Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Disaster Response Coordinators Go Global

By Laurie Felder*

Disaster Response training is a familiar concept for U.S. annual conferences. Conference Disaster Response Coordinators, with experienced, well-trained volunteer teams, are the backbone of United Methodist disaster response. On a global scale, UMCOR International Disaster Response has introduced a pilot project with similar goals but different components in a global context. 

In October of 2017, the International Disaster Response unit of UMCOR invited eight newly named Disaster Management Coordinators (DMC) to Atlanta for an orientation and welcomed them to their new positions. Unfortunately, the denial of a visa kept one from attending, but seven DMCs from the Philippines, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) attended orientation sessions for four days and sat down to discuss future projects with the UMCOR program managers who would be working with them. They also experienced a bit of Atlanta.

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After the UMCOR training, the DMCs returned to their countries better equipped to respond to disaster and be prepared for it. PHOTO: CYNTHIA MACK

Orientation sessions included an introduction to The United Methodist Church and its role in humanitarian action, as well as the essentials of humanitarian action, including people’s rights in disaster settings, the Code of Conduct in Humanitarian Settings, the need for proper assessment and how to do that, and how to effectively communicate in disaster settings.

Day two was as a technical day, in which specific intervention activities were discussed along with the best practice for implementing them. These included sessions on the safe provision of water and hygiene materials, shelter and nonfood items, food distribution and nutrition, psychosocial support, and Cash Transfer Programming (CTP).

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Disaster Management Coordinators from the DRC, Mozambique, and the Philippines met in Atlanta with UMCOR trainers last October for the first training of international disaster response coordinators. Language interpreters in the background assist with translations. PHOTO: CYNTHIA MACK

On day three, topics focused on financial management and the application process, and day four was specific to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and how to develop and manage local volunteers.

This orientation was a great way to get to know the newly appointed coordinators of disaster management, whom we have come to work with very closely. It was also an excellent opportunity for the DMCs to make connections with one another. The DMCs from the Philippines now regularly exchange correspondence and meet quarterly and the DRC DMCs also stay in constant contact. This has allowed the DMCs to learn from UMCOR and from each other, and we in turn have learned a great deal from them, which only helps us to better support them in their efforts, managing and coordinating disaster response in their episcopal areas.

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Tai Dieudonne (left), a former Global Ministries’ grants officer, assists Dan T. Ela, a Disaster Management Coordinator from the Philippines, during training in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO:CYNTHIA MACK

One of UMCOR’s mandates is to equip the church (annual and central conferences) to better respond to disaster and be prepared for it. For that reason, we have started with this small DMC pilot project. By initially working with a small number of episcopal areas to identify, hire, and support the salaries of these Disaster Management Coordinators, we hope to build capacity in response and preparedness for disasters.

Furthermore, we hope to replicate this pilot project in more episcopal areas as we extend the scope of this initial pilot project and better equip conferences in all matters when it comes to disasters.

UMCOR holds sacred the trust that donors put in us to do the work that we do. Through pilot projects and orientations like this, we can sensitize more people to best practices and equip the church to better respond and prepare for disasters.

*Laurie W. Felder, MPH, is a program manager for UMCOR International Disaster Response.

Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Spring 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.