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UMCOR directors approve $1.5 million for start-up work in Haiti

 


April 14, 2005
 
By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)—In response to last year’s hurricane and resulting floods, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is establishing an official presence in Haiti.

Directors of the aid group have approved $1.5 million for start-up and program implementation costs on the Caribbean island. The action came when directors met during the April 11-14 spring board meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent organization.

Although United Methodists have worked in Haiti for years—particularly through the Methodist Church in Haiti—this is the first time UMCOR has undertaken the legal process of registering as a nongovernmental organization there, according to Marc Maxi, UMCOR’s regional director for Africa and the Caribbean.

The floods resulting from Hurricane Jeanne last September not only claimed more than 3,000 lives, but created rockslides and thick areas of mud, destroying livelihoods for thousands of farmers, stock breeders and traders. Nearly 30,000 people were left homeless, many in the Gonaives area.

After an UMCOR team surveyed the damage, “we decided it was time for us to go on the ground,” Maxi said.

He accompanied the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s chief executive, and the Rev. Kristin Sachen, head of UMCOR’s emergency services, to Haiti at the end of February to begin the process. Although Maxi is a native of Haiti, he had not returned to the island in 25 years.

Maxi is clear on why this step is important. “I see what UMCOR does. I see the need on the ground. I think it’s a perfect match.”

Sachen told the directors she believes UMCOR “will be able to leverage grant money for additional projects” with its new status in Haiti.

UMCOR’s headquarters will be in Port-au-Prince and it will maintain a field office in Cap Haitien—where some 10,740 women, children and men are expected to be project beneficiaries.

The agency’s work will focus on northern Haiti and include the repair and rehabilitation of homes, conflict resolution, revival of economic activities and income generation.

UMCOR will continue to work with the Methodist Church in Haiti and provide “a degree of capacity building” for the church. Maxi said he expects the projects to “complement what the church is currently doing.”

Ongoing church work in Haiti includes a school hot-lunch program, health care and medical mission, and community health worker training program.

UMCOR directors allocated another $511,344 for recovery efforts on the island of Grenada. After Hurricane Ivan struck the island in early September, 89 percent of the homes there were damaged or destroyed. All crops—fruits, vegetables and nutmeg—also were destroyed.

For its work in Grenada, UMCOR is partnering with GENCODA, a local agency that it has supported in the past. About 5,000 people are expected to receive assistance from programs for housing reconstruction and rehabilitation and sustainable agriculture recovery.

Responding to continuing “Hurricanes 2004” recovery work in the United States, directors approved $1.9 million to the denomination’s Florida Annual (regional) Conference over the next two years; $500,000 in 2005 and $400,000 in 2006 for the Alabama-West Florida Conference; $180,000 for the Western North Carolina Conference over the next two years; and $50,000 for the Western Pennsylvania Conference.

Donations for the work in Haiti, Grenada and the United States should be designated to UMCOR Advance #982410, “Hurricanes 2004,” and dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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