| A REUTERS photo by Chaiwat Subprasom
A Thai woman searches for her relatives among the bodies of victims in Phang Nga province, about 489 miles south of Bangkok.
Dec. 31, 2004
A UMNS Report
By Jan Snider*
the need for help increases following the tragedy in South Asia and
Africa, United Methodist officials say that online giving is providing a
new way of responding quickly.
donations are sorely needed in a recovery effort that some observers
say will cost billions. The Dec. 26 earthquake and resulting tidal waves
in the Indian Ocean struck at least 12 countries, washing away entire
count of dead right now is 124,000 – only 16,000 less than Hiroshima –
and I would not be at all surprised if the final count is higher,” said
the Rev. Kristin Sachen, head of disaster response for the United
Methodist Committee on Relief. The Japanese city of Hiroshima was
obliterated by a U.S. atomic bomb during World War II.
the overwhelming need, the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of
United Methodist Communications, is encouraged by the initial response
he’s seen in donations made online. UMCom developed the
MethodistRelief.org link for people to support UMCOR’s efforts.
we were online quickly and were able to offer people an efficient,
functioning site within a few hours of the first news reports,” he said.
“The response since that time is heavy. Over a million people have
viewed our messages, (and) several thousand have come to the site and
made a secure donation. This is an amazing response.”
Dec. 31, online donations through MethodistRelief.org were $445,000.
But that figure is dwarfed by the tremendous need. Sachen noted that one
agency in India alone is requesting $13 million in aid.
players are reporting that pre-positioned material goods are depleted;
we need to restore their supplies, plus continue to address emergency
needs,” she said. “For at least a month, the focus is going to be on
emergency relief, which will require huge amounts of money.”
funds given to UMCOR will be used quickly, Sachen said, with 100
percent of the donations going directly to the relief and recovery
efforts. “As soon as they are processed in a batch, they are sent into
the bank, and our account is credited in 24 hours,” she said. “By
Tuesday (Jan. 4), with the upcoming holiday, we will be clear to
withdraw and send.
|A REUTERS photo by Adrees Latif
Halttunen from Finland tries to get medical attention while waiting to
be airlifted out of the Thai resort island of Phuket.
“Meanwhile, we are using a limited amount of funds on hand to send (an) initial $100,000 in relief,” she said.
giving has turned out to be popular among many United Methodists.
UMCOR’s phone lines would probably be overwhelmed if the online option
didn't exist, Sachen said. The online giving option also meant that
UMCOR didn’t have to wait until the first Sunday church offerings after
the disaster – Jan. 2 – for donations.
MethodistRelief.org link will remain in place as long as it is needed,
Hollon said. He added that he’s never seen anything like this tragedy in
his career. “The loss of human life and scale of destruction is unlike
anything I’ve seen in many years of covering humanitarian issues for the
online giving reflects the importance of new media, he said. The
response to the Indian Ocean disaster “will be remembered as a hinge
point in which the Internet came into its own.”
guess is that in the future, slower, less responsive forms of giving
will be evaluated by comparing them to the capability made possible by
online giving,” Hollon said. “Apparently, people want to give
immediately, and they want their donations used as quickly and
is providing the funds to church partners in the affected regions.
Those partners already have networks, resources, leadership and people
in place to guide the recovery effort. While gifts of cash are the
greatest need, UMCOR is asking for a rapid response in the form of
health kits. Information on how to provide the kits can be found on the
UMCOR Web site at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/kits.cfm.
churches, including United Methodist congregations, have already sent
75 medicine boxes to Indonesia, and Sri Lanka has asked for 100. Each
box costs nearly $500. Donors have also offered to send canned goods,
clothing and toys, but UMCOR is discouraging those types of donations
rule of thumb is that unless someone overseas requests a specific item
shipped, the agency does not send it, Sachen said. Cash allows the aid
professionals to buy exactly what they need. Operating this way helps
reduce the burden on scarce resources, such as transportation, she said.
In addition, by providing funds, UMCOR helps support the local economy
of the stricken region and ensures culturally appropriate assistance.
order to help churches respond to the relief effort, UMCOR will have a
Sunday bulletin insert available for download. The bulletin will be
available at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/worship/ on Dec. 31.
giving online, donations to UMCOR's “South Asia Emergency” relief work
can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR,
475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for
UMCOR Advance #274305 and “South Asia Emergency.” Credit-card donations
can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
*Snider is a freelance producer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Ginny Underwood or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.