Iraq: A Continuing Response to Violence and Displacement

Over 1.5 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Iraq and the number is set to increase as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) continues its encroachment in the region, as reported by Week of Compassion's partner, ACT Alliance.

Since the violent take-over of large swaths of land in northern and western Iraq, the country is now contending with one of the largest internal displacements in the world.

"This is starting to become a runaway crisis, and the world must rise up quickly to save the lives of the people who have fallen victims to dangerously armed militant groups," said Jonh Nduna, ACT General Secretary.

Week of Compassion's support of ACT partners is providing humanitarian aid to affected populations forced from their homes, providing shelter, food, water, non-food items, hygiene kits, and carrying out protection initiatives particularly for women and children.

The alliance is also calling for human rights and international humanitarian law to be respected, and is urging governments and intergovernmental bodies to find a lasting solution to the crisis and to identify proactive actions to respond to early signs of conflicts. 

"There are harrowing stories of decimation of minority groups,"  said Nduna. "Humanitarian access is critical at this time to ensure that assistance reaches those who need it most, and to ensure those responding can continously assess the needs and respond accordingly."

"We cannot underestimate the need for protection of civilians especially women, children, the elderly, those living with disabilities, and minority populations," he continued. "Deactivation of any humanitarian response and corridors that bring humanitarian aid to displaced populations would only hurt the people who are already suffering."

ACT Alliance is currently involved in consultations with other international faith-based organisations in a bid to scale up global level humanitarian solidarity, advocacy and assistance to the affected population.

Children's Disaster Services Names Gulf Coast Coordinator

Week of Compassion is pleased to announce that Rev. Joy Haskin Rowe has joined Children's Disaster Services as the Gulf Coast Regional Coordinator.   

Joy lives in North Port, Florida and also has a part-time pastoral ministry position with the Central Christian Church in Bradenton, Florida.

Joy has a Master of Divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary and is an ordained Disciples pastor. She has had experience in program planning and implementation, ecumenical and mission work, congregational ministry, children's ministry, and chaplaincy.

As result of a partnership between Children's Disaster Services, Brethren Disaster Ministries, the National Benevolent Association, DHM Children and Family Ministries, Disciples Volunteering, and Week of Compassion, Joy will be working with the Associate Director of Children's Disaster Services to expand work in the Gulf Coast states, particularly networking with other disaster response leadership, setting up volunteer training, calling CDS leadership, and supporting the creation of Rapid Response teams to be able to respond to disaster with more urgency and flexibility. Joy may be contacted by email at CDSgulfcoast@gmail.com

In the face of violence and in responding to ongoing post-disaster needs, our partners are there.  If you would like to put your Compassion into Action, please follow this link.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
California, Drought Relief
Gaza, Emergency Response
Nebraska, Emergency Assistance
Virginia, Refugee Resettlement

Stories from The Global Ministries Intern Program and from Disciples Volunteering in Alaska

                       Picture from Global Ministries

                       Picture from Global Ministries

One of the ways that Week of Compassion partners with Global Ministries is through the Global Mission Intern Program.   Designed specifically for young adults who are interested in global service and have completed their basic college education, but are without professional experience. Global mission interns are involved with ecumenical partners in ministry among the poor or with minority churches, or Christian action groups dealing with human rights, reconciliation and development. This program allows the flexibility to design an assignment around the strengths and skills of the applicant, as well as the specific needs of the church partner.

Three interns, serving in Lebanon, Jordan and Thailand, offer the following reflections:

"My Host Named Lebanonby Andrew Long-Higgins

"Human Trafficking in Jordan" by Ariel Royer

"Pichu's Life" by Adam Royston

Thanks to your support of Week of Compassion, these incredible young people are learning about partnership and the contexts in which they work.  Continue to keep them and those with whom they are building relationships in your prayers.

Disciples Volunteering Makes Impact in Alaska

Disciples Volunteers have returned home after repairing nine homes in Alaska that were damaged by last year's spring breakup flooding along the Yukon River.  Last summer, the volunteers completed repairs to seven homes in Hughes. This July, a team of 11 volunteers, three of whom returned for a second season, finished construction on two homes in Emmonak.

"It went really well," said Team Leader David Bell. "We were able to get on the ground and start working right away. Before we knew it, everything was completed."

For more about this great initiative and photos of their work, visit this link.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
China, Earthquake Relief
Colorado, Flood Relief (2)
Virginia, Refugee Resettlement
Honduras, Children Resettlement
Sierra Leone, Ebola Outbreak Response

VIOLENCE DISPLACES PEOPLE IN IRAQ: OUR RESPONSE

WHAT IS HAPPENING: SYRIAN REFUGEES AND ISIL-INITIATED VIOLENCE

The protracted Syrian crisis has meant that over 200,000 Syrian refugees have received asylum in the Kurdish region of north eastern Iraq. Many of the Kurdish ethnicity refugees are being accommodated within the homes and communities of relatives and friends, and are able to pursue a livelihood in the Kurdish region of Iraq. However, over 85,000 have fewer means of support, and are accommodated in several refugee camps run by the Kurdish Regional Government with the assistance of numerous international agencies. While the standard of provision of basic needs in these camps is generally acceptable, this long-term case load of refugees has strained the resources and capacity of both the government and international agencies working in Northern Iraq.

In just the past month, dramatic events have added substantially to the humanitarian situation in Northern Iraq. Al Qaida-related armed faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) initiated a blitz campaign that has seen them take over large swaths of north and west Iraq from Iraqi central government control. Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq was overrun quickly, with little resistance put up by the Iraqi national army. This drove large numbers from their homes in Mosul and surrounding areas of conflict to the relative safety of the Kurdish-controlled section of the Nineveh plain to the east and north of Mosul region of Iraq, and further on into the Kurdish Region. Here Kurdish “peshmerga” units, unlike the Iraqi national army, have presented a formidable deterrent to ISIL’s further advance.

While many of the initially displaced population of Sunni Arab ethnicity have returned to their homes in the Mosul area, the displaced minority groups of Shiite, Christian, Yezedians (Zoroastrians) and Kurdish ethnicity remain fearful for their future under ISIL, and seem most likely to remain in the Iraqi Kurdish region or the area of the Nineveh plain immediately bordering the region for the time being.

While many of those displaced by the violence were able to flee with financial resources and find housing with extended family or friends, many of the displaced remain vulnerable, without resources and are finding refuge in churches, mosques, and other makeshift shelters.

In addition, some of the displaced are able to enter the Kurdish Region proper, which is perceived as a safer area, while others have to remain in the Kurdish controlled areas of the Nineveh plain. Those who are unable to do so remain quite vulnerable, often having to settle among local communities, whose own resources such as water and electricity are coming under increasing stress.

In the past few days, ISIL has cut off water supplies from central pumping plants on the Tigris in Mosul to the Kurdish controlled areas of the Nineveh plain.  This is exactly where many of the displaced are hosted, and this new development puts them and their host communities in need of urgent emergency water supply, as well as the continuing need for emergency food rations.

RESPONDING:

Through our partners at ACT Alliance, Week of Compassion is supporting efforts to care for the most vulnerable of the displaced populations, which include the aforementioned religious and ethnic minorities.  ACT Alliance partners are working to meet their needs in the following ways:

  • Securing clean and sufficient emergency water supply for 12,500 internally displaced persons (IDP) and host community families in the Kurdish controlled areas of the Nineveh plain, north and east of Mosul.
  • Ensuring a further 2-months’ food security for 2,500 IDP families in the Nineveh plain.
  • Providing psycho-social services and trauma counselling for 5,000 IDPs in the Nineveh plain
  • Providing emergency food relief to 3,000 families in the Kurdish region of Iraq, and providing non-food item assistance to 400 vulnerable internally displaced households.
  • Distributing health and hygiene kits to improve sanitation and promote the personal dignity of 400 vulnerable IDP households in the Kurdish region.
  • Paying cash assistance to 439 households (43 households in the Kurdish region and 396 households in Karbala region of Iraq) to help support the most vulnerable families meet their priority needs.

