UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Food Vouchers Offer Choice for Sicily’s Migrants

A woman receives a food voucher with support from UMCOR and Ministry Pellegrino della Terra in Sicily. She is among the more than 14,000 migrants that have arrived in Sicily from conflict regions such as Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria and Senegal. Photo: Pellegrino della Terra.A woman receives a food voucher with support from UMCOR and Ministry Pellegrino della Terra in Sicily. She is among the more than 14,000 migrants that have arrived in Sicily from conflict regions such as Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria and Senegal. Photo: Pellegrino della Terra.


UMCOR is helping to meet the emergency needs of new arrivals in Sicily, Italy

By David Tereshchuk*

July 14, 2015—Using a novel voucher program meant to underscore the dignity of the migrants it serves, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is helping to meet the emergency needs of new arrivals in Sicily, Italy.

More than 14,000 migrants have arrived so far this year in Sicily, the island region just west of Italy’s southern “toe.” Most have fled troubled homelands in Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Senegal and currently are living in a total of 110 temporary reception centers.

UMCOR and local partner Pellegrino della Terra (Pilgrim of the Earth), a Sicilian voluntary organization, are helping to meet the new arrivals’ essential food needs. They are doing this through a voucher system that ensures the migrants choice and dignity.

“Their future was nearly shipwrecked,” commented the Rev. Jack Amick, head of UMCOR’s international disaster response program. 

“The voucher system reminds migrants that their human dignity remains intact. It invites them to choose the items they want to purchase with their vouchers rather than handing them a predetermined food kit.”

Age of migration

According to William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, about a billion people are on the move around the world—that is, one of every seven people on the planet is a migrant. He has referred to the current day as the “age of migration.”

UMCOR works with migrant populations across the globe. Amick pointed out that two main routes of population movement are especially disastrous for the individuals who attempt the trek: the Central America-Mexico-U.S. corridor and the Mediterranean-Europe corridor.

“Many who start the journey on either of these two routes never make it to their intended destination alive or well,” Amick said.

Model of the Good Samaritan

Italy has experienced a spike in migrant arrivals over the last few years, straining its response capacity and obliging it to appeal to fellow European nations for assistance, with only limited success. And Sicily is among those Italian regions hard pressed to respond to the crisis.

Amick is confident that the voucher system UMCOR is implementing with Pellegrino della Terra has the capacity to assist migrants with the provision of essential food needs—and to do so in such a way as to “empower the powerless.”

He discerns in this form of food aid an echo from Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. After rescuing the robbed and beaten traveler, and then installing him comfortably at an inn, Amick recalled, “The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper: ‘whatever he needs, send me the bill.’”

Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will help migrants, such as those in Sicily, and other survivors of crisis or disaster to meet their essential needs.


*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.

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Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will help migrants, such as those in Sicily, and other survivors of crisis or disaster to meet their essential needs.
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