Monday, October 17, 2016

UMCOR’s Disaster Response Plan for Haiti

Below is a letter we received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief regarding assistance from international teams to Haiti in response to Hurricane Matthew. UMVIM, SEJ will communicate the needs for teams to deploy or send resources as soon as we have word from UMCOR that it is appropriate to do so.  

Azim Akhtar, UMCOR Haiti’s Head of Mission is experienced in humanitarian assistance. He and the rest of the UMCOR Haiti staff are already at work responding to this current disaster through an UMCOR grant that will provide emergency water and food rations, cooking pots, and other emergency supplies as needed.

One of our primary partners in Haiti over the last six years has been EMH, the Eglise Methodist d’Haiti (Methodist Church of Haiti). Through UMCOR’s support, EMH has already begun to provide food to the survivors of the hurricane. In the coming weeks, UMCOR will continue to explore and develop with EMH additional humanitarian responses.

One of our important attributes of mission in the United Methodist Church is our fervent willingness to volunteer. Local volunteerism is key to connecting the church and the community. The Volunteers in Mission program provides opportunities for volunteers to assist with long-term development, building projects, medical missions, and other activities. In Haiti, volunteer teams from throughout the US have helped build the infrastructure of the church there for decades. 

Because of the strong commitment these partner churches and annual conferences have with specific churches, communities, and districts in Haiti, their hearts have been broken as they have watched reports of damage and loss in the communities to which they have given so much time, energy, and resources. Because of this commitment, many of these partners have selflessly declared their willingness to go now to Haiti to assess damage and discover how they can help. While this level of dedication is admirable, UMCOR is strongly advising that such groups wait until Haiti has fully transitioned from the relief phase to the recovery phase.

In the meantime, visits by teams, even individuals or small teams, would run the risk of doing more harm than good. Well-intentioned volunteers generally and unknowingly take energy and resources from host organizations which they would otherwise use to manage or support humanitarian assistance activities. From a support and logistics standpoint, volunteering in the US is very different from volunteering in other countries. Finally, one of the side benefits of many disaster response activities is that local people are hired and materials, as much as possible are procured locally. For the reasons stated above, and because we have full confidence in our staff on the ground, visiting Haiti at this time would be inappropriate.

When recovery projects for volunteers become appropriate and available, UMVIM teams will be informed through the jurisdictional UMVIM Coordinators, under the guidance of Una Jones, Global Ministries’ Director of Mission Volunteers.

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