Through our partnership with the ACT Alliance, Week of Compassion is able to respond to the most vulnerable of those affected by sectarian violence.  Your generosity allows us, as a ministry of your church, to put our collective Compassion into Action

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED IN COLORADO

Last fall, northern Colorado was beset by record rainfall. More than 20,000 homes and 2,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. A long winter delayed significant repairs to the state’s infrastructure as well as some debris removal, complicating early response efforts. Despite these challenges, communities have pulled together to plan and prepare for the long haul. Members from Disciples congregations in Weld, Boulder, and Larimer County have been engaged from the beginning.

While the headlines receded along with the floodwaters, the needs remain. All of the pieces necessary for a long-term response have come together and communities across northern Colorado are ready to receive folks from outside the area. Disciples Volunteering is pleased to partner with Week of Compassion, the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and First Christian Church, Loveland to establish a Mission Station in Loveland and enable mission teams to serve in the recovery. Work teams will be partnered with local response organizations, assisting people whose needs would otherwise go unmet. More information and registration for your mission team to serve in Colorado is available through Disciples Volunteering.

Thanks for all that you do.  Your partnership is what makes Week of Compassion what it is.

Rev. Brandon Gilvin
Associate Director

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
El Salvador, Coffee Rust Response
Guatemala, Coffee Rust Response
Iraq, Displaced People Assistance
Gaza and West Bank, Emergency Medical Support
U.S. Border, Unaccompanied Children Support

Recovery in Colorado, Wildfires in Washington, the Ongoing Crisis in Gaza

Disciples Volunteering Needs You in Colorado

Last fall, northern Colorado was beset by record rainfall. In just one week beginning September 9, 2013 one county received up to 20 inches of rain; this is the same amount it normally receives in an average year. Massive flooding occurred in 17 counties. More than 20,000 homes and 2,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. Many households and at least one town were completely isolated as roads and bridges were washed out. A long winter delayed significant repairs to the state’s infrastructure as well as some debris removal, complicating early response efforts. Despite these challenges, communities have pulled together to plan and prepare for the long haul. Members from Disciples congregations in Weld, Boulder, and Larimer County have been engaged from the beginning.

While the headlines receded along with the floodwaters, the needs remain. All of the pieces necessary for a long-term response have come together and communities across northern Colorado are ready to receive folks from outside the area. Disciples Volunteering is pleased to partner with Week of Compassion, the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and First Christian Church, Loveland to establish a Mission Station in Loveland and enable mission teams to serve in the recovery. Work teams will be partnered with local response organizations, assisting people whose needs would otherwise go unmet. More information and registration for your mission team to serve in Colorado is available through Disciples Volunteering.

Monitoring Wildfires in Washington

Week of Compassion has been in touch with the Northwest Regional Office and is working with them to monitor the wildfires that are raging across Washington.  The massive blaze has charred 243,000 acres, or 380 square miles (980 sq km), the largest fire in the state’s history.  Currently, no Disciples Congregations have been affected, but we are keeping a close eye on the damage.  Community members and firefighters hope rain that began on Wednesday will help the fire be more easily controlled.

While first responders are currently engaged in emergency needs, in the coming months, many of these communities will develop long-term recovery strategies, and Week of Compassion will provide support, as needed.  Our partners at Church World Service will also provide material resources such as cleanup buckets, should they be needed.  As more needs arise, we will keep you informed of our response.

Crisis in Gaza

Through our partners, Week of Compassion has been keeping a close eye on the escalating violence and deteriorating conditions in Gaza.  Our partners at Global Ministries and CWS urge continued education and advocacy around the complex root causes of the violence.

The continued violence and compact geography make humanitarian response difficult.  Our partners through Global Ministries are currently gathering information, and CWS is the U.S. Coordinator for theEcumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel, and is a member of the ACT Alliance, which will be providing humanitarian assistance to persons and communities in Gaza devastated by the fighting and bombing.  As details of the ACT Alliance response emerge, Week of Compassion will contribute to humanitarian needs.

Please keep these communities, both in North America and abroad, in your prayers as they struggle to recover, respond, and survive. To support these needs and so many more, we invite you to put your Compassion into Action.

Thanks, as always, for your partnership.
Rev. Brandon Gilvin
Associate Director

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Armenia, Refugee Support

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Colorado, Long-Term Flood Recovery
Colombia, Ecumenical Capacity Building

Responding to a Crisis: Refugee Children from Central America

What Exactly is Happening?

We are facing a serious humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States.  Significant numbers of unaccompanied children are currently fleeing violence in Central America and seeking safety in the United States. The number of unaccompanied children entering the United States has grown to more than 57,000 so far in 2014, up from 27,884 children in 2013 and far fewer in years prior to that. More than 300 are reported to be crossing into the United States daily. Almost three quarters of all immigrants from Central America are crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley on the gulf coast of Texas.

These children, and also some families, are fleeing drastic increases in gang-related violence and their governments’ inability or unwillingness to protect them.  Most children are also fleeing extreme poverty. On their way to the United States many report experiencing extreme violence, rape, extortion and even torture. Some children are as young as five and teenage girls are encouraged to take “precautionary contraceptive” before their journey as rape is so common.

Most of these children are from three countries:  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  While the United States has been the destination for many of these children, the migration of refugees has affected the entire region.  Nicaragua and Belize, for example, have reported a significant increase in asylum seekers from the three violence-plagued countries.

Once they cross the border into the U.S., the children are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, known as CBP. Legally, CBP is only allowed to hold these children for 72 hours, after which they are moved to temporary shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR.  ORR places the children in the care of family members already residing in the United States, with foster care families, or in detention facilities.

Children receive a “Notice to Appear” in immigration court where a judge will make the final determination if the child will be deported or remain in the U.S. - often through the asylum process or on a special immigrant juvenile visa that is available to children who have been abused or neglected by a parent.  As immigration courts are currently backlogged, children often stay with family, in a foster home, or in detention for an extended period of time while they await their proceedings.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement has experienced serious pressures on its budget as the number of unaccompanied children has escalated over the last three years. This year, ORR has reprogrammed $94 million in social service assistance to its refugee resettlement program to meet these children’s needs.

The Obama administration has asked Congress for emergency funding of $3.7 billion to help support the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the State Department, and immigration courts.  The supplemental appropriation will focus on increasing immigration court capacity and expanding law enforcement that targets criminal networks both in the United States and in Central America.  The additional funding will also be used to bolster foreign cooperation to help with repatriation and reintegration in Central America and to increase the capacity of the United States to provide care and transportation for unaccompanied children.

Week of Compassion’s Response:

Week of Compassion is currently working with our committed partners to respond to humanitarian needs emerging from this situation.

We have, over the last few weeks, supported our partners at Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SWGSM), who have received many adults fleeing the violence.

Over the last week, we have also responded through “Lilies of the Valley,” a ministry closely related to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries and the Southwest Region, which has provided food and clothing to women and children currently housed in temporary shelters.

The Refugee and Immigration Ministries (RIM) of Disciples Home Missions has led the way in education and advocacy on the plight of these refugee children. Rev. Sharon Stanley-Rea, director of RIM, has tirelessly worked with us and other ecumenical and denominational partners to keep this issue on the radar of our church.

Finally, we are partnering with Church World service, who is developing a multi-pronged response.

  • CWS is currently deploying Spanish-speaking legal staff to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where a large number of children are held for processing. This will be done in partnership with Justice for our Neighbors, known as JFON and Refugee And Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, known as RAICES, the legal service agency with access to the facility.

