world? Several of our partners are providing special opportunities for you to pay tribute to the women who inspire you this Mother’s Day.

Safe Motherhood Kits Save Lives Around The World

According to the World Health Organization, for every woman who dies in childbirth, 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease. That's 10 million women a year whose lives are at risk, and whose children suffer with them 

IMA World Health's Safe Motherhood Kits provide clean and sterile birthing supplies to expectant mothers in developing countries - areas where infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Too often, unsafe and unsanitary birthing conditions are to blame 

One $25 donation provides an entire Safe Motherhood Kit to an expectant mother, from the materials and packaging to shipping, delivery and training. Think of it-a $25 donation may be a matter of life and death for a mother and her baby.

Give a Beautiful Gift to Mothers in Your Life, Opportunity for Mothers Around the World

You can also support the work of Week of Compassion while shopping for Prosperity Candle gifts. Every Prosperity Candle gift helps a mother rebuild her life, while also giving your mom a beautiful gift. Choose “Week of Compassion” at checkout under the “How did you hear about us?” section so that a portion of your purchase supports the Week of Compassion Women’s Empowerment Fund.

To start, take a look at their gift guide for ideas! Order by May 7th to make sure your gift is delivered in time for the holiday! 

CWS Blankets+ Provide Resources for a Viable Future

Blankets+ is a special mission opportunity for all ages. Some 8,000 congregations and groups across the U.S. hold CWS Blankets+ events, providing funds to help people in need around the world, including the U.S. Blankets and Tents for vulnerable people following disasters, as well as wells, seeds, and other tools to help families build a foundation for the future. You can even send special Mother's Day cards and e-cards to promote Blankets+

Call For Writers

The Call for Writers for the 2013 Week of Compassion Leaders Guide is now online! 

Share your unique voice as a writer! We're looking for writers of liturgy, sermon ideas, activities for children and youth, and more for the special offering materials supporting the 2013 Week of Compassion. To learn about this Call for Writers, visit the link above, study the guidelines - then get writing! Deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.  

Week of Compassion in Partnership and in Action

Flooding in the Chaco Region of Paraguay

Three weeks of record-setting rains have caused floods affecting more than 40,000 people in the Chaco region of Paraguay. Week of Compassion supports the Chaco Program of Church World Service, along with Foods Resource Bank, in Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina to work with indigenous communities in the region to end hunger and promote sustainable community development.

 

In 2007, Executive Director Amy Gopp visited the program with Felix Ortiz, Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The majority of those affected by the current floods are those living in indigenous communities, many of whom have seen their livelihoods destroyed due to the loss of animals and crops. Others are facing difficulties because the affected areas are isolated, and accessible roads have been cut off. 

The floods have prompted the Paraguayan government to declare a 90-day state of emergency; an official emergency response is being coordinated focusing on urgent evacuation and rescue work, as well as providing emergency assistance to flooded communities. The region most affected is located on the Pilcomayo River, which has burst its banks, flooding communities of more than 5,000 indigenous and non-indigenous families who live and depend on the river for their livelihoods. 

These families live in conditions of dire poverty. As a result of the flooding these communities have lost access not only to food sources but also to crops and livestock needed to earn income. Estate, farm and urban workers have also lost their jobs. "It is clear that this flooding will have a serious impact on the livelihoods and food security of indigenous communities for months, if not years, to come," said CWS staff based in the region.

Week of Compassion will direct funds to CWS who is working with several partners, including Mingara and fellow ACT Alliance member, Comité de Iglesias para Ayudas de Emergencia (the Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid), to coordinate a response.

Honor Your Mother, Connect with another Mother in Need

Looking for a meaningful gift for Mother’s Day? Now you can give a gift that gives back many times over. We have teamed up with Prosperity Candle this year so you can purchase Mother’s Day gifts that support our work while also helping moms around the world to rebuild their lives. Each gift arrives with the name and photograph of the woman who made it, enabling you to connect with her directly through the Prosperity Candle website.

To learn more and shop to support Week of Compassion’s Women’s Empowerment Fund visit www.prosperitycandle.com. Be sure to choose Week of Compassion in the “How did you hear about us?” section during checkout to send a donation to us! To start, take a look at their gift guide for ideas! 

Workshop to focus on helping Harrisburg, Illinois, recover from tornado 

Rev. Bryan Crousore, an emergency response specialist with Church World Service, will conduct a free workshop on "Long-Term Recovery from Disasters" for clergy and community members who are helping people affected by the Feb. 29 tornado in Harrisburg, Illinois.

