Participants and trainers gather for a group photo on the last day of the UMCOR/Asia Partner training.
UMCOR staff hosted the weeklong gathering in the Philippines
By Laura Wise*
Philippines, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, China, Nepal, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh: What do these countries have in common? Besides sharing a geographic region, they all are extraordinarily vulnerable to disasters.
For five days in February, representatives of partner organizations from these 11 countries gathered with executives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Manila, Philippines, to strengthen our partnership, advance understanding of humanitarian principles, and learn more about UMCOR’s work and grant process in its International Disaster Response (IDR) and International Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR) programs.
After spending a week in community with the participants, I’ve identified four key takeaways that underscore the value of this training and others like it.
1. UMCOR has diverse disaster programming
UMCOR is well-known for its work in disaster response. Over the past 75 years, we have responded to some of the world’s most destructive disasters. But the Manila training also highlighted UMCOR’s IDRR work, of which many participants were unaware. Led by Executive Secretary Yovanna Troansky, UMCOR IDRR works with partners to help communities prepare for disasters and reduce the potential for loss of life and property.
2. Partners, partners, partners
UMCOR is only as strong as our partners. The training brought together a dynamic list of current and potential partners from across Asia, many of them experienced in providing humanitarian aid. Representatives of the Manila, Davao and Baguio episcopal areas of the United Methodist Church of the Philippines joined the training, as did those of Methodist and other church entities in Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Japan and Myanmar. Longtime UMCOR partners CASA and Muslim Aid participated, as did UMCOR staff from our Leyte, Philippines, office and the Wesley Foundation in Japan.
3. UMCOR wants to extend its reach
Throughout the week, UMCOR staff facilitated trainings on humanitarian values and the rights-based approach that guides UMCOR’s work with those affected by disaster. Francesco Paganini, executive secretary for International Disaster Response, also assured the group that UMCOR, as a grant-making organization, doesn’t want to hold onto donated money. Rather, he said, “UMCOR wants to fund creative and responsible programing around IDR and IDRR in Asia” and elsewhere.
4. Training is necessary
Just weeks after the Manila training, Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm, barreled through the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. UMCOR immediately sought out Fiji and Papua New Guinea contacts from the training for details. The devastation caused by Cyclone Pam underscored the need to build strong, global partnerships with trainings of this kind.
UMCOR wants to fund creative and responsible programing around IDR and IDRR …. —Francesco Paganini, UMCOR International Disaster Response
Through its partners, UMCOR seeks to respond to disasters wherever they occur in the world. We seek to empower our partners so they can confidently and quickly assess a situation, develop an appropriate action plan, and acquire the necessary funds to act in their communities. The Manila training was the second such training and more are planned.
Your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Risk Reduction, Advance #3021952, will help us work with our partners to help communities prepare for disasters and reduce the potential for loss of life and property.
*Laura Wise is a Global Ministries mission communicator.