    The deployed staff will interview children and their families; offer “know-your-rights” briefings to help individuals understand the sequence of events they must follow to apply for protection. Those deployed will spend anywhere between two to 21 days in the field, interviewing approximately eight cases a day. This is work similar to that performed by the Resettlement Support Center in Kenya managed by CWS. Disciples Spanish-speaking legal professionals who might be interested in participating will have the opportunity to apply for deployment and engage in the program
     
  • CWS is offering spiritual care in a detention facility in Artesia, N.M., formerly Artesia Christian College. This is a DHS “family detention facility,” meaning that children who are accompanied by a parent or a sibling are placed there. CWS has moved its chaplain from Port Isabel, Texas, to serve in Artesia until further notice. This work is funded by DHS.  Week of Compassion has provided a grant supporting the chaplain’s work, allowing for the purchase of supplies for the spiritual care of these families.

    Provided resources are secured, CWS will establish a similar presence in other detention centers holding children and families, matching the federally funded services with the private contributions and staff through the aforementioned deployment program. Since presence in federal facilities of this nature requires a security clearance which takes time to obtain, CWS will not be in the position to accept volunteers from member communions at this time. CWS does hope to expand the number of staff with increased access to facilities in the months to come through this public-private partnership model.
  • ORR makes an effort to release children upon processing and health screening to relatives they may have in the United States as soon as possible. ORR has a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the children while they wait for immigration proceedings.  This means that children are often sent to live with family or in temporary detention centers while they wait to for immigration proceedings.  Once in their temporary destination, children require legal help, emotional care, education and hospitality, and other types of assistance.

    CWS local and affiliate offices are equipped to deal with these needs and will make every effort to offer that assistance in all local offices and at the CWS Corporate Center in New York. Through our partnership, CWS will offer that assistance on a pro-bono basis.

     
  • Lastly, RIM and CWS have been and will continue to be on the forefront of advocacy efforts to recognize this situation as the humanitarian crisis that it is; to ensure that ORR has adequate resources to care for the children; to prevent rollbacks to life-saving protections for the children; and to see that policies and procedures are in place so that children who are in need of protection can move through the appropriate legal channels.

What Can I do?

  • Pray for those seeking refuge, for their families, for the communities they flee, and the communities who receive them.
     
  • To learn more about the dynamics in Central America that are driving this crisis, how you can become involved in advocating on behalf of these unaccompanied children, and the realities of the situation on the border, visit the Refugee and Immigration Ministries Resource Page.  These resources are great for helping your church understand the complicated dynamics and finding a way to respond.
     
  • If you or your church is in a community that has been affected by the influx of refugees, consider a ministry of hospitality, such as that being coordinated by Lilies of the Valley.  Troubling reports are emerging that, in some instances, DHS is dealing with the developing crisis by dropping off women and children after initial screening in potentially vulnerable spaces, such as parking lots and bus stops. As one recent example, there have been reports of more than 50 children and women being dropped off at shopping center parking lots in Yuma, Arizona.

    Faith communities in Yuma are working together to provide housing, gather clothing and food donations and help coordinate bus tickets so that these women and children can reach relatives elsewhere in the United States and await their court dates to determine if they can stay or will be deported.  If this is something your church is engaging in, please be in touch with your Regional Office, RIM, or Week of Compassion.  There may be opportunities for us to collaborate.

     
  • Finally, put your Compassion into Action by partnering with Week of Compassion to support the needs of these children.  Your support has already provided much needed aid, but there is much more to do. 

We have received many, many calls over the past few weeks from committed Disciples wanting to know how they might help.  In the coming weeks, Week of Compassion will be collaborating with other ministries from across the life of the church to find ways we can continue to support the needs of these vulnerable children. 

Thank you for your compassion, concern, and commitment.  If you have questions, please be in contact.  We will gladly provide information and provide resources for you and your congregation.

Grateful for you and your partnership,
Rev. Brandon Gilvin
Associate Director

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Texas, Unaccompanied Children Support
Colorado, Mission Station Assistance
Tennessee, Hunger/Food Security
Mississippi, Tornado Recovery
U.S. Border, Unaccompanied Children Crisis

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
North Korea, Food Security and Hunger Relief
New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy Recovery
Africa, Hunger/Food Security

Your Compassion in Action: Second Quarter Report

As your Disaster, Development, and Refugee Resettlement mission fund, Week of Compassion works in partnership with you and with organizations and ministries domestically and all over the world to respond to critical needs. 

We are grateful for the resources that allow us to respond to these needs, for the care that inspires your generosity, and for the ways you help us tell the stories of impact and partnership.

We thank you, and give thanks to the God who connects us all in making families, communities, and our entire world stronger, healthier, and more resilient. 

To put your compassion into action, join with us here.

--Brandon

2014 - 2nd Quarter Responses

DISASTER RELIEF AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

Africa 
Democratic Republic of Congo, Conflict and Displacement Assistance
Democratic Republic of Congo, Refugee Assistance (1)
Democratic Republic of Congo, Tornado Relief
Liberia, Public Health
Madagascar, Tropical Cyclone 
Nigeria, Displacement (2)
Republic of Congo, Refugee and IDP Relief (2)
Sierra Leone, Public Health
Tanzania, Flood Relief 

East Asia and the Pacific
China, Landslide Relief

Latin America and the Caribbean
Brazil, Flood Relief
Chile, Earthquake Support
Colombia, Flood Relief
Haiti, Earthquake Reconstruction
Haiti, Economic Development for Women/Earthquake Response
Haiti, Food Security/Earthquake Response
Haiti, Medicine and Safe Motherhood Kits/Earthquake Response
Nicaragua, Earthquake Relief (2)

Middle East and Europe
Afghanistan, Flood and Landslide Relief (2)
Armenia, Syrian Refugee Support
Israel - West Bank/Gaza, Vulnerable People
Lebanon, Syrian Refugee Assistance
Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Flood Relief
Syria, Humanitarian Intervention (3)

North America
Alabama, Flood Assistance
Alaska, Flood Relief
California, Earthquake Damage
Colorado, Flood Recovery (1)
Colorado, Tornado Relief and Recovery
Illinois, Tornado Relief
Indiana, Fire Relief
Iowa, Tornado Damage
Kansas, Shooting Victims Response
Kansas, Tornado Damage (3)
Michigan, Russia with Love Project
Minnesota, Flood Relief
Mississippi, Tornado Damage (6)
Missouri, Long-Term Tornado Recovery (2)
Missouri, Tornado Damage (8)
New York, Family Disaster Response
New York, Flood Assistance (15)
North America, U.S. Storm Relief (2)
North Carolina, Church Fire (2)
North Carolina, Tornado Damage (10)
Ohio, Tornado Relief
Oklahoma, Fire Relief
Oklahoma, Long-Term Tornado Recovery (1)
Oklahoma, Storm Damage (6) 
Tennessee, Fire Relief
Texas, Refugee Food Emergency
Texas, Fire Relief
Texas, Tornado Damage (2)
U.S./Mexican Border, Migrant Assistance
Virginia, Refugee Resettlement

Southern Asia
Sri Lanka, Flood Relief

DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION

Africa
Democratic Republic of Congo, Micro-Industry (2)
Egypt, Care of Abandoned Children
Egypt, Peace and Reconciliation Work 
Ghana, Support of Street Children
Kenya, Education and Sanitation for Children
Liberia, Ebola Education and Public Health
South Africa, Shelter for Girls
Zimbabwe, Clean Water Projects
Zimbabwe, Food Security
Zimbabwe, Water Access (2)

East Asia and the Pacific
North Korea, Food Security and Hunger Relief

Latin America and Caribbean
Haiti, Long-Term Recovery
Mexico, Indigenous Rights and Education
Peru, Sustainable Community Health

Middle East and Europe
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Women's Empowerment
Georgia, Vocational Training and Empowerment Opportunities for Youth
Serbia, Street Children Outreach
Serbia, Women's Empowerment

North America
Indiana, Home Build Sponsorship
Maryland, Children in Disaster Response
New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy Recovery (2)
New York, Domestic Anti-Poverty Work
Oklahoma, Food Security
Oklahoma, Tornado Recovery Mission Center and Mission Group Support
Tennessee, Food Security

Volunteering in Jordan, Supporting the WEF, and Unaccompanied Children

Kimberly Andrews is a Registered Nurse and a member of Westlake Christian Church in Westlake, Ohio. Kim joined the medical and humanitarian mission organized by Salaam Cultural Museum located in Seattle, Washington.  Salaam Cultural Museum is engaged in educational and humanitarian activities. The mission is to bring cultures and people together to build bridges of understanding, and to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster.  After her trip to Jordan to help with the medical needs of refugees from Syria, she shared this report.

