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.
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.
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.
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 September of 2017, Hurricane Irma had devastating impacts across much of the state of Florida. Week of Compassion responded immediately through local congregations, helping meet critical needs in the aftermath of the storm. But even in those early days, it was clear that recovery was going to be a years-long journey for communities in the area.
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.
Several weeks ago, on the morning of February 7, a glacier burst in the Raini village of the Himalayas, causing a flash flood in Rishiganga River. The resulting landslide killed at least 36 people, and nearly 200 more remain missing. Most of those killed or missing are believed to be workers at the hydropower projects, where the landslide originated. Villagers that were close to the river when the disaster occurred were also swept away.
Week of Compassion is responding, supporting our partners on the ground who are working tirelessly to get critical supplies to those in need, despite many significant challenges.