Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
After Trauma: Children's Disaster Services & the local church
Any tragic event - war, famine, natural disaster, community violence - seems to tear at us a little bit more when it affects a child. Our church nursery and Bible school walls are adorned with drawings and scripted verses: Let the little children come to me … for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14) We are tender-hearted for society’s youngest members.
Since 1980 Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a program of Brethren Disaster Ministries, has been meeting the needs of children by setting up child care spaces in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, volunteers provide a calm, safe and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural or human-caused disasters.
Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands--
O prosper the work of our hands! ~Psalm 90:16-17
In South Sudan, a major protracted humanitarian crisis is unfolding, with nearly 70% of the population in need of urgent assistance. Tens of thousands of people are living in famine-like conditions and malnutrition is at critical levels, while more than 7 million are food insecure.
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.
“I’ve lived through three wars in Gaza and I’ve seen nothing like this. The destruction is everywhere. I can’t describe the horror and fear we feel… The innocent in Gaza and Israel are dying. Men, women and children who have done nothing wrong. We ask God to inspire the war decision makers of Hamas and Israel to stop this new tragedy as there will be no winner in this war.” These are the words of Suhaila Tarazi, Director of Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City.
The hospital is a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) partner through Global Ministries and a front-line responder in the ongoing violence in the region.
Through our partners, Week of Compassion is responding to the urgent situation in India, as well as in other parts of the world where COVID-19 rates are escalating. In many countries, new strains of the virus are causing widespread economic hardship, compounding illness and loss of life.
Joseph Sahayam, from our partner CASA in India, reflects, “It’s time to unite and focus on immediate needs. The situation in India could be a warning for the rest of the world, but also lead the way to more global solidarity.”
In India, COVID-19 infection rates are rising exponentially and the health system is collapsing under the burden. Hospitals in urban centers are overcrowded and often turn people away. Supplies, including oxygen, are running low, and various strains of the virus more frequently require that patients be treated with oxygen. Families that already struggled to meet basic needs have become even more vulnerable to hunger and other challenges. Grief, anxiety, and depression are common across the population. With partial lockdown in place in many states and full lockdown in others, migrant guest workers are returning to their native villages. In addition to the economic impact of the loss of work, the influx into the villages may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in rural areas. Week of Compassion is responding, supporting our partners as they work to meet the urgent needs of this new wave and prevent the further spread of disease; while also looking ahead to long-term needs and planning for the future.
Eleven years ago, an unhoused person died of exposure on the streets of Hood River, Oregon. Local clergy got together and vowed that they were not going to let it happen again.
Together with other community partners, they created the Hood River Warming Center, which offered nightly refuge to neighbors during the cold winter months. In addition to a warm place to sleep, guests receive a hot meal--provided by a network of local restaurant partners-- and a place of refuge. They find a community and sense of sanctuary that provides warmth in more ways than one.
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