Kim,
 Be safe
 Learn
 Have fun
 Love Dad

That was the last text I received before getting on a flight, all alone, to Amman, Jordan: the destination of my first Mission Trip.  I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how to feel.  I quickly decided to adopt my Dad's text as a list of personal goals for the next two weeks.  I also decided at that moment to say, "Yes" to every opportunity and experience that availed itself.  
 
Be safe.  Safety was never a concern for me.  I found the people in Jordan very warm and inviting.  The majority of Syrian Refugees we helped thanked us profusely for leaving our homes, families, and jobs to assist them.  One particular gentleman said to me, "You are now my family because you left your family to come and help me, a stranger.  Now we are no longer strangers."  The conversation rarely became political.  A few times I was asked to speak directly with President Obama about the situation in Syria and in the camps (still haven't managed that!) but I was always seen as a human being first and an American second.  
 
Learn.  While I was there, I immersed myself in the culture, the language, the people, and most of all their struggle.   I was invited to dinner at a refugee's home-a tent-in the Zataari Camp.  With her husband and four children, on a floor of cushions, we sat and ate pickled eggplant grown in her small garden.  A fire pit was her oven, a cement storage area was her cupboard, and it was the best dining experience I had in Jordan.  
 
Have fun.  At first that sounded like a strange suggestion.  This camp emerged from the slaughter of a civil war.  Innocent, good, respectable people have lost their loved ones, their homes, and their country. How could I possibly have fun in such a miserable situation?  But watching the refugee families inspired me.  They spoke openly and eloquently about their losses but they never stopped living.  Babies were being born, meals were being shared, gardens were being planted.  People smiled, laughed, and had fun despite the conditions they were forced into.  They still had hope.  I was told, during my time in the camp, that visiting missionaries bring some of that hope; our presence shows that they have not been forgotten. 
 
Mission accomplished.
   

Proud Mama Partnership: Equal Exchange and The Women’s Empowerment Fund

As a celebration of our relationship with Equal Exchange and the vision of the Women’s Empowerment Fund, we are proud to announce a special promotion of Equal Exchange’s Proud Mama Coffee. From now until the end of 2014, for every pound of Proud Mama Coffee purchased through the Disciples Coffee Project, Equal Exchange will donate 15 cents to the Women’s Empowerment Fund.

The Women’s Empowerment Fund was launched by Week of Compassion at the 2010 Quadrennial. Rooted in the knowledge that economic and social development around the world, including in North America, depends on how we support and empower women, this fund supports the work of Week of Compassion partners to support the educational, entrepreneurial, and other aspirations of women all over the world.

For more about the Women’s Empowerment Fund, we invite you to view this video.

 

Unaccompanied Children

For weeks, news reports have brought the story of a record number of unaccompanied children migrating from Central to North America.  The story of these children, many fleeing an uptick in violence in their communities as well as devastating poverty, has been met with much controversy.  Week of Compassion has been working with its tireless partners such as CWS and Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries to support the pastoral needs of those seeking refugee status as they migrate north. 

Sharon Stanley, Director of DHM’s Refugee and Immigration Ministries, has been a key player in keeping our congregations up to date on this complicated issue.  For more information about the root causes of this migration of unaccompanied children, please visit RIM.

To support the needs of refugees from Syria, those impacted by the Women’s Empowerment Fund, or the children seeking safety at the U.S. Border, please consider a gift to Week of Compassion.

Peace,
Rev. Brandon Gilvin
Associate Director

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Mississippi, Tornado Relief
U.S./Mexican Border, Migrant Assistance
Virginia, Refugee Resettlement
Brazil, Flood Relief
Syria, Humanitarian Intervention (3)
Lebanon, Syrian Refugee Assistance

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy Recovery (2)
Egypt, Peace and Reconciliation Work

A Week of Impact: Report from the Committee on Week of Compassion

In addition to meeting and welcoming Week of Compassion's new Executive Director Vy Nguyen, the Committee on Week of Compassion, meeting at the Benedictine Retreat Center in Indianapolis last week, also made a number of important decisions.  13 sustainable development projects in 11 countries totaling $194,460 were approved, including an ebola virus project with IMA World Health in Liberia; a women's training project in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Global Ministries Africa Office; and a street children's project in Serbia with Church World Service.  The Committee also approved a major 3-year earthquake recovery plan in Haiti to support the work of several partners including CWS, IMA World Health, AgMissions, Prosperity Catalyst and Global Ministries.  The overall plan will allow for the faithful stewardship of more than $700,000 designated gifts that remained from the generous response from Disciples after the Haiti earthquake.  

Furthermore, the Committee also approved new partnership Memorandum's of Understanding with Child Disaster Services and the Society of St. Andrew.  Both of these new partnerships will provide outstanding volunteer opportunities for Disciples members and congregations. Congregations involved in local food ministries and hunger issues will find the Society of St. Andrew to be a superb resource.  

The Committee also received with gratitude an update on the WoC endowment program including the good news that 30 congregations have now joined the Circle of Compassion with funds totaling more than $575,000 and that gifts to the WoC Endowment for the first two quarters of 2014 totaled more than $375,000 and exceeded, more than was given in all of 2013 ($338,006.19)   

It is the gracious and generous support of so many Disciples congregations, members and friends across the whole church that make the remarkable work and witness throughout the world possible.  We are grateful and you can be sure, many, many more will be also.

This will be my last update as interim director of Week of Compassion.  It has been a gift of grace to serve again.  My prayers and best wishes to the new director and the WoC Committee for this ministry of our compassion around the world, around the year. 

Gratefully,
Johnny Wray 

Responding to a Refugee Crisis at the U.S./Mexico Border

Many people have inquired about WoC's response to the growing refugee crisis along the U.S. Mexican border, especially the large number of unaccompanied minors.  Week of Compassion is in conversation with Refugee and Immigration Ministries in Disciples Home MissionsSouthwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SWGSM) and Church World Service about a long- term response.  In the meanwhile, emergencies grants totaling $16,000 have been made to SWGSM as Feliberto Pereira and his staff there deal with a significant influx of refugees there.  

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Minnesota, Flood Relief
Mississippi, Tornado Relief
North Carolina, Tornado and Fire Relief
Texas, Refugee Food Relief
Missouri, Long-Term Tornado Relief
North America, Storm Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation

Mexico, Indigenous Rights and Education
Peru, Sustainable Community Health
South Africa, Shelter for Girls
Zimbabwe, Clean Water Projects
Democratic Republic of Congo, Micro-Industry (2)
Ghana, Support of Street Children
Egypt, Care of Abandoned Children
Liberia, Ebola Education and Public Health
Serbia, Women’s Economic Empowerment and Education
Kenya, Education and Sanitation for Children
Georgia, Vocational Training and Employment Opportunity for Youth
Serbia, Street Children Outreach

Week of Compassion Calls a New Executive Director

Week of Compassion welcomes Rev. Vy Nguyen as the New Executive Director beginning September 1, 2014.

Vy Nguyen holds a Master of Divinity from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, and earned his B.A. in religious studies with a minor in environmental sciences from Texas Christian University. He joins Week of Compassion after serving for more than 5 years with Church World Service for the Southwest Regional Office where he worked with congregations and donors to increase their fundraising portfolio. Prior to his work with Church World Service, Vy worked with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps office in Berkeley, CA where he brought stability to the program and increased support for the organization among volunteers, congregations, and non-profit agencies.  LVC doubled the number of volunteers and non-profit agencies during his tenure.            

