UMCOR is Still a Beacon of Hope for Tsunami Survivors
NEW YORK, Dec. 21, 2007—Three years ago the waves of the Indian Ocean turned an incalculable number of lives inside-out. The tsunami swallowed miles of coastline, washed away homes and businesses, filled wells with silt and saltwater, and stole more than a quarter million lives in 11 countries. Thousands of people are now well on their way to recovery thanks to the generosity of United Methodists and others who gave as a show of concern and support to those who suffered so greatly.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been working since that day—December 26, 2004—to help tsunami survivors recover. UMCOR provided some relief and recovery assistance in Somalia, India and Thailand. In Indonesia and Sri Lanka—the countries most affected by the tsunami—UMCOR opened offices that continue to work daily in helping survivors recover what can be recovered and to find a “new normal.” UMCOR emphasizes a shared approach that encourages participants to take ownership of their recovery and to act as project partners. This empowers survivors as they work to restore their lives.
In Aceh Province, Indonesia, UMCOR has helped 40,000 people directly through housing and infrastructure reconstruction, community development, income generation and livelihoods programs, and education. And there is still much to be done. UMCOR also worked with the Methodist Church of Indonesia in Banda Aceh to help them be a place of service to their community.
In addition to the work in Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra, UMCOR is expanding its work to Nias Island, which was also heavily damaged in the December 2004 devastation. The island was nearly leveled in a second earthquake in March 2005. In Nias, an area where many families are without access to safe water, UMCOR is conducting a large-scale water research project, which will result in a master water supply plan for South Nias and at least one water supply infrastructure project on the island.
UMCOR’s tsunami recovery efforts in Sri Lanka include collaboration with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka (MCSL); including helping them expand their own capacity to respond to disaster. The work is interrupted from time to time by ongoing political and military conflict in the tsunami zone, but UMCOR and its partners persist. The challenge spurred UMCOR to seek ways to overcome the causes of the violence, a determination enhanced by a partnership with Muslim Aid, an aid agency based in the United Kingdom.
UMCOR’s programs support survivors of both the tragedies of tsunami and civil strife, providing homes and food, improving agriculture production, rebuilding infrastructures, and generating jobs and business development. Rural reconstruction and development ranks high on the list of priorities. More than 100,000 people have been helped through these projects.
The Work Continues
The work of recovering whole communities following the tsunami’s devastation continues. The generous response of United Methodists and others to this disaster has allowed UMCOR to stay long after many other agencies have left. This is the ongoing witness of United Methodist’s commitment to assist in the recovery of those left most vulnerable—no matter how long it takes.