Haiti: Religion's response to disaster

CBS-TV includes a glimpse of Church World Service work in Haiti, in a Sunday, Dec. 5, religion special.

NEW YORK, NY – Church World Service Haiti Program Manager Burton Joseph will be featured in "Haiti: Religion's Response to Disaster", a CBS Religion Special about the faith community's assistance to survivors of the devastating earthquake, to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 5, on the CBS Television Network. (Please check your local CBS station for exact time.)

After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti in January 2010, some of the first responders were faith-based relief organizations. These faith-based groups continue to assist Haitian survivors on the long road to recovery.

The CBS program examines relief efforts begun immediately after the quake and the progress made by faith-based organizations. Members of Church World Service, Catholic Relief Services, Jewish Distribution Committee and United Methodist Committee on Relief will share stories about their work with viewers.

CWS's Joseph, who was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, assists Church World Service with getting children back to school in new buildings, aiding people with disabilities, and expanding the agency’s rural food co-op program to serve quake survivors migrating to Haiti’s Artibonite area.

While religious relief organizations worked to help the living, they often struggled to cope with the dying, with some groups mourning the deaths of their own members. Representatives from United Methodist of Relief Committee (UMCOR) were in Haiti when the earthquake hit and lost two members, Rev. Sam Dickson and Rev. Clint Robb. Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR's Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response, tells viewers about the Haitian people's struggle for survival and UMCOR's renewed efforts and commitment in Haiti.

The Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC), another faith-based group working in the country, has a long relationship with Haiti.  Jewish refugees from Central Europe immigrated to Haiti in 1938 with JDC assistance, an action that saved them from the atrocities of the Holocaust.  Gideon Herscher, JDC's Haiti Relief Director, talks about how the organization is reaching its goals to help the country recover.  The JDC has opened a new rehabilitation center that serves amputees and injured victims.

Also featured on the broadcast is Charisse Classman, a Washington-based Legislative Assistant for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a Catholic organization working in and committed to Haiti since 1954's Hurricane Hazel.

Church World Service has worked in Haiti since 1954, providing disaster relief and ongoing sustainable development programs, in collaboration with local partners. Its current food security program in Haiti’s Artibonite and Northwest departments, started in 2005, helped families form farming cooperatives to mitigate the effects of chronic drought, poverty and food scarcity, through improved, sustainable agriculture methods, affordable agricultural credit, training and technical assistance. The agency has responded to the numerous hurricane disasters that have plagued Haiti in recent decades.

John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Liz Kineke is the producer of Haiti: Religion's Response to Disaster.  The December special was produced in cooperation with the National Council of Churches, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.



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