Vy brings with him a strong passion for working with diverse communities and building bridges between them.  As a former refugee who came to the United States through the efforts of Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Church World Service, he has witnessed first-hand the vital role that Week of Compassion provides throughout the world. Through his work with Church World Service and local congregations, he has sought to foster among communities a deeper understanding and awareness of both the challenges that individuals and families face in the world as they struggle for refuge, as well as the importance of building local capacities and movements towards sustainable development in international relief and long-term development work. His commitment to enhancing diverse community engagement with the mission and vital work of outreach organizations has led him to work closely with senior staff at Church World Service on researching why communities choose to become involved in and engaged with new causes and non-profit organizations. Their efforts have led to new and creative ways of engaging with communities and donors to increase fundraising as well as strengthening relationships with individuals and communities.

Vy and his wife, Linh Bui, live in Oakland, CA.

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Alaska, Flood Relief
Haiti, Earthquake Reconstruction
West Bank/Gaza, Vulnerable People
Oklahoma, Tornado Relief (4)
Indiana, Fire Relief

Kits of Compassion: Partnering in Disaster Response

When tornados and severe storms struck Alabama in late April, Celesta Bridgeforth of Athens, Alabama, flashed back to how upsetting and disorienting it had been to lose her home to a tornado in 2011.

"'Brain scramble' is what you feel," she said.  "One minute I was standing in my kitchen and the next moment the house was in sticks.  I wondered, 'What do I do now?'  I know what it's like to reach for something you always had at hand - a toothbrush, a sponge - and it's not there."

"We received a CWS Emergency Cleanup Bucket at that time.  It wasn't a million bucks but it was nice, convenient and timely and sure did help when I'd lost almost everything and didn't know what was going on. "

"So when the tornados hit this April, the first thing that popped into my mind was the cleanup buckets," she said.  "I contacted our pastor about getting some for people in our area who'd been affected."

The Rev. Gary Myers and Trinity Congregational United Church of Christ in Athens requested 20 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets.  Recipients included five siblings of church member Beverly Kirby, four of whose homes were completely demolished and the fifth made unlivable but reparable.

In all, the tornados and severe storms April 28-29, 2014 killed five people in Alabama and destroyed 96 homes.  They caused major damage to 130 homes and minor damage to 205 more, according to an early assessment.  Two dozen tornados touched down throughout central and northern Alabama.  It was the fourth largest tornado outbreak in state history.

Many homes had their roofs torn off.   Then it started to pour rain, soaking the interiors of many otherwise salvageable homes.

Thanks to shipments of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets - 250 to Christian Service Mission in Birmingham and 500 to the Jefferson County Multi-Agency Disaster Warehouse in Bessemer - tornado survivors are able to clean their houses up.   CWS also sent 1,520 CWS Hygiene Kits for Alabama tornado survivors. 

The CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets and CWS Hygiene Kits are benefiting tornado survivors in multiple locations across Jefferson and Limestone counties - including Athens, in Limestone County.   

"This is rainy season.  Subsequent to the tornados, the area has suffered bad weather," said Heather Turney of Birmingham, Alabama, acting head of Lutheran Ministries of Alabama and president of the Jefferson County VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

"There are a lot of people without tarps, or whose tarps weren't put on correctly.  After the rain, they had to clean up all that water and fight mildew and black mold," she said.  "The CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets and CWS Hygiene Kits are needed for ongoing relief and for long-term recovery."

Veronica Edwards-Johnson is the disaster coordinator for the Adventist Community Services Central Alabama Federation. She manages the Jefferson County warehouse.  Edwards-Johnson noted that tornado survivors "are very grateful" for the CWS supplies.  She said, "As people looked through the buckets, many remarked, 'Oh yeah, I need this!'"

Urgent appeal for more CWS School Kits

Church World Service Kits are a great way your congregation can make a difference in a hands-on way. Our partnership with CWS makes a significant difference in the lives of people all over the world. With the latest shipment of CWS School Kits to our partner IOCC in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, CWS is now down to about 60 cartons of School Kits at the New Windsor Warehouse and 120 cartons at the warehouse in Ferncliff.

We need to replenish these supplies immediately.

CWS School Kits give children in impoverished schools, refugee camps, or other difficult settings some of the basic tools for learning, so it is vitally important that we replenish our supplies as quickly as possible.

++ In the case of Syria, IOCC supports one of the largest established networks to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid inside Syria, where more than 9.3 million people are currently in need of assistance.

++ In November 2013, some 3,000 CWS School Kits were shipped for distribution in Syria.

++ CWS School Kits include some of the basic necessities for learning, including notebooks, pencils and crayons.

++ These kits help children return to normalcy faster, helping them avoid the long-term effects of trauma.

For more information on assembling CWS School Kits, see: 
www.cwsglobal.org/get-involved/kits/school-kits.html

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Sri Lanka, Flood Relief
Michigan, Russia with Love Project
Oklahoma, Storm Damage (2)
Nigeria, Displacement 

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Women's Empowerment
Zimbabwe, Water Access

Relief and Recovery Continues in Response to Balkan Floods and Urgent Request for CWS School Kits

More than 100,000 people remain displaced in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods that ravaged Bosnia, Serbia and other Balkan countries last month.  Altogether, the floods claimed more than 75 lives, affected more than one million people and caused damages up to several billions of dollars.  Officials in Bosnia fear the costs of the damages could exceed that of the 1992-1995 war.

Members of the ACT Alliance, including Church World Service, continue to work with local staff and partners to distribute non-perishable food, hygiene kits, clean-up materials, clothing, blankets and other essential non-food items.  The most pressing concern now is to assist people in returning to their homes, farms, businesses and communities and move effectively into the long term recovery and rehabilitation phase.  The threat of landslides, dislocated landmines, loss of jobs and homes, damages to farms, factories, and schools, and animal carcass and debris removal remain major obstacles to overcome.

In response to an initial ACT\CWS appeal, Week of Compassion made an emergency grant of $30,000 on behalf of North American Disciples and now anticipates a final appeal from the ACT Alliance next week as the long term recovery work begins.

Week of Compassion is grateful for the generous support of Disciples congregations, members and friends that enable us to respond with help and hope wherever and whenever disaster strikes.

Urgent appeal for more CWS School Kits

With the latest shipment of CWS School Kits to our partner IOCC in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, CWS is now down to about 60 cartons of School Kits at the New Windsor Warehouse and 120 cartons at the warehouse in Ferncliff.

We need to replenish these supplies immediately.

CWS School Kits give children in impoverished schools, refugee camps, or other difficult settings some of the basic tools for learning, so it is vitally important that we replenish our supplies as quickly as possible.

++ In the case of Syria, IOCC supports one of the largest established networks to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid inside Syria, where more than 9.3 million people are currently in need of assistance.

++ In November 2013, some 3,000 CWS School Kits were shipped for distribution in Syria.

++ CWS School Kits include some of the basic necessities for learning, including notebooks, pencils and crayons.

++ These kits help children return to normalcy faster, helping them avoid the long-term effects of trauma. 

Click here for more information on assembling CWS School Kits.

This Week’s Responses: 

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Tanzania, Flood Relief
Illinois, Tornado Relief
Congo-Brazzaville, Refugee Relief
Haiti, Medicine and Safe Motherhood Kits/Earthquake Response
Haiti, Economic Development for Women/Earthquake Response
Haiti, Food Security/Earthquake Response

“Things Just Fall into Place”: Disciples Supporting Food Security

By Dana Schrader, Intern, Foods Resource Bank 

Growing project members pose in  front of the blueberry bushes at Bluejay Orchard with overseas guest, Zayda Reyes, from the Mateare Carazo Program in Nicaragua.

Growing project members pose in  front of the blueberry bushes at Bluejay Orchard with overseas guest, Zayda Reyes, from the Mateare Carazo Program in Nicaragua.

