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UMCOR makes grants to Asian projects, Sudan

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A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT

Children huddle in a tent city near Balakot, Pakistan, established after the October earthquake.
April 10, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) — For the past seven years, United Methodists have partnered with International Blue Crescent in response to earthquakes in Turkey and Iran and the tsunami in Indonesia.

Now that partnership is being used in response to the earthquake that devastated parts of Pakistan and Kashmir last October. In early April, directors of the United Methodist Committee on Relief allocated $1.5 million to the Turkish nongovernmental organization to extend its assistance to earthquake victims.

UMCOR directors also approved $5.8 million for tsunami-related projects in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and $330,000 for further assistance to South Sudan and Darfur.

The United Methodist relief agency already had provided emergency funding to help International Blue Crescent provide food and shelter to 3,000 earthquake survivors. More recently, the agency has assisted four villages in the Bagh district with winterized shelter, latrines, tented schools and tented health centers.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMCOR

Halima Grang Shole plants peanuts outside a camp in the South Darfur region of Sudan.

The new project involves the rebuilding of 306 homes and schools for two villages, as well as providing psycho-social support. The house design is earthquake-resistant and approved by the Pakistani government. UMCOR is contributing half of the $3 million budget.

In Asia, UMCOR has partnered with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka in relief and recovery work since the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami caused an unprecedented loss of life and property. At the meeting, UMCOR directors approved $4.4 million for a church project that would provide multifaceted assistance to the most vulnerable survivors – children, single women, the elderly and the disabled.

The objectives include the building of replacement housing, with accompanying infrastructures, for 498 families; providing support to traumatized survivors through a children’s center, women’s crisis center and trauma counseling for people in close contact with children; building and operating a vocational training center in the war zone of north Sri Lanka to help youth gain self-sustaining skills; and strengthening the capacity of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka to reach out and assist tsunami survivors.

Directors allocated $1.4 million to rehabilitate a public park in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, the city where the most people were killed by the Dec. 26 tsunami. The Methodist church and school in Banda Aceh is being rebuilt through assistance from Indiana United Methodists and contact with the mayor’s office through local Methodists led to the proposed park project.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A man picks through the wreckage of beachfront homes in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, following the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami.

“The park is an important statement for community residents by UMCOR and our Methodist church partners,” the UMCOR request stated. “With Aceh’s history of unrest and conflict, a public works program undertaken in the spirit of reconciliation extends hospitality to all in the city whose lives were so devastated by the tsunami and subsequent struggle to regain hope and self-sufficiency. In addition, a memorial to those who died in the tsunami would honor the lives of those who used the park in life.”

A Methodist couple from Singapore is leading the design team for the park, which has enthusiastic endorsement from the Methodist Church of Indonesia. “A large part of their endorsement is on account of the major shift in Muslim/Christian relations that they believe would begin if the project were undertaken,” the proposal said.

To continue the denomination’s work in the Sudan, UMCOR directors approved a grant of $330,000 to provide administrative and operational support to its offices in Khartoum, South Sudan and Darfur.

The staff is coordinating the grants received from the Ginghamsburg (Ohio) United Methodist Church for an agricultural project and child protection and skills training programs. The staff also will work to secure additional funds from major donors. About $15,000 of the grant will be used in water and sanitation projects.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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