The UMCOR staff and board of directors take seriously the responsibility to be faithful to the thousands of United Methodists and others who have given these funds as we heed Christ's call to serve "the least of these" in the wake of this disaster. Over the years, UMCOR has worked with Annual Conferences and local United Methodist Churches to develop an effective, immediate, and long-term model for responding to domestic disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and earthquakes. UMCOR is well respected in the disaster response community, by both religious and secular agencies, and by the people who have benefited from our recovery work.
Never before has any relief agency in this country faced a disaster like that of September 11. As an official of an organization struggling to use $10 million they had collected said, "We were shocked at how difficult it is to give away money responsibly."1 The key word here is "responsibly." UMCOR has high standards of accountability and is committed to providing assistance to those who are most in need and often overlooked by other relief efforts--those who have no insurance or are ineligible for government assistance.
What makes this disaster so different? There are no houses to repair or rebuild. We can't go in and muck out homes as we do after a flood. Yes, there were apartments to clean after September 11--and a plethora of agencies ready to do the work. The "victims" are not easy to identify. They are in a widespread, densely populated area. There is a list of families who lost loved ones, but no comprehensive list exists of those who lost their jobs on September 11 or in the months following. There is no master list of everyone in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut who is struggling to pay the rent or mortgage or utility bills. Many immigrants lost their incomes-- incomes that were not only paying bills in this country butalso were sustaining families back home. There is no list of those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome--a figure as high as 40% of those who live in downtown Manhattan, plus uncounted numbers who live throughout the metropolitan area. Many who escaped the towers and surrounding buildings on the 11th continue to struggle with "survivor guilt," or jump every time they hear a loud noise or a plane flying low. The only way they can be identified, and offered assistance through counseling, is if they make themselves known.
United Methodists poured out their hearts after this disaster and gave more than $20 million to enable UMCOR to respond to the events of September 11 and their aftermath in this country and internationally. The majority of these funds will be used in New York and New Jersey to assist people who will be struggling for years to recover from this disaster emotionally, physically, and materially. Some of that money will continue to be used to respond to the overwhelming need of the people of Afghanistan, whose suffering has been compounded by the war resulting from September 11, and who now have a chance to rebuild their country with the assistance of the international community. And some of these funds will continue to be used to support initiatives throughout the United States to promote understanding and reconciliation between Arab-American and other-American groups, and Christians and Muslims.
In all of its disaster response ministry, UMCOR focuses on those who otherwise fall through the cracks. In this instance, that includes people who do not have the resources or the insurance to recover: recent immigrants, restaurant workers, small-business owners, and other people who earned their living from tourism, real estate, or provision of services to the tens of thousands of people who used to spend their days in the downtown area and now work elsewhere. It will take years for the people of New York and New Jersey to recover. UMCOR is committed to using a large portion of the $20 million given to Love in the Midst of Tragedy, Advance #901125-3, over the next five years to help people get back on their feet. UMCOR is also committed to using the $20 million given by United Methodists responsibly. The board of directors approved a long-range plan at their April 2002 meeting. It has taken several months to work it out, but the funds are still needed and will be needed for the next several years. Thank you for your generosity, and for supporting UMCOR in its efforts to give away $20 million responsibly and faithfully.
From UMCOR Inasmuch Update, Summer 2002. This story updates an earlier version that was first posted on the web at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/loveupdate/givingaway.cfm on February 21, 2002.
1David Barstow, "Lesson in Hands-On Charity: Giving Away Cash Isn't Easy," New York Times, February 19, 2002. Click here to read the New York Times story (opens in new window). Click here to return to UMCOR story above.
1. Beams in form of cross from the World Trade Center destruction area. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo, October 20, 2001, New York, NY; 2. These girls and their family in Hazar Bogh, Afghanistan have just received a shelter kit from UMCOR. Photo by David Saddoo / UMCOR, February 2002. 3. A rainbow appears as workers spray the smoldering rumble with water on the day of the memorial service at the World Trade Center site. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo, October 28, 2001, New York, NY. Click on any photo to see a larger version.