Many Oklahomans are just beginning their long-term recovery from spring tornadoes.
By Susan Kim*
Aug. 21, 2013—To help Oklahoma recover from spring tornadoes, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with a variety of faith-based and voluntary organizations, as well as state and local governments, as they accompany tornado survivors on the road to long-term recovery.
A May tornado tore through the Oklahoma city of Moore, killing 24 people, many of them students at an elementary school. Additional spring tornadoes also damaged homes in the state, and for many people, long-term recovery is still in the early stages.
UMCOR has contributed case management training as part of a case management program funded by the American Red Cross.
Catherine Earl, UMCOR US Disaster Response executive, said that UMCOR has developed a niche, particularly during the last decade, for training case managers not only from United Methodist congregations but from a variety of faith-based and voluntary organizations.
She also commended the Red Cross for enabling UMCOR and other groups to use their strengths to help tornado survivors. “The Red Cross has worked very hard and very intentionally to create a collaborative environment,” she said.
Leaders from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) said they were pleased that UMCOR was supporting their efforts to offer both immediate relief and long-term recovery within native communities. The OMIC has hired a case manager to help accompany people during their recovery, and UMCOR continues to contribute training for that case manager.
“We are almost to the long-term recovery phase, yet in visiting with our native people we have seen some immediate needs resurface,” said the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC superintendent. “We are still working with tribal officials to identify their needs. There are so many nuances within the scope of those needs.”
UMCOR and the OIMC are two of several organizations involved in the disaster case management process, explained Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator for the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference as well as chairperson for Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
“The organizations involved in this collaborative were able to come together fairly easily due to the relationships they have developed over several years through their joint involvement in Oklahoma VOAD,” he said. “Oklahoma United Methodists will have nine employees serving in the disaster case management component of the collaborative, called the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project.”
The Oklahoma Conference is also taking on a lead role in developing volunteer coordination and construction project management, added Norman. Thousands of volunteers will be coordinated over the next several years.
Emotional and spiritual care is also an important part of disaster recovery for Oklahomans, said Mary Gaudreau, an UMCOR consultant who lives in Oklahoma.
Gaudreau is serving on a task force within the Oklahoma VOAD that will guide the work of long-term recovery committees. Gaudreau and her colleagues have been working with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health as well.
“Central Oklahoma is very practiced in disasters,” she said. “We have a number of people who have worked enough disasters to know every disaster is different but who have developed trusting relationships over the years.”
Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, helps UMCOR work collaboratively and with compassion to help disaster survivors in Oklahoma and across the nation.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.