Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
In our weekly updates, we share stories of our presence and impact around the world: from disaster response, to refugee and immigration ministry, to ongoing sustainable development projects in impoverished areas. Catch up on updates you missed, or find stories you want to read and share again! Or, subscribe to receive weekly email updates.
Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana on Sunday as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history. The initial impact caused widespread damage and left many communities --including the whole city of New Orleans--without power and many without water and sewer. As of Tuesday morning, more than a million people remained without power. It's unclear when power will be restored to most residents, but officials believe it may be more than a month for some. At least two fatalities have been connected to the storm so far--though Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said he expects that number to rise. The state received a major disaster declaration, which will allow federal funding for affected residents, businesses, and communities. Emergency and first responder teams, including the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard, continue operations. Search and rescue teams from more than 15 states are conducting operations in hard-hit areas, according to FEMA.*
Week of Compassion is in touch with partners and church leaders in Louisiana and Mississippi. While we do not yet know the full impact of Hurricane Ida, we do know that damage is widespread. Reports of inland flooding are starting to come in, and we expect more as Ida continues its inland path. Disciples are among the thousands who sustained damage to their homes. At least one Disciples church building was damaged by the storm, though the full extent is not yet known.
How to help:
-Donate to support refugee relief
-Advocate for a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program
-Get involved with resettlement in your local community
-Pray for those who are fleeing violence and seeking refuge
In recent days many of us have witnessed the dire situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban entered Kabul, seizing control as the Afghan government collapsed. As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghan allies and refugees are seeking to flee the country as the Taliban take over.
As this humanitarian crisis unfolds, Disciples are asking how to help. Week of Compassion is working with partners in the region to provide needed relief and help meet urgent needs. Those needs are still emerging, and the situation is very delicate. But know that gifts to Week of Compassion will go to the partners best situated to respond.
On Saturday morning, August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the south of Haiti. The earthquake was also felt in other Caribbean islands. This earthquake was stronger than the 2010 quake that devastated the nation's capital of Port-au-Prince, and news outlets are reporting nearly 1300 lives lost so far.
Although it is too early to know the full impact of the destruction, casualties, and loss of livelihoods, initial reports from Week of Compassion partners indicate that the impact has been devastating and that hospitals are overwhelmed. Thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed. Communication channels have been affected, as well as infrastructure including roads, which will affect immediate response and create challenges in getting help to those in need.
In Serbia, only 3.9% of children from Roma settlements are included in preschool programs; primary school attendance is compulsory, but not free. Additional costs often prevent poor families from sending their children to school, putting children at greater risk for street involvement and other high risk situations. Barriers to education are especially challenging for Roma children living in informal settlements. The Protection Through Education program (a CWS program supported by Week of Compassion) supports Roma children like Ana*, promoting access to and retention in school.
During 2020, the program was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with school closures and movement restrictions putting all activities on hold. In spite of significant challenges, our partners successfully provided psychosocial and education support for children; advocated for the rights of families; and worked to empower parents by helping them gain access to public services. Families also received packages containing hygiene supplies, food, and clothing.
Many have said that Week of Compassion is there after the cameras leave, and that is true. Committed to long-term recovery, Week of Compassion walks alongside communities through every stage of disaster recovery. Weeks, months, even years after a major disaster has faded from the headlines, we are still working with our partners to rebuild communities. But sometimes, through your support and the presence of local congregations, we are there before the cameras arrive-- or even when there are no cameras at all. Here are a few events from last month that you may not have heard about on the news, but where our Disciples presence has been felt and is making a difference.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (Aug. 2017), West Street Recovery emerged as a community based disaster recovery organization. Over the past four years, it has grown into an adaptable, rapid response organization, helping communities deal not only with the impacts of Harvey, but also Tropical Storm Imelda, COVID-19, and the February 2021 Winter Storm. Each disaster has amplified race- and class-based injustice; widened the financial gap between BIPOC and white households; and negatively impacted the health of economically and racially marginalized communities. In response, WSR has developed a community organizing program that seeks to empower communities by helping them prepare for future disasters and by building networks of mutual care in Northeast Houston. This combination of service provision and organizing allows WSR to meet immediate needs while addressing persistent, underlying issues of poverty, low-quality housing, and environmental risk factors.
In Ethiopia, a long-standing political disagreement between the federal government and the northern state of Tigray’s regional government led to an outbreak of hostilities in November of 2020. Related military action resulted in general insecurity, internal and external displacements, and disruption of livelihoods. An estimated 5.2 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance; and as of January, approximately 495,000 people had been internally displaced in the region.