UMCOR Board Approves Major Grants
By Linda Unger*
March 21, 2012—A year after a rash of tornadoes in North Carolina destroyed more than 900 homes and Hurricane Irene conspired to ruin 2,000 more, rebuilding can finally begin, UMCOR US Disaster Response chief, the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, reported to the organization’s board of directors today.
“They’re doing their first total rebuild now, a year later,” he said. “Missouri is also moving forward—they all are,” he added, referring to four annual conferences—North Carolina, Missouri, North Alabama, and Upper New York—where communities suffered devastating weather events in 2011.
At their semiannual meeting, UMCOR’s board of directors approved $2.1 million for recovery work in those conferences. The funds will help cover the cost of everything from building materials, to spiritual and emotional care, to case management. With them, thousands of families will rebuild their lives.
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, board president, opened and closed the meeting, which was held in Plano, Texas, with thoughts on gratitude and thanksgiving. “Jesus reminds us that thankfulness to God lies at the heart of life,” she said.
“In UMCOR, we’ve been through times when we worried there wouldn’t be enough, as in 2011, when funding to respond to spring storms was low,” she recalled. “We really worried, but in every case, we took what we had and gave thanks, and somehow, by the grace of God, it was enough.”
The directors approved funds today to rebuild homes in Haiti, as well. Some $150,000 will help 21 people acquire housing, all of them staff of the Methodist Church of Haiti Guesthouse. Each has been without a home since the January 2010 earthquake.
UMCOR and partners Habitat for Humanity, BRAC, International Relief and Development, and others already have built more than 3,000 homes for earthquake survivors in Haiti.
Another grant, in the amount of $280,000, which the board of directors approved, will be used—by the Methodist Humanitarian Aid Team (EMAH) of the Methodist Church of Chile—to prepare for disasters.
The three-year grant will help EMAH develop as a nationally recognized humanitarian relief agency, providing training in disaster preparedness and response throughout the long, narrow country. With UMCOR accompaniment, EMAH will develop its own “sustainability plan,” explained Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR International Disaster Response executive.
But the future of disaster response, she said, lies in reducing the risk of disaster in the first place by studying the causes that exacerbate destruction when natural disasters occur. “This is what we’re trying to make UMCOR’s Disaster Response programs all about,” she said. UMCOR is beginning to roll out Disaster Risk Reduction training through overseas partners and UMCOR field offices, she indicated.
Read more about UMCOR at the organization’s recently redesigned website, www.umcor.org, the website’s first makeover in ten years.
*Linda Unger is UMCOR’s staff editor and senior writer.