1998 NCC News Archives

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Update: Church World Service Responds to Hurricane Mitch

Earlier Story on CWS Response

How to Help:

CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, Attn. Hurricane Mitch, #LAHD82, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

Who We Are:

CWS works in more than 80 countries, including the U.S., in disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance. It is a ministry of the National Council of Churches, the nation’s preeminent ecumenical organization, which includes 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions with a combined membership of nearly 52 million.

NEW YORK, Nov. 10, 1998 ---- Church World Service is sending shipments of much-needed food and other material assistance this week to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to assist the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) in its continuing relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Mitch.

A shipment of five tons each of rice and beans arrived today (Nov. 10) by air; a second shipment of ten tons of powdered milk, as well as 20,000 health kits, 750 layettes (baby kits), 65 family tents and nine water purifers is scheduled to arrive Thursday, Nov. 12. The total cost of the material goods is $308,000 and shipping costs are estimated at $45,000.

The cornerstone of CWS efforts following the disaster that has been described the worst in at least half a century has been to assist CWS partners based in Central America, such as CCD, which have been responding to the disaster from its initial stages.

In an appeal issued Friday, Nov. 6, CWS is seeking $250,000 from its member denominations to cover the costs of shipping, transportation and non-donated items in several shipments to Central America valued at $2.5 million.

CWS assistance to local partners is one part of larger work by the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International network. This work is the first step in what is likely to be a sustained, long-term effort by churches, NGOs and governments not only to meet immediate emergency needs but to work toward rehabilitation and development in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

"The most important time for the church will be after the initial emergency," said the Rev. Oscar Bolioli, who heads the CWS Latin America and Caribbean Office. "The worst part will become when people discover they have no jobs, no (sustainable) food supply." Bolioli said the hurricane has revealed "the hidden disaster of poverty" that existed before the current crisis and it will be up to the church to provide "help and healing" in such a difficult situation.

Bolioli added that, given Central America's recent history of wars, rehabilitation, drought and economic crisis, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans are experienced at living through tragedy. "This is not going to kill their spirit," he said.

The United Nations' World Food Program has said the disaster -- which has claimed at least 11,000 lives -- has set back development in the region by at least 20 years.

"Many of those who died or disappeared lived at the margins of our society, on riverbeds around the edges of industrial areas or on steep hillsides in the countryside," said Noemi Espinoza, CCD executive president. "They were the expendable ones about whom the government has never been concerned. As we begin to rebuild our country, they must be taken seriously, they must be taken into consideration.

"The project of reconstruction must focus on the people, not just the infrastructure. We have to learn from this disaster. We have to change the way power is distributed and exercised, so that the poor and forgotten can participate in rebuilding their lives, and not just be spectators as the international assistance is used to rebuild an economy for the wealthy."

A country-by-country summary of CWS efforts follows:

HONDURAS: In addition to the two shipments this week, CWS also has sent $40,000 in Blanket Fund monies to CCD. Another shipment bound for Honduras, by ocean freight, will include commodities of food, medicines and new clothing to CCD donated by the International Relief and Development Agency (IRD). These commodities are valued at approximately $925,000 and are scheduled to arrive Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Puerto Cortez, Honduras.

CWS is also planning to assist in the travel costs of a team of doctors from Cuba which will be sent to Honduras by the Cuban Council of Churches to assist medical efforts by CCD. The travel costs are expected to be about $1,500 per doctor, or a total cost of $15,000.

CWS has also agreed to make up to 5,000 blankets available to the Christian Children's Fund for distribution to their partners in Honduras.

NICARAGUA: CWS has sent $20,000 in Advance Funds to the Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales (CIEETS), another CWS partner. As of now, CIEETS has not requested material assistance from CWS.

However, CWS is providing 5,000 blankets to the Board of World Missions of the Moravian Church for distribution to their partners in Nicaragua. CWS will also be sending $60,000 in blanket funds to the Council of Evangelical Churches (CEPAD) to purchase local blankets, and a shipment of goods to CEPAD will be made by the end of November. CWS is also shipping 5,000 blankets to the Adventists in Nicaragua.

EL SALVADOR: CWS is considering a shipment of commodities to El Salvador, with a decision to be made at a later date.

GUATEMALA: CWS has sent $10,000 in Blanket Funds to the Conference of Evangelical Churches in Guatemala (CIEDEG), and is also tentatively planning a shipment of commodities (food, kits and plastic sheeting) to CIEDEG by late next week.

In addition to the material support being requested for this appeal, CWS is still seeking denominational support for the earlier CWS/ACT appeal Hurricane Mitch Emergency (#976309) for $250,000 to support a $250,000 appeal by ACT International to assist CCD in relief efforts.  CWS is not accepting donated goods such as food items and used clothing.

However, CWS is requesting local congregations and other groups help replenish supplies of "Gifts of the Heart" health kits which have been nearly depleted.  Those sending kits should remember to include $1 per kit or 50 cents per pound to assist in the handling and shipping of health kits. Checks for handling and shipping costs should be made out to Church World Service.


1 hand towel
1 wash cloth
1 new bath-size bar of soap
1 comb
1 toothbrush
1 tube of toothpaste
6 bandaids
1 nail file

Wrap items in the hand towel and tie it all up with ribbon. Pack all kits in sturdy cartons. Multiple kits may be boxed together. Please indicate number of health kits enclosed.  Please clearly mark the outside of each box to indicate the kind of "Gifts of the Heart Kit" (i.e.: "Clean-up Kit," "Health Kit") and ship pre-paid to New Windsor CWS Service Center, 500 Main Street, New Windsor, MD 21776-0188.

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