UMCOR Joins on-the-Ground Relief for Haiti
A UMNS Story
by Linda Bloom
The United Methodist Committee on Relief and a host of other faith-based groups are on the ground in Haiti as they determine how to assist earthquake survivors.
With more than $2 million in donations received by Jan. 20, UMCOR already has provided emergency grants to the Methodist Church of Haiti and GlobalMedic, a Canadian relief agency, to address immediate needs.
An assessment team led by UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield was gathering in the Dominican Republic Jan. 20 and preparing to enter Haiti. She is accompanied by five others with the relief agency, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Communications.
Other United Methodist-supported organizations, including Church World Service, Action By Churches Together International and Stop Hunger Now, also are responding with aid.
Paul Jeffrey, a United Methodist photojournalist and missionary on assignment with ACT, watched a Mexican rescue team free Anna Zizi from the home of the parish priest at Port-au-Prince's Roman Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.
“The rescuers were crying afterwards,” reported Jeffrey. It was a welcome opportunity to feel joy amid such devastation, he said.
ACT has deployed a “rapid support team” to Haiti, which will work with members with offices already in Haiti. UMCOR is a pending member of the new ACT Alliance.
Despite rescue efforts, few survivors were being pulled alive from the rubble a week after the earthquake struck.
The Reuters news organization reported that 75,000 bodies were buried in mass graves and that Haitian officials say the toll could be between 100,000 and 200,000. An organization called Partners In Health said 20,000 people are dying daily “who could be saved by surgery,” according to a Jan. 20 story in The Wall Street Journal.
UMCOR’s partnership with GlobalMedic will focus on the distribution of clean drinking water, says the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an UMCOR executive. It also will provide medical attention to earthquake survivors.
GlobalMedic is deploying paramedics, water technicians and a doctor to assist the sick or injured, UMCOR reported. A water distribution hub will provide 65,000 people daily with clean drinking water.
Working through local nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations network in Haiti, GlobalMedic also will distribute 110,000 sachets of PUR water purifiers, 5 million Aquatab water purification tablets and 110,000 oral rehydration sachets.
The supplies are being shipped into the Dominican Republic, and then transported by ground into Haiti, Hazelwood said.
One of the tasks for the UMCOR team in Haiti this week will be meeting with Gesner Paul, who leads the Methodist Church of Haiti, to assess how best to work with church members there.
Mission volunteers from The United Methodist Church have been a strong presence in Haiti for years, so another priority is organizing for future volunteer teams.
“We know the (immediate) need is for medical volunteers,” Hazelwood said. “We’re looking at trying to centralize the volunteer process.”
Bishop Joel Martinez, interim general secretary of the Board of Global Ministries, is advising volunteer teams not to set out for Haiti immediately. “The time for volunteers will come, and their assistance will be crucial,” Martinez said.
Church World Service has sent in Don Tatlock, its Latin America and Caribbean program manager, to coordinate its efforts in Haiti.
Recovery has been slow, Tatlock reported. "People are still sleeping outside in makeshift tents on street sides, parks or any open area," he said. "In some neighborhoods, you see signs written on sheets asking for water and food."
Church World Service relief kits and blankets are being distributed in Port-au-Prince, and the agency’s partners in Action by Churches Together are bringing in water and sanitation equipment.
Tatlock said a European psychosocial team supported by Church World Service also was arriving in Haiti to work with disaster survivors and first responders. "The situation is so horrifying that there is concern of post-traumatic stress syndrome for members of search and rescue teams," he said in a report on the agency’s Web site.
Food Aid Flown In
A planeload of 80,000 pounds of water, medicine and medical supplies organized by Stop Hunger Now is being distributed in Haiti, says the Rev. Ray Buchanan, the United Methodist pastor who is the food aid group’s founder and president.
He also has talked to Mission of Hope, the partner group in Port-au-Prince that received most of those supplies, about a previous supply of pre-packaged meals. “They told us that since the earthquake, they’ve been feeding 50,000 a day using the meals we sent in December,” Buchanan added.
Stop Hunger Now still has five containers of bottled water and three containers of more than a half-million meals ready to go to Haiti. “We’re currently doing our very best trying to find military transport,” he said. “We’re working with the Army, Air Force and the Navy.”
Meal donations have come from a variety of sources, including a Jan. 18 packaging event in Lynchburg, Va., organized by the Rev. Larry Davies, the United Methodist district superintendent there. The effort, which resulted in 210,000 meals, “really touches the heart of what Stop Hunger Now is trying to do,” Buchanan noted.
Volunteers also are needed in the United States to help assemble health kits and other relief supplies for Haiti at UMCOR’s two supply depots – Sager Brown in Baldwin, La., and UMCOR West in Salt Lake City – as well as other church-owned regional warehouses.
Those interested in volunteering at UMCOR West can contact Director Brian Diggs at (801) 973-7250, or e-mail WestDepot@umcor.org. To volunteer at Sager Brown, call (800) 814-8765.
UMCOR is encouraging church members to collect health kits for distribution in Haiti.
Gifts to support UMCOR's Haiti Relief efforts can be made to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325. Checks can be made to <strong>UMCOR with "Advance #418325 Haiti Emergency"</strong> in the memo line. Checks can be put in the church's offering plate or mailed to: UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. The entire amount of each gift will be used to help the people of Haiti.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.