(Left to right) Noriko Lao, UMCOR Japan Consultant, and Melissa Crutchfield, former head of International Disaster Response, meet community leaders at a temporary housing community in Japan to assess needs and long-term recovery. Photo: James Rollins.
By Linda Unger*
October 15, 2013—The board of directors of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) approved on Friday the disbursement of the remaining Japan Emergency Advance funds raised for UMCOR by generous donors following the horrific 2011 triple disaster.
More than $6.3 million remained in the advance, of a total of $12 million, donated following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident that pounded the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011.
In the wake of the disaster, UMCOR worked with partners in Japan to assist survivors with medical care, clean drinking water, food, and reconstruction. UMCOR also supported programs that provided capacity building for disaster response, educational opportunities, and the redevelopment of livelihoods, among others.
In their semiannual meeting held at UMCOR headquarters in New York City, the board of directors allocated the remaining Japan Emergency funds to ten projects run by seven different organizations, including two related to the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ).
The Rev. Jack Amick, UMCOR executive in charge of International Disaster Response, noted that a significant portion of the funds will go to psychosocial projects meant to mitigate some of the stress and anxiety still experienced by survivors.
“The harder thing for people after a major event like this is getting on with life,” Amick said. “This is particularly so in Japan, where a kind of stoicism is built into the culture and people may feel compelled to carry on for the common good while still harboring questions and deep anxiety about the disaster.”
Other projects that will benefit from the funds approved on Friday include work in reconstruction, capacity building, disaster risk reduction, livelihoods, and awareness-raising of issues related to nuclear energy and the risks of radiation poisoning.
“We’re grateful to the donors who responded to the crisis in Japan,” Amick said. UMCOR sought to use the funds they provided responsibly, not duplicating effective efforts by Japanese government and relief agencies, he said, but, rather by seeking out local partners who were addressing as yet unmet needs.
Grants for Cuba, Haiti, and Zimbabwe
In addition to the Japan projects, UMCOR directors also approved grants for work in Cuba, Haiti, and Zimbabwe.
They released funds approved earlier this year to rebuild homes in Cuba that were damaged or destroyed when Hurricane Sandy struck the island last October. UMCOR, in collaboration with the Methodist Church of Cuba, and in cooperation with the Cuban Office of Religious Affairs, will help rebuild about 100 of those homes.
“This is the largest grant ever provided to the Methodist Church of Cuba for community-based activities,” said Greg Forrester, UMCOR executive in charge of Disaster Response in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The church will manage a $500,000 grant for this purpose, as well as additional approved UMCOR funds for the rebuilding or repair of a dozen churches damaged in the storm.
Directors also approved a grant to partner Church World Service (CWS) to advance long-term recovery and development in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. The $300,000 grant will benefit 55 families in the underserved rural communities of Ganthier and Boen.
CWS will undertake to build 15 new homes, provide families with latrines and water-catchment systems, help them start patio gardens for growing food, and engage community members in hygiene promotion for cholera prevention.
The UMCOR directors also approved a grant to facilitate the work of the UMCOR field office in Zimbabwe to develop a case management model to effectively meet the critical needs of orphans and vulnerable children in the rural Chimanimani District.
Together with local and international partners, particularly the United Methodist health board in Zimbabwe, the UMCOR field office will seek to develop a sustainable community-based model of case management that works to protect vulnerable children from sexual violence, abuse, and neglect.
Your gift to UMCOR’s undesignated fund, Advance #999895, supports UMCOR’s work around the world, including in the United States, and ensures that the organization is able to respond when disaster strikes.
*Linda Unger is the senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.