Thursday, July 3, 2014

Volunteer Training: It Matters to Disaster Survivors

A survivor of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti was visiting the Dominican Republic. He was greeted by some young missionaries and accompanied by a friend, Rev. Michael Dunbar, pastor at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Douglasville, Georgia.

"The missionaries were putting together bags of beans and rice to donate to the Haitian earthquake survivors," recalled Dunbar. As a devotion, they began discussing a verse from Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

This particular verse has a timeless message that has moved many people over thousands of years. But for the Haitian man, having recently experienced the trauma of a disaster, the verse became a source of personal stress.
The man sharply questioned the group: "Who are you to call my people 'the least?'"

The missionaries certainly did not intend for their devotion to cause offense. And, in the end, the group prayed together in a spirit of love and friendship.

But the moment illustrated an important message for Rev. Dunbar, who has volunteered at disaster sites many times. "We enter into that post-disaster arena thinking that these people are 'the least.' They are not. Ultimately, we are not going to simply fix a house. We're going to walk alongside a person."

Learning to Walk Again
Walking alongside a disaster survivor is not one-hundred percent intuitive. It takes training. It takes learning from the experience of other volunteers and from the honest feedback of disaster survivors themselves.

United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM), through trainings offered via Disaster Academies and other outlets, has helped thousands of volunteers learn how to respond safely and with sensitivity. A crucial aspect of UMVIM's training philosophy is to train long-term recovery volunteer leaders who can then train others. After a large disaster strikes and swift action is necessary, UMVIM assists by deploying trained early response teams into the affected area as quickly as possible.

How Can YOU Help?

First, connect with a training opportunity. The Southeastern Jurisdiction is especially vulnerable to hurricanes and tornadoes. Get trained now, before a storm strikes. Please visit our Disaster Response page for more information, or reach out to your Conference UMVIM Coordinator

Second, please donate to help support training that makes a world of difference to disaster survivors everywhere. With your help, we can all learn to walk beside each other with hope and love. Please prayerfully consider a donation to Advance #901875, or by mailing a check to:UMVIM SEJ, 100 Centerview Drive, Suite210, Birmingham, AL 35216. 

As always, your gift and faithfulness to build God's Kingdom is greatly appreciated by countless people.

Thank you for your generosity and continued prayers.

Grace and peace,

Paulette S. West
Executive Director

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