Hiram Christian Church in Hiram, Ohio, launched a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) growing project last year, creating a great example of a community working creatively at the local level to impact global food security. Talk of starting a growing project (GP) began after a meeting with FRB’s Alex Morse, Hiram Christian Church Disciples of Christ (DOC) minister Roger McKinney, and community members including former Hiram College Chaplain and project volunteer Jon Moody, Bluejay Orchards owners Lowell and Mary Evans, and maple farmer Nathan Goodell from Goodell Farms.  Their brainstorming soon inspired four congregations in three churches to come together and engage volunteers from nearby Hiram College to work for food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.   

In 2013, Lowell and Mary Evans donated a row of blueberry bushes from their orchard. Jessica Bessner, Hiram College student and volunteer project coordinator, organized and led the blueberry picking. Volunteers raised $2,000 from a 600 lb. harvest ofblueberries. The group donated the profits to FRB to support an overseas program in the Dominican Republic. By 2014, project members had gathered the resources to tap maple trees on local church members Richard and Margaret Green-Masters’ land. A grant from Week of Compassion covered many of the start-up and ongoing costs for the project, including a gathering tank, pump, tubes, plastic sap collection bags, the maintenance of a 4- wheeler and trailer, and containers in which to package the syrup for sale.    

Project members also donated many of their own talents and resources to the maple syrup process. Nathan Goodell and his father took on a role of professional project advisors. They taught project participants about the maple syrup process from tapping to bottling, and they boiled the collected sap from the Green- Masters’ land along with their own. They also donated spiles (or taps), tanks and trucks for transport, fuel for the evaporator, and bottling equipment. The Greens provided gas for the 4-wheeler used in collecting sap. A volunteer rebuilt the trailer for the 4-wheeler. Hiram College students cleaned out industrial-size soy sauce buckets for sap collection. The pieces of the puzzle began coming together. Volunteer Ron Etling came forward as a key problem solver in the last part of the preparation process. He advised students on proper attire for tree tapping, made a list of things still needed for the project, and drove the 4- wheeler, all the while helping to collect sap, and tying up the project’s loose ends. 

Jessica Bessner secures a plastic bag to a tree tap for sap collection.

Jessica Bessner secures a plastic bag to a tree tap for sap collection.

The process of maple syrup production in northeastern North America begins in winter. Maple trees absorb water from the soil upward into the tree. Once winter starts, the water and maple sap freeze in the trees. For about 4 weeks, generally starting in late February, the sap begins to thaw with warmer temperatures during the day and then freezes again at night, building pressure within the trees. This natural process creates an ideal condition for extracting maple sap. At this time, a hole is drilled and a spile is inserted into a maple tree so that the pressure built up will cause the sap to drip out into plastic bags, buckets, or plastic tubes.    

The Goodells use a system of plastic tubing on their farm to extract sap from maple trees. The tubing from about 4,900 taps runs downhill, and is suctioned by a vacuum pump into large tanks in the sugarhouse. On the Green-Masters’ land, Hiram GP participants attached plastic bags to about 225 taps and then used plastic buckets to collect the sap. They dumped the buckets into a gathering tank on the trailer that was connected to the 4-wheeler. Next, the contents of the gathering tank were pumped into a larger tank on a truck, and taken to the Goodells’ farm to be processed with the rest of the sap. At this point, excess water was filtered out through a reverse osmosis dehydrator, removing about half of the water, and was then transferred to the evaporator where the sap was boiled down into syrup.    

The project was a strong community effort, collecting a total of about 2,000 gallons of sap, and resulting in 52 gallons of syrup. Hiram GP members bottled the final product, and will sell 200 pints at $10/pint and 105 quarts at $17/quart. The group held a pancake supper for the 30 volunteers to enjoy some of the season’s maple syrup. An expected donation of $3,500 from the syrup sales will support an FRB program in Colombia.   

“Our growing project fits who we are as a community,” explained Jon Moody. “Leaders and volunteers showed up right when we needed them. We learned how important it is to provide for food production for those in the world who don’t have enough to eat. When a community puts their creative ideas into a collective effort, things just sort of fall into place.” 

To learn more about the partnership between Week of Compassion and Foods Resource Bank and how local congregations can launch a growing project, contact WoC Associate Director Brandon Gilvin.

Children Disaster Services Seeks Coordinator for Contract Position

Our partners at Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a program of the Church of the Brethren, are seeking a consultant to facilitate the expansion of the program in key Gulf Coast Areas.  This is a contract position reportable to the associate director of CDS. 

The regional coordinator role is key for the success of the expansion along the Gulf Coast. This part-time paid staff person will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops, and must live in a Gulf Coast state. Details for this position are available here. This position will likely average around 20 hours of time a week, though some events may require more time.

For more information about the regional coordinator position, or if you or your congregation would like to know more about Children’s Disaster Services or be trained in rapid response volunteer leadership, contact CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or  kfry-miller@brethren.org.

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Iowa, Tornado Damage
China, Landslide Relief
Colorado, Flood/Storm Damage
Missouri, Tornado Damage (8)
Philippines, Hurricane Relief
Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Flood Relief

Bosnia Herzegovina and the Balkans: Compassion in Action

Devastating floods in Bosnia Herzegovina and throughout the Balkans are the worst thing the country has faced since the horrific war two decades ago, according to Bosnian president, Bakir Izetbegovic. More than two dozen people have been killed in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, entire towns and cities have been inundated, and damage losses will run well into the billions of dollars.  And as if the deadly flooding isn't enough, rescues and civilians must now grapple with the risk of landmines being displaced and resurfacing.

Members of ACT alliance, Church World Service (CWS), International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Philanthropy, and Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) are now preparing a coordinated response through their Balkan offices and through their network of local partners to provide support to soup kitchens and the distribution of food packages, hygiene kits and cleaning supplies.  In anticipation of a CWS\ACT appeal, WoC is now preparing an emergency grant to help with the initial stages of relief and recovery on behalf of North American Disciples.

Many Disciples know Dzevad Avdagic, a former CWS staffer who oversaw many of CWS' relief and recovery projects after the war. In a recent email, Dzevad shared some thoughts about the floods:

"The flood made really catastrophe. Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia are in very, very bad situation. Many people lost lives and nobody knows at moment how many are dead. Big problem in Bosnia beside flood is land slam (landslide) and many homes are totally destroyed. I don't know what else to say, but I'm sure you understand it knowing that in USA tornadoes make also big catastrophe.  Old people here say, nobody don't remember that this kind of flood ever happen before.

Something that make me happy and optimist, is that people from whole region help each other. Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Slovenian and many others really do amazing job - send experts, helicopters, volunteers also collecting food, clothes, medicine and everything what people need.  At the moment most important is tools for cleaning and hygiene materials.  When floods stop I'm sure we will need billions of $ to rebuild everything, agriculture, homes, factories and many other things that is destroyed. We hope international organizations to help.  I am glad that CWS and IOCC respond. USA already respond and many European governments too.

This story I must share with you.  It is connected with Halal money. (Many of you have heard the story of Week of Compassion money being called 'blessed money' or Halal by Dzevad.)   As I told you before Maglaj, Zavidovici and other cities are totally under water and pass through terrible days.  But, but, but, listen this, my brother, our greenhouses in Zavidovici (built by WoC funds) was untouched, and you remember how close and how big river was there.  When I receive this information tears come to my eyes.  Can you believe it, and you know how proud we were with this project and this was my last project during my work with CWS.  I'm sure this greenhouses will take very important role in producing vegetables and food for vulnerable people when this catastrophe ends."


Week of Compassion is grateful for the support we receive from so many Disciples members, friends and congregations that enable us to respond to needs in Bosnia, the Balkans and beyond. Gratefully, 

Johnny Wray,

Interim Executive Director

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Afghanistan, Mudslide and Flood Relief
Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo, Refugee and IDP relief
Ohio, Tornado Relief
Colorado, Tornado Relief and Recovery

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation  
Haiti, Long-Term Recovery

"Our Girls" and Our Churches: Putting Compassion into Action

Partnering to #Bringbackourgirls

As has been widely reported, more than four weeks ago, over 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram, a radical sect in northern Nigeria violently seeking to establish a 'pure' fundamentalist Islamic state.

Many of the 200 girls were members of the Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN), an independent Nigerian denomination with roots in the Church of the Brethren, a longtime ecumenical partner of Week of Compassion and fellow member of Church World Service.

As part of our commitment to respond to human need all over the world and to work ecumenically, Week of Compassion has responded through the EYN Compassion Fund.

The EYN Compassion Fund supports Nigerian Brethren who have lost a family member, home or property due to the on-going violence in Nigeria. The fund was started by Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria as a mechanism for Nigerian Brethren to demonstrate mutuality and support.  This fund is being used to support the families of the kidnapped girls.

Our ecumenical commitment makes a real difference all over the world. Your generosity-no matter the season-makes an impact in even the most dire of situations.

Compassion in the Midst of Tornado Damage 

We also received a note this week which reflects the ways your generosity has supported your neighbors in Baxter Springs, Kansas:

Dear Week of Compassion,

It is with a humble heart that I write this letter.  Words cannot express the gratitude our church, First Christian (Disciples of Christ), Baxter Springs, Kansas, feel toward you for your generous monetary gift.  Week of Compassion is a wonderful organization and the gift was greatly needed and appreciated.

I also appreciate the timely manner in which the gift is given. We have divided the funds between the families in our church who lost everything. We are one family in Christ and your organization embodied that this past week.  Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.

God Bless,
Bobby Jo Wade, Associate Pastor
 

Whether following a natural disaster that tears through a community, a human-caused disaster that garners international attention, or something that never even makes the news, we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with you and put our collective Compassion into Action. To join with us, follow this link 

The Circle of Compassion

Week of Compassion is delighted and grateful to welcome Faith Christian Church,
Memphis, Tennessee as a Circle of Compassion congregation!   More information about the Circle is available on our website.

This Week's Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Oklahoma, Long-Term Tornado Recovery
Afghanistan, Flood and Landslide Relief
Texas, Fire Relief
Nicaragua, Earthquake Relief
Colombia, Flood Relief
Nigeria, Displacement
Liberia, Public Health
Sierra Leone, Public Health 

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation  
Oklahoma, Food Security
New York, Domestic Anti-Poverty Work
Tennessee, Food Security

Week of Compassion Responds to Natural Disasters and Supports the Needs of Children

Week of Compassion continues to respond to emergency needs across the Midwest and South in the aftermath of the recent tornadoes and flooding from a huge severe weather system that swept across the region.  In addition to congregations in Baxter Springs, Kansas; Tupelo, Mississippi; Foley, Alabama and Washington, North Carolina, WoC has also provided a grant of $10,000 to an initial spring storm appeal issued last week by Church World Service.  Early this week, WoC sent an emergency grant to Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth (SCSCY), a Disciples related agency working with at risk children and youth in Mississippi.  The facilities and furnishings of SCSCY's adoption and foster care program in Tupelo were completely destroyed by the tornado. 

In response to monsoon triggered floods and landslides that have affected ten Afghanistan provinces, killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless, Church World Service has issued an initial appeal to its member communions for $494,000 to provide immediate emergency relief.  CWS Pakistan\Afghanistan is responding to the needs of some of the most vulnerable survivors, especially orphans, persons with disabilities, widows and female-headed households by providing food packages, tents, bedding, other non-food items and two mobile health units.   WoC has provided an immediate grant of $10,000 and the WoC Committee will be considering an additional grant of $20,000. 

Week of Compassion staff and Committee gives thanks for the great generosity of Disciples across the whole church that enables us to put our compassion into action around the world, around the year.

Launching a New Partnership with Children's Disaster Services

Week of Compassion is pleased to announce a new partnership with Disciples Home Mission (DHM), the National Benevolent Association (NBA) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and with the Church of the Brethren Children's Disaster Services (CDS). This initiative will create a new position and network to meet the needs of children affected by disaster in the U.S.

A new memorandum of understanding outlines this partnership providing the framework for a three-year focus on expanding Children's Disaster Services in the Gulf Coast region. This new position will support the development and training of a larger network of volunteers in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. By engaging the strength and networks of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations and their significant children's ministries we envision great potential to better meet the needs of children in this disaster prone area.

"For years Disciples members have been volunteering with CDS, providing care to the smallest of disaster survivors. Together we can expand this ministry in critical disaster prone areas to better meet the needs of children and families impacted by disasters," comments Roy Winter, Associate Executive Director of the Church of the Brethren. Winters adds, "At this critical time in the history of CDS, this partnership helps grow the program beyond the capacity of one denomination. Together we are growing the ministry in critical disaster prone areas to better meet the needs of children and families impacted by disasters."

This new partnership includes the training of interested church members and others in the area as caregiving volunteers and for leadership roles supporting volunteer coordination and volunteer training. A primary goal of this initiative is to train 250 potential volunteers in the next three years. After completing a certification process - including a criminal record check - these volunteers will provide direct care to children in shelters and service centers after a disaster. The volunteers will be organized into rapid response teams to be the first caregivers responding after a disaster in their area. These volunteers will also be called to serve larger disasters outside of the region.

Rev. Brandon Gilvin, Associate Director of Week of Compassion says, "As part of our ministry as the Disaster, Development, and Refugee Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Week of Compassion looks for partners in our denominational and ecumenical families to respond to critical needs in the wake of disasters. The partnership between Disciples Volunteering, DHM's Children and Family Ministries, the National Benevolent Association (NBA), and Children's Disaster Services will provide a new avenue for volunteers to show the love of Christ to children impacted by tornados, floods, and other devastating events."

The regional Gulf Coast coordinator role is key for the success of this initiative. This part-time paid position will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops. It is vital that they live in a Gulf Coast state. For more information please contact Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or kfry-miller@brethren.org

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Mississippi, Tornado Relief (3)
Oklahoma, Fire Relief
New York, Flood Assistance (15)
New York, Family Disaster Response
Alabama, Flood Assistance
Democratic Republic of Congo, Conflict and Displacement Assistance
Tennessee, Fire Relief
Democratic Republic of Congo, Tornado Relief

Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Zimbabwe, Food Security
Zimbabwe, Water Access

When One Suffers, We All Suffer

The following was written by the Rev. Arnold Nelson, Sr. Minister at First Christian Church, Duncan, Oklahoma to his congregation in response to recent losses suffered by two Disciples congregations.

First Christian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

First Christian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

Two years ago, I took off a couple of days to visit Tupelo, Mississippi. The star attraction wasn’t Elvis’ birthplace, (though I did visit) but the First Christian Church of that city. I led an elders’ workshop, and I had a great time. There are fine Disciples at that FCC and they’re much like us. They have bake sales, and make a big deal out of Christmas. They recently had an Easter egg hunt and they love having folks join them. From the looks of things, their new pastor is doing a great job and they seem to love her. On Monday, April 28, they lost their entire building to a tornado. As suddenly as that, a structure that had served them for 46 years was a teetering wall and a pile of rubble and memories.

I’ve never visited the First Christian Church of Washington, North Carolina but I’ve heard of it for years. A predecessor of mine at Pulaski Heights Christian Church left Little Rock to serve that historic congregation. To read their web site you’d think they’re us. Their mission statement sure sounds like us. They make sure visitors know meeting at the Lord’s Table is at the heart of their worship. They go on mission trips but they also serve their community on the Pamlico River because that’s where God put them. On Monday, April 28, a sanctuary they had worshipped in since 1891 was the beginning place of a fire that engulfed the entire structure.

Both congregations have fresh reminders of important things today. They’re reminded churches are made up of people called by God meeting in buildings and the church goes on regardless of structures made by human hands. They’re reminded the primary purpose of church is to worship God in all circumstances. This Sunday FCC, Washington will meet in a lodge hall. FCC, Tupelo has been invited to worship in a Methodist building. On Wednesday, West Point, Mississippi native and Week of Compassion Interim Executive Director, Johnny Wray, took a Week of Compassion check to the saints at Tupelo so they’re reminded they’re part of a greater church community called by God and meeting in buildings made by human hands. As to the FCC of Washington, the check is in the mail. With both checks go our love and prayers.