The workshop will take place on May 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Zion United Church of Christ, 930 West Cherry St., in Marion, Ill. It will cover topics such as organizing a long-term recovery committee, identifying needs caused by the tornado and using appropriate resources to meet these needs. No registration is necessary to attend the workshop and all are welcome.

Rev. Crousore is an expert at helping communities get organized to meet local needs following a disaster. He began this work when a devastating tornado struck the town of Xenia, Ohio, in 1974, near  where he served as a pastor. Since then, Rev. Crousore has responded to many disasters as a pastor in the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and as a volunteer and staff member for Church World Service, a humanitarian assistance ministry of 37 Christian communions in the United States. Rev. Crousore has provided training in the "long-term recovery process" to Midwestern and Appalachian communities affected by floods, tornadoes and other disasters. He has also helped train staff members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, members of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters and other groups.

While each disaster is different, there are many lessons that can be learned from the experiences of disaster-affected communities, Rev. Crousore says. One lesson is that communities recover better when they have a shared vision of the future. "I hope faith leaders and social service agencies will come together around a shared vision of long-term recovery from the Harrisburg tornado," Rev. Crousore says.

For more information, please contact our colleague Tim Shenk at Church World Service,  tshenk@churchworldservice.org or 212-870-2728.

New Day for Christians - A Global Resource

Looking for an educational, global, and easy-to-use resource for your congregation, women’s group, youth group, or men’s group? The work, ministry, and stories of Week of Compassion and Global Ministries are highlighted in this year’s edition of New Day for Christians from Chalice Press. For more information, click here

Severe Weather in the Midwest, Food Crisis in West Africa, and Gifts that Make a Difference

Responding to Tornados

Following severe weather across the Midwest, Week of Compassion is responding to needs affecting Disciples communities in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa.  While no churches have been damaged, we have received reports of damage to the homes of church members. Though there are reports of a few fatalities, thus far, no Disciples have reported bodily harm or fatalities.

We have already responded to needs in several communities in Oklahoma and Kansas, but we are still collecting information from areas affected in Iowa.  For safety reasons, only trained emergency responders are currently allowed into the area.  As more information becomes available, we will respond, and we will keep you informed, as well.  

West African Food Crisis

A deepening food crisis is affecting an estimated 12 million people concentrated primarily in the West African region of the Sahel, with the fear that famine is imminent.

The governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger have already declared states of emergency and called for international assistance.

The United Nations reports that grain shortfalls leave up to 6 million people at risk of hunger in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries. In Burkina Faso, the deficit could leave as many as 2 million people at risk. Pastoralists, mothers and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable groups.

“There is a sense of despair because people literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Paul Valentin, the international director of Christian Aid, a Week of Compassion partner through the ACT Alliance, reporting on his recent trip to Burkina Faso.

Cyclical droughts, severe flooding, crop failure, rising food prices, and depleted grain and livestock reserves resulting from previous years’ crises have all undermined people’s ability to survive the regular lean period that usually begins in May or June. This situation has been further exacerbated by the spillover effects of political turmoil and conflict in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya, including the displacement of thousands.

Week of Compassion partners’ responses include providing food to those most in need and treating malnourished children in Burkina Faso, cash-for-work programs in Mali where the most vulnerable receive seeds and prepare their land to withstand drought, as well as a focused response in Niger and Senegal. 

It is through your compassion and generosity that Week of Compassion is able to respond to storm damage and famine.  If you would like to reach out to these communities with Courageous Compassion, please consider a gift supporting relief and recovery.

Making a Difference this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is approaching!  Why not honor the mothers in your life by sharing a gift that makes a difference in the lives of women all over the world?  Several of our partners are providing special opportunities for you to pay tribute to the women who inspire you this Mother’s Day.

Safe Motherhood Kits Save Lives Around The World

According to the World Health Organization, for every woman who dies in childbirth, 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease. That's 10 million women a year whose lives are at risk, and whose children suffer with them.

IMA World Health's Safe Motherhood Kits™ (LINK: http://www.imaworldhealth.org/medicines-supplies-and-care/safe-motherhood-kits.html) provide clean and sterile birthing supplies to expectant mothers in developing countries – areas where infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Too often, unsafe and unsanitary birthing conditions are to blame.

