By John Gordon
Posted: January 10, 2005 Print-friendly
BALDWIN, LA, UMNS, January 7, 2005: Thousands of health kits with soap, bandages and other essentials are headed to Asia from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. The kits were assembled by volunteers from around the United States working at UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot in south Louisiana. The depot is a hub for the flow of relief supplies from UMCOR to points around the globe.
"It makes me feel good, making all the bags for people that I know that really need them (and) taking time out of my life to help someone else out," said Corey Rosemurgy, a college student from Austin, Texas.
The 25,000 kits, valued at $300,000 to $500,000, were loaded Jan. 6. With the assistance of Church World Service, the supplies will be airlifted to areas devastated Dec. 26 by tsunami waves that killed at least 150,000 people and left millions more homeless in countries around the Indian Ocean.
"The people of the United Methodist Church are always fantastic to respond in whatever the disaster is," said Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR's executive secretary for U.S. disaster response. "And our phones have been ringing off the hook."
Congregations around the United States have donated items for the health kits.
"We have found that if you're able to use just the soap and water, that's a big help in helping keep down the diseases and everything that comes in after a disaster like this," Hazelwood said.
Cash donations are still needed to help with the disaster relief, he said.
"The main thing that we need, really, is funding - money so that we can buy the materials and supplies on the ground, where they're needed."
"My word is a word of gratitude for the gifts that people give, both in material resources and of their funding, to help us bring relief and to bring help and healing to people that have been broken because of these disasters," Hazelwood said.
UMCOR, working with other faith-based partners, is making a long-term commitment to help the tsunami victims.
"We're there for the long haul, and we'll be working not only to bring these relief supplies, but doing the development work and the long-term recovery. Our hope is to work through our partners there, and the goal has already been set to rebuild at least 10,000 homes."
UMCOR, founded in 1940, has a long history of providing disaster relief. Sager Brown began as a distribution center for supplies to victims of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and later became the United Methodist Church's worldwide shipping hub for relief aid.
"We sent about 10,000 flood buckets to Florida," said Richard Sockrider, coordinator of material resources at the depot. "We've had shipments to Armenia. We've had shipments to the Republic of Georgia. We've had shipments to Afghanistan."
Sager Brown operates from a 48,000-square-foot warehouse. In addition to health kits, the depot also assembles school, sewing and bedding kits. On average, 60,000 kits are sent from the center every month.
"Last year was the best year we've ever had," said Gwen Redding, director of UMCOR Sager Brown.
In 2004, the depot shipped 250 tons of relief supplies worth $3.1 million.
"It's a privilege to work for an agency that offers this kind of help to everyone in need," Redding said. "We have to hope that we can make a difference."
John Gordon is a freelance producer and writer in Marshall, Texas.
Source: United Methodist News Service.
Betty Dowd, a volunteer from Wisconsin, helps assemble relief supplies at UMCOR Sager Brown. Thousands of health kits with soap, bandages and other essentials are headed to Asia from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Credit: John Gordon/UMNS, January 2005.
Stay at Home and Help
United Methodist Committee on Relief officials are urging those who want to help to remember that the people in the stricken countries are feeling the same need and are working to recover from the disaster. And thousands of people who have been left homeless by the Dec. 26 tsunami need the jobs that the recovery will bring.
"What is inspiring to me is that the Methodists in all of these areas are on the frontlines of response, and they are doing the same job we do when a disaster hits in the United States," said the Rev. Kristin Sachen, head of UMCOR's disaster response.
Many skilled people, especially those with medical training, are asking about volunteer opportunities, she said. "The truth of the matter is, if you did not have plans already in place before the disaster, it is too late to decide to go now."
UMCOR is not equipped to deploy medical personnel as volunteers in an emergency, she said. "In the long-term recovery effort, there may be opportunities for volunteers; we just can't answer that right now."
For now, the best way to help is to send a donation to UMCOR - and stay home, officials say.
In addition to volunteer interest, UMCOR has heard much concern about the children left orphaned by the tsunami. "The native people in these countries are very concerned about their children," Sachen said. "They don't want them taken out of the country."
How to Participate in This Response
Please give to Advance #274305 and designate "South Asia Emergency" on the memo line of your check written to UMCOR. Give through your local United Methodist church or mail contributions to: UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Call 1-800-554-8583 to make a credit card donation.
One hundred percent of every donation to this appeal goes to support relief and recovery efforts in the disaster-stricken regions. UMCOR also needs donations of health kits, school kits, and Medicine Boxes for this response.