Supporting Our Partners
By Christy Smith* and Dan Curran*
No matter the disaster, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is there, supporting its local partners and empowering people so they can lead efforts to respond, recover, and rebuild after a severe event.
Known for being “early in, last out,” UMCOR does not engage in the drop-and-run approach used by other nonprofits responding to crises. That reputation for endurance is only possible because United Methodists…and givers who appreciate UMCOR’s stewardship…send donations that undergird the volunteers who hold a hand, cook a meal, swing a hammer, or kneel in solidarity. UMCOR is known as a humanitarian and relief agency whose values put survivors at the center of decisions for their recovery.
Bishop Juan Vera Méndez, a former bishop of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, surveys the damage at a home in the Villas del Sol neighborhood near San Juan after Hurricane Maria. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE/UMNS
UMCOR uses a holistic approach to disaster response that recognizes the unique ability survivors have to be creative partners in recovery. With respect for the dynamic cultures in every place on the planet, UMCOR asks the question, “What does your recovery look like to you.” Whether in Santa Rosa or San Juan, UMCOR-trained disaster case managers serve as a link to connect survivors to recovery resources and services, walking alongside each family so they can successfully navigate the maze of help from local, state, and federal agencies. Even more importantly, disaster case managers help survivors recognize and rediscover their own inner strength and personal resources.
Recovery begins with the urgent work of stabilizing structures, clearing debris, and salvaging treasured family belongings. UMCOR has provided training to more than 10,000 Early Response Team (ERT) members so they can serve their local communities right away, supporting annual conferences working to respond and rebuild.
A volunteer team from South Roanoke (VA) United Methodist Church helps repair a home in the Swinging Bridge community near Clay, West Virginia, for a survivor of the severe floods that struck the area in June 2016. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE/UMNS
“UMCOR is truly a connectional ministry,” said Cathy Earl, UMCOR director for U.S. Disaster Response. “Not only do we work quickly to support our local partners responding to a crisis, but we give people throughout The United Methodist Church a meaningful way to use their God-given talents to help their brothers and sisters in need.”
“I can’t tell you the number of cleaning buckets, hygiene kits, and school kits that have been made with loving hands by United Methodists who have felt called to do all the good they can and take action to help others,” continued Earl. “It is amazing how many people, from within and without The United Methodist Church, have recognized the good works of the organization and sought to provide assistance using their time, talents, and important gifts.”
“And I can’t explain how touching it is to a survivor to receive something from UMCOR and know that there are millions of United Methodists with them, though they may not be there with them in person, there in spirit recognizing their pain and challenges and working to help them recover from the situation at hand,” said Earl. “When people hear that someone is from UMCOR or when they see an UMCOR sign, they know that real and meaningful help is available.”
Carla Eden looks for clothing in the Windsor UMC (Houston) distribution center for flood survivors. Eden’s home was flooded by heavy rains during Hurricane Harvey. PHOTO: KATHLEEN BARRY/UMNS
“UMCOR is so appreciative of the thousands of people who volunteer in disaster response ministry,” continued Earl. “Our 10,000 trained, badged, and certified ERT members serve as the early signs of hope. They pave the way for conferences to build a strong foundation of recovery. Because our presence arrives early, we build trust with communities and heartbroken survivors. Robust recovery can only happen because we are supported and prayed for by the members of The United Methodist Church.”
*Christy Smith is an UMCOR consultant for training in disaster case management.
*Dan Curran, of Curran Public Relations, also works with UMCOR as a consultant.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Spring 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.