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CWS Supports Exchange Program For Survivors of Bombings 

            June 22, 2000, OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the Nairobi bombing of 1998 left more than 350 people dead.  Though separated by three years and several thousand miles, both tragedies gave way to survivors whose strength and perseverance helped put their lives back together.   

This week, survivors of both tragedies came together here for the first part of the "OKC/NBI Exchange Program," a reconciliation event aimed at sparking discussion, healing and hope.  Sponsored by Eastern Mennonite University's Conflict Transformation Program in Harrisonburg, Va., the event intends to find mutuality in the survivors' experiences as they share stories from a similar past.   

"We want to help create a person-to-person exchange between the groups.  A huge part is sharing stories and life experiences with each other," said Janice Jenner, Associate for Networking and Grants Coordination for Eastern Mennonite University. 

            Church World Service (CWS), the humanitarian response ministry of the National Council of Churches, contributed $25,000 to support the two-part program, which began on June 16.  "We thought this would be a good way to support continued healing and provide an opportunity for cross-cultural experience in both communities," said Rick Augsburger, CWS Emergency Response Program Director.  

            Soon after the 1998 attack on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, CWS coordinated the sending of letters of support and concern to the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) from pastors in Oklahoma City. CWS made a contribution of $40,000 to the NCCK for family support packages and trauma counseling and issued an appeal supporting the long-term needs of survivors.  As part of a follow-up, CWS sponsored a January 25-28 security training session for CWS staff and other NGOs in Nairobi.  

In Oklahoma City, Church World Service provided approximately $500,000 in assistance to Interfaith Disaster Recovery of Greater Oklahoma City Inc., an organization that worked to provide spiritual care and to assist with the unmet needs of the families of the victims and others affected by the 1995 disaster. 

            During the first part of the "OKC/NBI Exchange Program" (June 16-21), four survivors of the Kenyan bombing traveled to Oklahoma City, where they met with survivors of the 1995 terrorist bombing.  There, the groups shared stories, placed wreaths at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial site, worshiped together, met with city officials, and discussed long-term healing efforts. "The time in Oklahoma City [was] very much of a connecting week," Jenner said.  

            On July 3-11, four Oklahoma survivors will visit Nairobi, Kenya, for the second part of the exchange.  This will include more formal training, focused on the role of survivor groups in long-term trauma treatment efforts for survivors and their families.

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