Church Plans $10.4 Million Project for Haiti
A UMNS Story
by Linda Bloom*
April 15, 2010—As America’s first lady appealed to the world not to forget Haiti, the United Methodist Committee on Relief backed a three-year, $10.4 million earthquake relief and recovery program for the ravaged nation.
The relief agency’s directors approved funding for the “Helping Haiti Rebuild” Project on April 13, the same day as Michelle Obama’s surprise visit there. The finance committee of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent agency, approved the project funding the next day.
The board’s mission volunteers office also has prepared a response plan. So far, more than 3,000 individuals have registered to volunteer for future work team assignments to Haiti.
The denomination has collected $17.8 million for Haiti relief work. Helping Haiti Rebuild is designed to assist at least 30,000 people. The initial work will begin in Port-au-Prince, Tabarre and Croix-des-Bouquets, where locations of need have been identified by local authorities, the Methodist Church in Haiti and the international aid community.
Work will focus on providing housing, rebuilding schools and increasing access to community-based services, including psychological care, water and nutrition, and improving livelihoods.
The project will be implemented in two phases. The emergency phase, through April of 2011, will address immediate and short-term needs, while the transition phase, from March 2011 to February 2013, will focus on the rebuilding of families and communities.
‘Stories of Real People’
The massive Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure and resulted in the deaths of some 220,000 people, including two executives with the Board of Global Ministries.
Behind the images of death, destruction and tragedy “are stories of real people,” Judith Pierre-Okerson from Miramar, Fla., reminded her fellow board members, “stories of families, stories of women and children who continue to need our attention.”
West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, board president, Jorge Domingues and Melissa Hinnen, board staff, visited the island during Holy Week.
Although “there was no escaping Good Friday,” amid the destruction, Ough said, he also found “many signs of resurrection.” One sign was the spirit and energy of the Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church in Haiti.
In a video greeting to directors, Paul thanked United Methodists “for all that you have done for us in Haiti” and defined his church’s mission: “to be with those who are hopeless, those who are voiceless.”
Haitian Methodists are determined to make their country a better place to live. “We are not losing hope because God is with us,” Paul declared.
The Methodist Church in Haiti has invited other Methodist bodies to an April roundtable meeting in the Dominican Republic on coordinating earthquake recovery efforts. Invitees include The United Methodist Church, Methodist Church in the Caribbean, Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America, United Church of Canada and Methodist Church in Britain.
Donations Big and Small
Donations for UMCOR’s work in Haiti have ranged from a 5-year-old’s weekly allowance to hundreds of thousands raised by the denomination’s annual (regional) conferences in the United States. Other contributions have come from across the world, including Brazil, Argentina, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Zimbabwe, Côte d’Ivoire and Hong Kong.
Pierre-Okerson, who received the donation from Cuba on behalf of the board, pointed out that even though a pastor in Cuba earns less than $15 a month, the church there managed to raise $5,190 for Haiti relief. “I think the Methodist Church of Cuba is an example for us all,” she said.
Since the earthquake, the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries has made small grants to grassroots organizations working with women, children and youth in Haiti. During their April 9-12 meeting, Women’s Division directors redesignated $300,000 from Call to Prayer and Self-Denial funds to rehabilitate and rebuild hospitals, schools and orphanages in Haiti.
An emergency grant of $15,000 to the Methodist Women of Haiti also will be used “for immediate needs of food, tents for women, and vulnerable people” in communities located in remote areas, especially Olivier, Yvon, Carrenage, Fonduoux and Bois Gency.
Based on its experience with the Haiti earthquake, the Women’s Division adopted a policy to ensure that women are active participants in relief and reconstruction ministries.
The policy’s principles for emergency response include applying “measurable standards of gender equality,” using a human rights-based approach to assistance and partnering with women’s organizations “to ensure that equitable, transparent, and socially just standards are adhered to in all phases of recovery.”
Gifts to support UMCOR's relief efforts in Haiti can be made online by visiting www.umcorhaiti.org. For gifts by mail, make checks payable to UMCOR and mail to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Indicate Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325, on the memo line of the check.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.