"Beyond the CNN Effect"

Week of Compassion - Around the World, Around the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Mortality.  Dust.  Generosity.  Life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Brandon Gilvin, Associate Director

Haiti: One Week Later

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

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

Partner Efforts: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,
Brandon Gilvin

 

Your Gifts Already at Work in Haiti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Amy Gopp

Haiti Search and Rescue Efforts Underway

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WoC Haiti Response

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

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

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

Some other things to note:

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

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

Peace,
Brandon

3 Million People Affected in Haiti

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island nation of Haiti yesterday afternoon. By all approximations, as many as 3 million people have been impacted by this devastating quake. Week of Compassion is responding. Through Global Ministries, we will be responding to our partner organizations in Port-au-Prince, CONASPEH and the House of Hope. At this time, communication is still very difficult, but we are receiving reports via text messages and social networking sites. There has not been any contact made, yet, with Patrick Villier of CONASPEH. We are holding him, his family and all the churches who are a part of CONASPEH in our hearts and prayers. 

We have also been in touch with our ecumenical partners through Church World Service, many of whom are also our Global Ministries partners. This morning, via Skype, I was able to touch base with Martin Coria, Regional Coordinator for CWS Latin America and Caribbean. Martin shared with me that the staff of SKDE, another of our partner organizations there, is fine. Some were slightly injured but otherwise everyone is in relatively good physical condition. Church World Service is coordinating a conference call this afternoon for all its member communions so we can best coordinate our relief efforts.  An initial appeal has already been issued. 

ACT International has already had its first conference call this morning, and will be issuing an appeal today or tomorrow. As you know, ACT is the largest alliance of Christian humanitarian agencies in the world. 

WoC is responding through all of these channels to provide the most immediate, efficient and effective response to this horrible disaster as humanly possible. 

To donate to Haiti Earthquake Relief, please click here. Thank you to so many of you who have already responded. We are so blessed to be able to come together as a community of faith to respond to the overwhelming needs of our sisters and brothers in Haiti. They are in our hearts and prayers. This is an absolutely desperate situation.