By Fred Heggestad, DSC Disaster Response Coordinator and DSC UMVIM Coordinators, Lorraine and Mike Eyer
As the humanitarian assistance agency of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Church, UMCOR is responding to the Hurricane Matthew disaster in Haiti on several levels. Since 2010 UMCOR set up a field office in Haiti. Azim Akhtar, experienced in humanitarian assistance, is UMCOR Haiti’s Head of Mission. He and the rest of the UMCOR Haiti staff are already at work responding to this current disaster through a grant from UMCOR that will provide emergency water and food rations, pots for cooking, and other emergency supplies as needed.
One of our primary partners in Haiti over the last six years has been the Methodist Church of Haiti, Eglise Methodist d’Haiti (EMH). Through UMCOR’s support, EMH has already begun to provide food to the survivors of the hurricane. In the coming weeks, UMCOR will continue to explore and develop additional humanitarian responses with EMH .
In response to this disaster, UMCOR is also working with previous partners in Haiti and other locations around the world. One of those partners is GlobalMedic, a renowned provider of water purification equipment and training. In the coming weeks, we will explore response options with this category of partners.
One of our important attributes of mission in the United Methodist Church is our eager willingness to volunteer. Local volunteerism is key to connecting the church and the community. The Volunteers in Mission program (UMVIM) provides opportunities for volunteers to assist with long-term development, building projects, medical missions, and other activities. Over 16,000 Early Response Team (ERT) volunteers have been trained and badged by UMCOR to respond to disasters in the United States. In Haiti, volunteer teams from throughout the U.S. have helped build the infrastructure of the church there for decades.
Because of the strong commitment partner churches and annual conferences have with specific churches, communities, and districts in Haiti, when they watched reports of damage and loss in the communities to which they have given so much time, energy, and resources, their hearts broke. Many of these partners have selflessly declared their willingness to go now to Haiti to assess damage and discover how they can help.
While this level of dedication is admirable, UMCOR is strongly advising that such groups wait until Haiti has fully transitioned from the relief phase to the recovery phase.
After the survivors’ basic human needs have been met, and people begin to resume their lives, requests for volunteer teams will be fitting. In the meantime, visits by teams, even individuals or small groups, would run the risk of doing more harm than good. Well-intentioned volunteers generally and unknowingly take energy and resources from host organizations which they would otherwise use to manage or support humanitarian assistance activities. From a support and logistics standpoint, volunteering in the U.S. is very different from volunteering in other countries. Finally, one of the side benefits of many disaster response activities is that local people are hired and materials, as much as possible, are procured locally. For the reasons stated above, and because we have full confidence in our staff on the ground, visiting Haiti at this time is inappropriate.
When recovery projects for volunteers become appropriate and available, UMVIM teams will be informed through the jurisdictional VIM Coordinators, under the guidance of Una Jones, Global Ministries’ Director of Mission Volunteers.
Until then, UMCOR will honor the interest of these groups in the development of Haiti by providing them with occasional conference call briefings and regular briefing sheets. Jim Gulley, a longstanding advocate for Haiti and a member of the UMCOR staff, will be sharing this information with partners as needed. Terry Mukuka (firstname.lastname@example.org), Program Manager of International Programs will compile this information. Jim is based in the U.S. and serves as UMCOR’s primary liaison to EMH. Lauren James (email@example.com), headquartered in Haiti, will assist the EMH team by guiding them in the implementation of various humanitarian assistance activities.
Program Associate, Tsiry Rakoto (firstname.lastname@example.org) will respond to general program inquiries and ideas from experienced UMCORE partners.
International Disaster Response Program Manager, Laurie Felderwill, fine-tune grant proposals and work to coach partners as needed to help improve their projects and teach best practices of humanitarian assistance.
Those wishing to support these efforts in Haiti and UMCOR’s other efforts to respond to disasters globally may give to International Disaster Response Advance #982450. All who care about the people of Haiti are encouraged to give generously, wait patiently to serve, and most importantly, to pray.