UMCOR Board Approves Significant Disaster Relief Funding
By Linda Unger, UMCOR
During its semiannual board of directors meeting, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) today approved significant funding to confront emergencies in
In addition to the emergency funding, the board of directors approved a large grant to cover projects in the emerging nation of South Sudan, and also freed up funds for use by the annual conferences of
Setting up a later discussion on strategic planning, Huie said, “We’ve come to the place where, in order to bear fruit, there are some parts of the vine, as Jesus said, that need to be snipped away. I know how hard it is to do that with a plant; it’s much more difficult when it comes to the wonderful things the church is engaged in but which may diffuse our focus.”
UMCOR staff reports to the board would reveal “a good deal of fruit-bearing,” Huie assured the directors, but they also would reveal “places that may need to be pruned in order that the whole vine might bear more fruit. All of that, at least according to Jesus, is a work of love.”
In her report to the board, UMCOR head, the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, was direct: “We must have clarity of vision and mission in order to catapult the work forward.”
Perhaps the most important area of focus for the 19 directors was that related to disaster response.
They approved a grant in the amount of $150,000 for
Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR executive for International Disaster Response, reported that generous donors had contributed more than $1.6 million for this emergency. UMCOR is working with partners Global Medic, United Church of Christ in
The $150,000 is granted to the Asian Rural Institute (ARI), a longtime UMCOR partner. ARI trains farmers and others in sustainable agriculture techniques. The organization’s buildings were severely damaged in the quake, impeding the start of classes this spring.
In a twist of fate, agriculturalist Gontran Delgrace, who survived the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was due to arrive in early April for training, sponsored by UMCOR, but was delayed because of the earthquake in Japan. He is now slated to arrive May 2.
“We have every intention—and the resources—to give more to the people of
UMCOR directors approved three grants for
The largest sum, $300,000, goes to IMA World Health, for a pilot project to establish a decentralized, integrated, community-driven health and development program in the Grand Riviere de Nord/Bahon area, a rural area far from the capital,
Decentralizing health care is a priority of the Haitian government since the January 2010 earthquake drove many survivors from the capital. “It is important to create a system of medical access and referral –to bring health care to the people where they are,” Crutchfield said.
“Community-based health care is effective,” she said. “Neighbors treat neighbors; they understand local community dynamics, and they’re a trusted source of health care information. Community health workers can have a great impact on behavior change.”
Doctor Cherian Thomas, who heads up UMCOR’s Health unit, said, “Even if there had been no earthquake, this would still be a good model for an impoverished country such as
UMCOR is supporting a second community-based health program in Leogane, this one led by partner Global Health Action (GHA) as well as a scholarship program to support 12 college students in their studies.
UMCOR will sponsor a health meeting in
At about the same time, UMCOR will also call together potential partners in the areas of water and reconstruction for two separate forums in
At the board meeting, directors also approved the release of up to $1.2 million dollars for repairs to New College Bird, a highly regarded Methodist school that suffered damage to a number of its buildings. Some of the buildings are national historic sites and will need to be repaired or strengthened according to their original architectural plans. New structures will also be built to replace buildings that were destroyed in the earthquake.
The directors also agreed to release the balance of funds that were contributed for relief efforts following historic flooding in
In Africa, UMCOR has been preparing for
Programming will continue in the South Darfur region of
Thomas Dwyer, director of UMCOR’s field offices in eight countries, indicated that UMCOR would participate in a
Dwyer also informed the board of the closing of UMCOR’s field office in
The office ran 14 grant-funded programs worth more than $21.7 million. It served 144,627 people. “We are one of the last aid agencies to leave the Banda Aceh region of
Strategy was on the minds of the directors for the remainder of the meeting, as they were led through strategic planning exercises that helped them sort through some priority work areas for UMCOR. At the next board meeting in October, a strategic plan will be presented for the directors’ approval.
“As we focus on the mission of UMCOR,”
“There is an enormous amount of work to be done, and expectations are high,” said Rev. Harvey. “The question before us is, how do we advance that work? When the world around you changes every single minute, it is so important to have a clear vision and a focused direction,” she said.
*Linda Unger is staff editor and senior writer for UMCOR.