Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Church of the Brethren plans major disaster recovery project in Haiti.

Church of the Brethren programs are planning a major longterm disaster recovery project in Haiti responding to the summer's hurricanes and tropical storms, following a visit from a Brethren assessment team this fall.

The Haiti disaster response project is being coordinated by Brethren Disaster Ministries. Other groups that are part of the planning and implementation of the response include the Church of the Brethren Haiti Mission, the Haiti Advisory Committee, Global Mission Partnerships, the Global Food Crisis Fund, and Jeff Boshart who will serve as coordinator for the Haiti disaster response.

An allocation of $100,000 from the Church of the Brethren's Emergency Disaster Fund has been given for the work in Haiti, which will include home rebuilding, road construction, children's programs, and agricultural support. Vocation training, capacity leadership training, and medical aid also are planned. The project may include the shipping of canned meat provided by the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Pennsylvania Districts canned meat projects. The project is expected to last up to three years.

Four tropical storms and hurricanes (Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike) crossed Haiti during the summer, affecting most areas of the country. Each storm compounded Haiti's poverty and food insecurities, according to reports from disaster relief staff. More than 800 people died in the storms and some 200,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

The Haiti Mission Advisory Committee reported that at least 35 Haitian Brethren lost their homes. There are five active Church of the Brethren congregations in Haiti, and 10 more preaching points.

The project will focus on longterm recovery in communities where Brethren churches or preaching points have been established, according to Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. While the response will focus on communities where Brethren have been affected, he added, "Our response will focus on those with the greatest need in the community and not discriminate based on church affiliation." The Brethren plan to work in partnership with other NGOs and pastors' groups, and in coordination with local government officials. Nonprofit groups that have been invited to participate including Habitat for Humanity, Haiti Outreach, and Mennonite Central Committee.

Possible areas for Brethren response are Mirebalais, a mountainous region north of Port au Prince where Brethren preaching points are located in remote communities accessible only by foot path, and Gonaives, where there is a Brethren preaching point. Gonaives area received the greatest destruction from storms, with many damaged and destroyed homes in flood plains or mudslide areas.

Boshart traveled to Haiti on Dec. 16 to work on developing the disaster recovery project. The team that carried out the assessment trip in October included Ludovic St. Fleur, Haiti mission coordinator and pastor of L'Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Miami, Fla., his wife, Elizabeth St. Fleur, and Boshart.

Grants already given for relief in Haiti include a $10,000 grant from the Emergency Disaster Fund supporting immediate relief efforts through Church World Service (CWS), and a $15,000 grant from the Global Food Crisis Fund for agricultural development. The Brethren response also has included material aid shipped from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on behalf of CWS.

In other news from the Haiti Mission Advisory Committee, the group met on Nov. 21-22 and received reports that the Brethren congregations and preaching points in Haiti were doing well. "After five-and-a-half years since the first baptisms (six persons) in May 2003, there are now five congregations and ten preaching points," said a report from chair Merle Crouse. "Ten (ministry) candidates are ready for licensing in 2009. One student will graduate from seminary in 2009." The mission held its second annual theological training in August with more than 90 people in attendance. At least one congregation has a school in place, with another hoping to open a school. In September the New Covenant School was established in St. Louis du Nord for pre-school through third grade, with sponsorship from First Church of the Brethren in Miami, Fla. Several teachers from the school attended the theological training this year, the report said. In other business, a subcommittee was appointed to move ahead on the process of gaining legal recognition for the Church of the Brethren in Haiti.

Source: 12/31/2008 Newsline

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