One $25 donation provides an entire Safe Motherhood Kit™ to an expectant mother, from the materials and packaging to shipping, delivery and training. Think of it—a $25 donation may be a matter of life and death for a mother and her baby

Give a Beautiful Gift to Mothers in Your Life, Opportunity for Mothers Around the World

You can also support the work of Week of Compassion while shopping for Prosperity Candle gifts. Every Prosperity Candle gift helps a mother rebuild her life, while also giving your mom a beautiful gift. Choose “Week of Compassion” at checkout under the “How did you hear about us?” section so that a portion of your purchase supports the Week of Compassion Women’s Empowerment Fund .

To start, take a look at their gift guide for ideas! Order by May 7th to make sure your gift is delivered in time for the holiday!

CWS Blankets+ Provide Resources for a Viable Future

Blankets+  is a special mission opportunity for all ages.  Some 8,000 congregations and groups across the U.S. hold CWS Blankets+ events, providing funds to help people in need around the world, including the U.S.  Blankets and Tents for vulnerable people following disasters, as well as wells, seeds, and other tools to help families build a foundation for the future.  You can even send special Mother’s Day cards and e-cards  to promote Blankets+.

Call For Writers

The Call for Writers for the 2013 Week of Compassion Leaders Guide is now online!

Share your unique voice as a writer!. We're looking for writers of liturgy, sermon ideas, activities for children and youth, and more for the special offering materials supporting the 2013 Week of Compassion. To learn about this Call for Writers, visit the link above, study the guidelines — then get writing! Deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.

 

Responding to Texas Tornadoes and Food Insecurity in Central America

Tornado damage in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area

Multiple tornadoes struck the Dallas-Fort Worth area this afternoon, striking several communities. Early accounts report widespread damage in the Dallas suburb of Arlington.

In the midst of the damage and immediate confusion, Week of Compassion is already responding. We are currently collecting information in partnership with regional and local congregational leadership to assess needs and respond quickly and efficiently. If you would like to contribute to this response, please reach out with Courageous Compassion by clicking here

Reflections on Development in Nicaragua

Zebulon (Zeb) M. Whitehurst V is the 2011-2012 Intern for Week of Compassion. In his third year at Barton College in Wilson, NC, Zeb recently returned from a trip to Nicaragua with our partners Foods Resource Bank and Church World Service, where he was able to see food security and water projects first-hand as well as contribute his own labor. Here he offers his reflections on the trip:

As the Week of Compassion intern this year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Carazo area in Nicaragua on the week of March 4, 2012. This opportunity was made possible by Week of Compassion's partnerships with Foods Resource Bank, Church World Service, and their overseas programs in Latin America. It was my first international mission trip, so while my anticipation and excitement level were high, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Throughout the trip I encountered a number of things, leaving me with a mixture of emotions and many questions.  

 

I was struck by how Nicaraguans live at a much slower pace compared to the general hustle and bustle of the United States. Taking a minute to slow down was a great opportunity to enjoy the little things with members of the local communities and to get to know their stories.

Listening intently to our hosts, I quickly learned that the water quality and resources for delivery were poor but that there is a lot of potential for improving the existing water infrastructure. I was immediately concerned: water is essential for everyday tasks, such as agriculture, sanitation, laundry and even for general consumption!

With insufficient water, life is far more difficult than it should be. 

But despite the difficulties that face the Carazo area, I still saw so much hope.

It was encouraging to see that so many families were taking the initiative in the development of their communities through local programs such as seed banks, health kits, and education aimed at helping them improve their agricultural yield. It was amazing to see women empowered to take on key leadership roles in the development of their communities.

This trip also offered me more than learning about specific programs that encourage food security and develop access to clean, sufficient water. I feel that I've grown personally and spiritually. After a week in Carazo, I was able to see how many of the things I consider necessities are simply luxuries I've learned to take for granted. I have so many more questions about what a true "necessity" is.

My time in Nicaragua has been a time of spiritual growth for me, too. I have seen a community with so few material resources that always takes time to offer praise for the blessings in their lives. In contrast, so often those of us who experience so much material abundance forget to stop and thank God for the abundance of life and the m any joys that come with it. Again, this trip has given me much to think about.  

Before I left for Nicaragua, I was passionate about working to help communities develop access to clean, drinkable water. After having experienced this international trip, I am certain that each of us we all can connect our passions and talents to ways to partner with communities that have less access, fewer resources, and unrealized potential than our own. Everyone has something to contribute, whether it is through volunteering time, offering financial support or praying for our partners. 

We are grateful for Zeb's work this academic year. He has contributed skill, passion, curiosity, and above all, compassion to our work. We are proud to call him our partner and colleague. The church is fortunate to have such future leaders!