Friday, June 13, 2008

Disaster grant goes to Myanmar cyclone response.

A grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund will send $30,000 to support Church World Service (CWS) relief work in Myanmar, following the destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis.

The grant is an an additional allocation for CWS-sponsored work in Myanmar. Brethren Disaster Ministries staff report that although much response to the cyclone continues to be delayed, the longstanding work of CWS in Asia and its partnership with several local organizations has allowed for a more immediate response that few other organizations have achieved.

The funds from the Church of the Brethren will help provide food rations, safe water supplies, and temporary shelters. A more detailed and comprehensive longterm response is expected in the future.

In a June 6 report from CWS, the organization emphasized that volunteers from local faith partners in Myanmar are visiting villages affected by the cyclone, distributing much-needed relief items to survivors. They are providing clean water through purification tablets and well cleaning, food, shelter, health care including medical teams of doctors and nurses, clothing, blankets, and psychosocial support.

"In all the places where the churches are providing assistance, the food is fresh--they are cooking and providing fresh food every day," explained a pastor in Myanmar, quoted in a CWS release. The pastor coordinates the relief effort among churches throughout the cyclone-affected areas. Speaking from 28 years of affiliation with CWS, the pastor says, "Churches (in Myanmar) provide support in a non-discriminatory way--this is the witness of the church."

Churches are doing this in various ways, one being transforming church buildings into temporary family shelters--21 in total, CWS reports. Church communities are also addressing the emotional pain caused by the cyclone by organizing teams of 20-30 students to provide psychosocial support for people living in displacement camps. "The first response of the people is just to survive," the pastor noted. "They are fearful."

The volunteers connected with CWS are reporting that all the school buildings in the area are destroyed, making it nearly impossible for children to return to school as planned this month. "While relief work is still going on, we have to already think of rehabilitation," one worker said, adding that there were around 50 days left before the monsoon planting season ends. Rice has to be planted before then, otherwise there will be a serious food shortage within six months.

Go to for more information about the Church World Service response in Myanmar.

CWS also is encouraging people of faith to help get the word out to the media that its relief assistance is reaching people in Myanmar, through local partners. Church World Service has been working through partnerships in Myanmar since 1959. CWS has provided the following the sample letter to the editor:


Dear editor,

As the death tolls continue to climb from the cyclone that hit Myanmar (Burma) on May 3 aid agencies need additional support for emergency and recovery assistance to survivors. Working in Myanmar (Burma) has been difficult for many aid agencies but those tied to churches have an edge. Through Church World Service my church, the Church of the Brethren, has been able to get assistance to people on the ground in Myanmar (Burma) despite heavy restrictions on international agencies. That’s because most faith-based aid agencies operate by supporting local partners, citizens of the nation in need. The local partners supported by the Church of the Brethren and CWS pre-positioned supplies in advance of Cyclone Nargis and were able to deliver shelter, food, and water soon after the storm. A widespread, international effort will be needed if the people of Myanmar (Burma) are to recover from this disaster. While it is taking time for all agencies to respond, groups based in Myanmar (Burma) are trying to attend to massive needs. It’s important that we, as a community, continue to support relief work in Myanmar (Burma) through our local churches.

(PHONE # for news editor's verification only)
--Jane Yount serves as coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Source: 6/13/2008 Newsline Extra

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