4:00 P.M. EST Feb. 19, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)
Some 3,000 volunteers gather at Jefferson Forest High School in Forest,
Va., to pack meals for Haiti earthquake relief. UMNS photo by Bob
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The overwhelming response to assist the people of Haiti is an
inspiration across The United Methodist Church.
More than 3,000 people lined up to participate when the Rev. Larry
Davies, a United Methodist district superintendent in Lynchburg, Va.,
set up an emergency meal packaging event for Haiti on Jan. 18.
“We booked the largest high school in the area and the word kind of got
out on Facebook, and it went nuts,” he said. “We had a bus come in from
two counties away. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. People
just literally came from everywhere.”
The event’s goal of 100,000 meals was more than doubled. Within a week,
the meals were shipped to Haiti through Stop Hunger Now, a hunger
organization led by the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor. By
Feb. 15, Davies said, the district finished raising the $51,000 needed
to pay the shipping costs.
But United Methodists in the Lynchburg area didn’t stop at one event.
Churches also donated money to the United Methodist Committee on Relief
and prepared health kits for the UMCOR Depot. There were so many kits
that they threatened to overflow the church serving as a distribution
center for four districts. “They shipped out a record number,” he added.
“They just totally filled up the truck.”
That is the type of enthusiasm that church-related relief groups hope
can be sustained for what all agree will be a long-term recovery in a
country devastated by poverty and an earthquake-damaged infrastructure.
UMCOR, which has raised more than $12 million for an expected five-year
recovery plan in Haiti, has opened a field office in Port-au-Prince.
“Recruitment efforts are ongoing for key staff,” said Melissa
Crutchfield, an international disaster response executive with the
New UMCOR staff in Haiti
Anthony Jones, who will be in Haiti for the next two months as UMCOR’s
emergency response consultant there, arrived in the Dominican Republic
on Feb. 17 and addressed an assembly of Methodists before he was to
enter Haiti on Feb. 19.
Since the earthquake, UMCOR has coordinated food distribution projects
in Mellier and Petit-Goave. Representatives from UMCOR and United
Methodist Volunteers in Mission will attend a conference of the
Methodist Church of Haiti next week “to further consult with them about
partnerships,” Crutchfield said. Goals will include setting priorities
for relief projects and possible work opportunities for volunteer teams.
United Methodists are supporting the relief agency’s work.
Church members in the denomination’s New England Conference raised
$143,000 for Haiti within a month after the earthquake.
Included in that total was $1,150 raised through a spaghetti supper
organized by 9-year-old Riley Alward, with assistance from fellow
congregants at First United Methodist Church of Laconia-Gilford in New
Among the responses from partner agencies, Church World Service and
other members of Action by Churches Together have assisted more than
150,000 Haitians with immediate needs since Jan. 12. Church World
Service has provided more than 31,000 hygiene kits, some 5,400 baby care
kits and about 4,000 blankets. Through IMA World Health, the agency
also has provided 60 boxes of medical supplies.
The focus is now turning toward the “medium-term response,” said Donna
Derr, the agency’s director of emergency response and sustainable
development. “For us, that’s been an expansion of the pre-disaster
program we were doing with people with disabilities,” she explained,
adding that the program will serve more clients in nine communities.
Church World Service also will help two centers for at-risk children
find new space or rebuild their earthquake-damaged facilities and assist
with food security and development programs for about 63,000 migrants
from Port-au-Prince to Artibonite, Derr said.
Concern over rainy season
Haiti’s upcoming rainy season this spring remains “a huge concern for
all of us,” she added. Church World Service may partner with Habitat for
Humanity on housing for families they have assisted with temporary
shelter, she said.
At the United Nations, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro echoed
the concerns about the rainy season during a Feb. 17 regional
coordination meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean. Noting that
more than 1.2 million Haitians are living in temporary settlements, she
asked U.N. agencies and offices to work quickly together to support
reconstruction efforts there, according to a U.N. report.
Haiti’s crumbled infrastructure also is at risk."The rains will also
pose a threat to infrastructure," Lutheran World Relief reported on Feb.
17. "On the road between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, there are large
piles of dirt that have been pushed aside by bulldozers. After the first
heavy rain, these areas will become a mess and possibly make the road
Back in Lynchburg, enough money remains to allow the district youth to
do a smaller meal-packaging event for Haiti over the weekend. The
210,000 meals packaged earlier through the project that Davies organized
“are already in Haiti and being used,” said Buchanan of Stop Hunger
His organization has shipped a million meals to Haiti since the
earthquake and has about 2 million more “in the pipeline,” he added.
In addition to church groups, Stop Hunger Now has collaborated with more
than 50 organizations to send relief supplies, including the Friends of
the U.N. World Food Programme.
Davies – who has retained an e-mail list of the January volunteers, more
than a third of whom are not United Methodists – is hoping to rekindle
enthusiasm for another event to benefit Haiti relief.
“We’ve just got a community that really wants to pitch in and help,” he
UMCOR has guidelines on how to assist with Haiti disaster response at http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/work/emergencies/ongoing/haitiearthquake/haitifaq/.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or