By Linda Bloom*
A November typhoon that left part of the Philippines in ruins was reminiscent of the 2004 South Asian tsunami while in the United States, tornado-prone Oklahoma witnessed the nation’s widest tornado on record and Colorado floodwaters cut off mountain towns for days.
Stark television images of people who lost family and homes as Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines Nov. 8 drew concern from United Methodists around the world, including members of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, which had received more than $1.7 million for typhoon relief by early December, sent a team and truckload of supplies, delivering 1,500 food packages Nov. 20-21 to storm-ravaged communities. “We thought it was the end of the world,” said Erlinda Andal, 30, as she waited for a food package. She and her family survived the typhoon by climbing to the roof of their home.
United Methodist Communications worked with one if its partners, Inveneo, a technology company, to address disrupted communications after the typhoon and sent a team to the affected area.
The Rev. Jack Amick, who directs UMCOR’s international emergency response, said a three-fold response for the Philippines includes food aid through December, limited small grants for psycho-social programs and a major project to build permanent housing in the typhoon area.
Another major international focus in 2014 will be UMCOR’s partnership with International Blue Crescent to create “child-friendly spaces” in Kilis, Turkey, for Syrian refugee children.
“Normally, we are used to this,” said the Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the United Methodist Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference,. “But just because there have been so many… it’s been very challenging for us to deal with.”
Oklahoma’s United Methodists are collaborating with other groups, including the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army and Society of St. Vincent de Paul to assist individuals and families through the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project.
After massive flooding in Colorado in September, United Methodists dispatched cleaning buckets and health kits and created an “Ambassadors of Love” program that paired United Methodist churches in badly affected areas with those in areas that came through relatively unscathed. The program helped provide more volunteers for relief and recovery efforts in those communities.
As the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy was observed Oct. 28, United Methodists in New York, New Jersey and Delaware were in the recovery phase of a long-term response that includes the rebuilding of homes and case management to help some affected by the superstorm.
More volunteer-in-mission teams are needed for the Sandy response next year, as well as disaster recovery sites in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and Illinois. A list of U.S. and international volunteer projects can be found here.
“We have a lot of response sites that really will be up and running in April and looking for heavy volunteer involvement,” said Greg Forrester, who leads UMCOR’s U.S. disaster response. One unique opportunity, in partnership with FEMA, is the call for skilled reconstruction teams in Alaska, starting in late May or June 2014.
In addition, UMCOR needs donations to help replenish supplies at its warehouses at Sager Brown and Salt Lake City, he said.*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.