Glad to be your pastor,
Arnold

NEWS FROM FOODS RESOURCE BANK

Week of Compassion's Partners at Foods Resource Bank (FRB) invite you to join as representatives from several of FRB's partner organizations share their insights on how and why their organizations work to create an international network and learning community. Alden Braul, learning coordinator from the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB), will share how CFGB has created a learning network among their 15 member agencies and field partners across the globe. Alden will also speak to CFGB's recent deeper look at what helps make an agriculture program sustainable. 

Tim Albright and Rick Burnette, agriculture network staff at ECHO will speak about the work of the ECHO Regional Impact Centres located in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and how the work of these centers benefits all those working in small-holder agriculture development. We invite anyone interested in ending hunger through agriculture to join this webinar! Please pass this invitation on to others. Together, let's grow the network of lasting solutions to hunger. 

Space is limited. Reserve your webinar seat now!

Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance

Nicaragua, Earthquake Relief
North Carolina, Tornado Damage (1)
North America, U.S. Storm Relief
Mississippi, Tornado Damage 

Putting Compassion in Action As Tornados Strike Midwest and South

First Christian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

First Christian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi

Rescue and relief efforts continue across the Midwest and South in the aftermath of several days of severe weather that has left a wake of death, damage and destruction.  At least 29 people have been killed. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed and entire communities devastated.  Week of Compassion is contacting local pastors and regional offices to learn the full extent of the impact on our congregations but is already responding to three congregations that have been impacted. The sanctuary and fellowship hall of First Christian Church, Tupelo, Mississippi has been destroyed.  First Christian Church, Baxter Springs, Kansas had several families with damage. First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina not only had families affected by tornadoes but lost its historic sanctuary to fire.   Your prayers and your gifts to WoC are already undergirding these congregations and will certainly be needed as we continue to respond to these and to other congregations and communities that have been impacted. Designated gifts can be made to WoC and should be earmarked for "Response Fund" or "U.S. Storms."  We will also post information soon about relief supplies, volunteer efforts and other short and long-term recovery needs.  Week of Compassion is grateful for the partnership and support of Disciples across North America that enables us Disciples to put our compassion in action.  Thank you.

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
North Carolina, Tornado Damage (8)
Kansas, Tornado Damage (3)
North Carolina, Church Fire

Crisis in South Sudan

The crisis in South Sudan, much like other conflict ridden emergencies in the world, is receiving little attention from the international community and as a result there has been inadequate funding and resources to respond to the more than one million people who have been uprooted and displaced because of the violence.  According to a joint statement by ACT Alliance members who are responding in the region, "regrettably, the international community is not responding to South Sudan and the media attention to it is now almost non-existent."

On behalf of North American Disciples, Week of Compassion continues to respond as we are able, and the WoC Committee recently approved a major grant of $20,000 for the ACT Alliance appeal.  Week of Compassion is also delighted and grateful that Memorial Boulevard Christian Church in St. Louis, Missouri has designated the crisis in South Sudan to be a major focus of their annual Hunger Hike this coming Saturday, April 26, 2014.  For over three decades, this congregation has given several hundred thousand dollars to WoC causes in the world!

For more information on the current situation in South Sudan, you can read this article and these personal testimonies and pictures

Help and Hope: Order Your Copy Now!

If a disaster struck your community, what would you do to help?  Does your church have a plan for addressing the needs of its members, of its community?  If your church or community were lost in a major disaster, what resources would you use?  How would you even begin?

Drawing upon their own work and the skills of a number of pastors and disaster response practitioners, Rev. Amy Gopp and Rev. Brandon Gilvin have edited Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations, a practical guide for preparing for and responding to disasters. 

From preparedness lists and advice on forming Long-Term Recovery groups to guides on psychosocial care and preparing post-disaster worship materials, Help and Hope offers a number of tools for congregations, including the following Disaster DOs and DONT’s list.

Collected from Faith-Based Disaster Response Organizations, Volunteer Agency Liaisons from FEMA, and the amazing volunteers who make up community-based Long-Term Recovery Committees, the DOs and DON’T’s are great to keep on hand in the event of a disaster affecting your community. They make a good resource to copy and hand out, post or project in your fellowship hall, or share on social media:

DO: Check on your members, neighbors, and especially those who are elderly, disabled, or vulnerable in other ways.

DON’T: Self-deploy as a volunteer, especially during the search and rescue phase. You will only get in the way or put yourself in danger.

DO: If there are needs in your congregation and you belong to a national denomination, please contact your Regional Office, District Superintendent, or appropriate middle judicatory office, so they can coordinate ways to provide support through available disaster funds and organizations.

DO: Check with your local VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) about needs of survivors before collecting any material donations.

DON’T: Collect material donations without arranging an appropriate destination (local social service agency, etc.).

DO: Know that money is the most flexible donation you can make. Denominational and other disaster response funds often have really low overhead and are efficient, effective ways to turn your generosity into assistance.

DO: If eligible, encourage all affected folks in your congregation and community to apply to FEMA for Federal Disaster Assistance. Please be aware that this is a long process, and be sure to read all documents carefully. An initial rejection does not mean one cannot appeal; an applicant may also be eligible for low-interest loans to replace damaged property.

DON’T: Get discouraged by how long the process takes.

DO: Become familiar with FEMA's sequence of delivery

DON’T: Organize material good distributions that might compromise an affected person’s eligibility for aid. (Let the sequence of delivery be your guide.)

DO: Encourage leaders in your congregations to become involved in the formation of a long- term recovery committee and to put their skills to work.

DO: Stay hopeful. Recovery takes a long time, even among well-supported, well-organized communities.

For more practical tools to help your church plan for the unexpected, check out Help and Hope, now available for pre-order from Chalice Press.  Royalties benefit the work of Week of Compassion and Church World Service.

Compassion in Action--From the Congo to Columbia, Missouri

Rev. Sandra Gourdet, Africa Area Executive with Global Ministries, gives us this update from her most recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo:

WOMEN’S TRAINING AND CONFERENCE CENTER, EGLISE DU CHRIST AU CONGO (ECC) - CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THE CONGO

It is not just a building.  Nor is it simply brick and mortar.  The Training and Conference Center of the Church of Christ in the Congo, whose construction is almost complete, is known in the city of Kinshasa because of the work done by the Department of Women, Family and Children. The Center has been in existence for more than five years.  The initiative started when the number of sexually violated women in east Congo began to increase as rape was used more and more as a weapon of war. 

One of the immediate responses of the Department of Women, Family and Children was to develop a training program that would allow those women most affected -- physically from the assault, rejection by husband and abandonment by family and friends -- to receive a skill that would help provide life sustaining income and mental support.  Through the generous support of Week of Compassion, some women received training in tie-dye and batik while others received advanced dressmaking skills.  Pastry and bread making skills were offered.  There were even opportunities for psycho-social support training and counseling that allowed women to return to the war zone to train others. 

Today, the Center has expanded its training program and offers micro-credit loans to women who have been affected by the war or simply women who want to improve their lives through sustainable employment.  These achievements would not have been possible without the generous support of Week of Compassion and its many supporters who are committed to this kind of accompaniment with women.  Long live Week of Compassion and the ministries that are changing lives!

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE

Week of Compassion recently partnered with the Mid-America Region to sponsor an important workshop on disaster preparedness and response. For terrific coverage, please check out this story.

This Week’s Responses:

DISASTER RELIEF AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE  
Kansas, Shooting Victims Response
Madagascar, Tropical Cyclone
Chile, Earthquake Support
 

DEVELOPMENT AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION 
Oklahoma, Tornado Recovery Mission Center and Mission Group Support
Maryland, Children in Disaster Response