UMCOR and UMVIM Strengthen Connections
By Susan J. Meister*
October 30, 2008—Twenty-seven representatives from UMCOR and UMVIM traveled to Colorado Springs to continue the work begun at the "Making the Connection"summit, held at Mt. Sequoyah, Arkansas.
Considered a "landmark event" by the Rev. Clinton Rabb, GBGM Mission Volunteers executive, the Arkansas event resulted in a written covenant between United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and the United Methodist Committee on Relief for collaboration and coordination in disaster situations. This year's event, dubbed "Jurisdictional Disaster Response Volunteers in Mission Teams Training," got down to specific roles and responsibilities for "J- teams."
"J-teams" are intended to provide leadership and support when there is a large influx of volunteers in response to a disaster. A "Protocol for UMCOR/UMVIM Collaboration in US Disaster Response, " developed in February 2007, laid out how each agency would work together in the event of a disaster to properly use volunteer resources.
"Over the past 10 years, UMCOR and UMVIM have walked together in a variety of ways," explained Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR domestic disaster response executive. "UMCOR helps the annual conference establish its response mechanism and serves as advisor to the annual conference. The protocol helps address the management of volunteer resources from the early stages of the response through rebuild and recovery.
"This is especially important in large disasters, when the management of large numbers of volunteers can seem overwhelming to an individual conference," he continued.
Training Focuses on Volunteer Management
The three-day training was led by Rabb; Hazelwood; Barbara Stone, Mission Volunteers consultant; and Barbara Tripp, UMCOR disaster consultant. The event was filled with worship, team-building exercises, and practical workshops on managing volunteers.
"A J-Team member will not only help with the 'nitty-gritty' of helping establish hospitality for volunteers in the affected areas," explained Tripp, "he or she will also improve the visibility of the larger church. Members will also be attuned to volunteer issues that arise in response to a particular disaster, and help conferences make wise decisions at every stage - from Early Response Teams to long term recovery."
The group identified key training requirements for all J-Team members: UMCOR basic overview of disaster functions, Early Response Teams, On-Site Volunteer Management, and Safe Sanctuary, and UMVIM Team Leadership. All members would also have background checks.
At the conclusion of the training, Rabb and Hazelwood summarized the role of the J-Team. "UMCOR would request a J-Team to come to the affected conference to be a 'volunteer situation observer,'" Hazelwood explained. "The goal is to give responsibility to the local conference - to listen, assess, and help them find their way."
Rabb continued, "A typical response might include the following: Traveling with the Bishop and conference leadership to visit the families and churches that have been affected; providing in-depth consultation with VIM; and on-going assistance as needed."
How to Get Involved
"We urge all our conference partners to stay current on training and preparation," said Hazelwood. "With advance preparation, the church can reach out effectively in Jesus' name to their local communities in the event of a disaster. We remind our members that it's not 'if' a disaster will occur, but 'when.'"
If you would like more information about the roles of UMCOR and UMVIM within your conference, contact your conference disaster response and volunteer in mission coordinators. Additional information is available from the national domestic disaster response office and jurisdictional UMVIM representatives.
*Meister is UMCOR’s Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent.