Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Invest: SEJ Disaster Academy

Disaster Academy Offers “Priceless” Knowledge and Encouragement
By: Susan Kim

“We're ready to go.”

That's how Jim Watson describes his Early Response Team (ERT), a team more than 50 people strong and the largest ERT in the state of Florida. At least part of this high state of readiness, Watson said, is due to the knowledge and inspiration he and other ERT members have gathered at the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) Disaster Academy, a training event that draws hundreds of people from across the region.

“I make connections with people all over the Southeastern Jurisdiction, and I get a lot of ideas about what they're dong and why they're doing it,” he said. “Within the disaster response arena, things are always changing. At the academy, we learn from each other and also from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] people who attend and talk to us.”

People who attend the SEJ Disaster Academy carry their knowledge and their relationships forward as they respond to disasters across the region.

Bill Robinson, who coordinates ERTs for the South Carolina Conference, is nearly finished overseeing the response to February ice storms that damaged hundreds of homes. “We did chainsaw work for 93 homes, and helped another 10 residents with roof damage,” he said. “We removed debris from the yards of more than 200 homes.”

When Robinson attends the SEJ Academy, he said he establishes relationships with leaders from across the Southeastern United States. “Those relationships are absolutely priceless. We share our stories about what works and what doesn't. We get to critique ourselves. You can see what disasters people are struggling with, and it gives you encouragement to go through it when it's your time.”

Catherine Earl, UMCOR Executive Secretary of U.S., Caribbean, and Central America, leads a session with Conference Disaster Response Coordinators at the SEJ Disaster Academy.

Learning Through Listening

David Newton, Mississippi Conference United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) Coordinator, agreed with Robinson that the SEJ Disaster Academy instills knowledge in an environment that gives people the confidence to critique themselves honestly.

“Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina have taught me the value of listening to and valuing the experience of those affected by catastrophic events,” said Newton.

Ultimately, the SEJ Disaster Academy – and UMVIM's work in responding to disasters – is about seeking to bear the presence of the love of Christ, offering hope to many who have lost everything, reflected Newton.

“Treating the recipient of aid as a person of worth created in the image of God shapes our response,” he said. “We attempt to minister to the whole person as we partner with the affected person or family, and as we stabilize or repair houses, clear debris and deliver requested supplies.”

Donate Now! Your gift to United Methodist Volunteers In Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction, Advance 901875, helps to empower, coordinate and train short-term mission service opportunities domestically and internationally.

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