UMCOR’s Disaster Response Plan for Haiti

As the humanitarian assistance agency of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Church, UMCOR is responding to the Hurricane Matthew disaster in Haiti on several levels. UMCOR has now, and has had from since the 2010 earthquake, a field office in Haiti. 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.
In response to this disaster, UMCOR will also be working with partners with whom we have worked in Haiti or in other locations around the world. The first partner in this category with whom we have already engaged after Hurricane Matthew is GlobalMedic, a renowned provider of water purification equipment and training. In the coming weeks, we will explore response options with this category of partners.

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. Over 16,000 Early Response Team (ERT) volunteers have been trained and badged by UMCOR to respond to disasters in the U.S. 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. After the survivors’ basic human needs have been met, and people are beginning to resume their lives, requests for volunteer teams would be fitting. 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 VIM Coordinators, under the guidance of Una Jones, Global Ministries’ Director of Mission Volunteers. Until then, UMCOR will honor the interest of these groups in the development of Haiti by providing them with occasional conference call briefings and regular briefing sheets. Jim Gulley, a longstanding advocate for Haiti, and a member of the UMCOR staff will be sharing this information with partners, as needed. International Programs Program Manager Terry Mukuka (tmukuka@umcor.org) will compile this information based on regular calls to. Jim is based in the US and serves as UMCOR’s primary liaison to EMH. Lauren James (ljames@umcor.org), based in Haiti, will assist the EMH team by guiding them in the implementation of various humanitarian assistance activities.

General program inquiries and ideas from experienced (with UMCOR) partners will be responded to by Program Associate Tsiry Rakoto. (trakoto@umcor.org)

International Disaster Response Program Manager Laurie Felder will fine tune grant proposals and work to coach partners as needed to help improve their projects and otherwise teach in best practices of humanitarian assistance.

Those wishing to support these efforts in Haiti, and UMCOR’s other efforts to respond to disasters globally, may give to International Disaster Response Advance, #982450. All who care about the people of Haiti are encouraged to give generously, wait patiently to serve, and most importantly, to pray.