HOTLINE - week of August 30, 2010

CWS continues providing aid to tens of thousands of flood survivors in Pakistan; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: survivors give thanks for CWS and partner help

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Girl with siblings
Nadia sits with siblings after their family was rescued from rising floodwaters in Pakistan's Punjab province. CWS is providing assistance to some 100,000 survivors.
Photo:  REUTERS/Adrees Latif, courtesy


“We’ve been distributing food packages, non-food items and deploying mobile health units that provide both preventive and curative health services to the flood-affected areas,” says Allan Calma, CWS, Pakistan.

CWS is providing food for some 84,000 people displaced by flooding, and further assistance is being planned. Three mobile health units and six permanent CWS-managed health facilities are providing emergency and preventative care for more than 100,000 people.  

Donna Derr, CWS Director of Development and Humanitarian Assistance, reports that the food packages are made up of pre-positioned supplies and food purchased within the region.  

Derr says the shelter kits CWS is providing include not only tents, tarps, and blankets, but also “oil lamps, oil, jerry cans… cooking utensils, so that it’s really an integrated shelter package for temporary shelter.”

CWS has also identified three early recovery initiatives:  Construction Trade Training Centers, similar to those developed for recovery following the 2005 earthquake, will help build the capacity for reconstruction.  Hundreds of thousands of livestock animals and much of the cropland have been lost.  In response, CWS plans to initiate appropriate cash-for-work projects, vouchers, and cash grants to help reestablish agricultural livelihoods. CWS also identifies the importance of the establishment and efficient management of basic health units for the affected communities.

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Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

"If it weren't for the volunteers and agencies who assisted me, I don't know where I would be," said Gloria Mouton, a retired government employee, whose home in New Orleans East was among those repaired by volunteers from across the U.S. during the 2009 CWS Neighborhood New Orleans ecumenical project.

While saying that the city "is nowhere where it should be five years later," with many areas still dotted by empty or overgrown lots, Mouton praised the efforts that allowed her to return to her home after two years of living in Georgia with family. "This is home, where I want to be," she said, adding that the work of volunteers "came out real nice."

In restoring Mouton’s and other homes, CWS worked in partnership with the local New Orleans long-term recovery organization the Crescent Alliance Recovery Effort, and with volunteer teams coordinated by 10 of CWS U.S. member denominations providing the labor.  "I never realized there were that many people with such big hearts," she said.

Another survivor, Christopher Weaver, 48, a self-employed cook, agreed, and praised the efforts that allowed him to return to his home in New Orleans East.

"There are people who showed me a new way of life," he said of the work of volunteers and CWS-supported agencies that repaired his home. "It was powerful to see these things happening."

From individual churches that opened their doors to shelter survivors to faith-based humanitarian agencies and regional long-term recovery organizations, the faith response saved lives, say those who have worked tirelessly in the five years since Katrina and Rita hit the region.

"Absolutely," said Jessica Vermilyea, the Louisiana-based state director for Lutheran Disaster Response and Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response. "It saved families. If it hadn't have been for that response, I don't know what would have happened."

In a joint repair and rebuild initiative effort, Church World Service and Habitat for Humanity International helped some 700 families return to their homes.  CWS supported more than 30 new community recovery organizations to manage cases and coordinate volunteer and skilled labor for home rebuilding; and sponsored Interfaith Trauma Response Trainings workshops to assist clergy and other caregivers who responded to the disaster.

Other highlights of the CWS response: CWS partnered with Terrebonne Readiness Assistance Coalition to help build five of the first-ever Louisiana Lift Houses, a sustainable housing solution for living on coastal land.  Built for economy, ecology and to withstand hurricane-force winds, the Lift Houses handily survived the real-world test of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. CWS also helped to provide recovery assistance for youth programs and schools.

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