1998 NCC News Archives

National Council of Churches logo represents the church 
as ecumenical ship, serving the world

At Thanksgiving Time, CWS Brings Team of Doctors to Honduras

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. 25 ---- As Americans give thanks for the bounty in their lives this week, Church World Service (CWS) staff and a team of volunteer doctors are spending the Thanksgiving holiday with Hurricane Mitch survivors in Latin America whose own lives and crops have been devastated by this disaster.

Three weeks after one of the most catastrophic disasters to strike Latin America this century, an emergency situation remains in many areas, reports CWS Latin America/Caribbean Director Oscar Bolioli, who visited with the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) in Honduras last week. But the major concern among the churches and many in the Honduran government is that a social crisis and political instability are looming because of projected mass unemployment. "The desperation of people could result in extreme situations," Mr. Bolioli said. "There are already signs of this, as seen in a significant exodus of people in the north who are going toward Guatemala."

In the face of such profound destruction, Bolioli said, "the question becomes whether to reconstruct the country or use this juncture to build a new country." Bolioli foresees CWS and other agencies being engaged in a two-year reconstruction effort in Honduras that would continue through the end of the year 2000.

The continuing CWS response, as part of its expanded $300,000 appeal, includes the following elements:

This week, the first CWS team of volunteer medical personnel -- two doctors and four nurses -- arrives in Honduras to work with CCD. Don Sibley, a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been working with CCD in preparations and Lonnie Turnipseed, former CWS director, has been working in the Latin America/Caribbean Office to handle the application process. Further information about additional visits will be available later, but it appears medical teams will be sent through January. Interested volunteers (doctors and nurses who are certified and who are preferably bilingual) may contact the Latin America/Caribbean Office (212/870-3200) for further information.

Chris Herlinger, CWS/Emergency Response Office Information Officer, and Dave Young, a photographer and member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), will be traveling with the first medical team this week, and will also be in Honduras to cover CCD’s response to the disaster. Acting on behalf of both CWS and the Action by Churches (ACT) International network, they will, during their one-week stay in the region, also visit Nicaragua to report on the local response by CWS/ACT partners there. Stories and photographs from the trip will be made available to the CWS and ACT networks.

The Nov. 20-22 visit by Bolioli and a delegation including Linda Petrucelli of the United Church of Christ included visits not only to CCD staff, but also with a number of officials, including President Carlos Flores and Msgr. Oscar Rodriguez, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the Roman Catholic Latin American Episcopal Conference.

An initial shipment of $308,000 in material goods – including 8 tons of rice, 5 tons each of beans and powdered milk, as well as 20,000 health kits, 750 layettes (baby kits), 65 family tents and nine water purifiers – arrived Nov. 12 to assist CCD in Tegucigalpa. On Nov. 23, a CWS-arranged shipment of goods donated by International Relief Development (IRD) arrived in Honduras. The cargo, valued at $582,756, included 40,000 pounds of medical supplies and 5,000 pounds of medicines and IV fluids and 5,000 pounds of new clothing. Additional shipments planned include an ocean shipment later this week and another early the following week from Miami bound for Nicaragua. The $261,766 shipment will be sent to the Council of Evangelical Churches (CEPAD) and include health kits, baby kits, soap, hand tools, tarps and 44,000 pounds of rice.

"CCD has a deep appreciation for CWS’s response since our funds were the first to arrive when they had no resources and ours was the first flight to bring material aid," Mr. Bolioli says.

Although emergency assistance is needed and received with gratitude, Bolioli continues to stress the long-term needs in the region. "The creation of alternative jobs is a priority," he explains. "Banana and pineapple plantations will not be in full production for about a year-and-a-half. According to President Flores, the large fruit companies have not given any signal that they want to invest in reconstructing the plantations. The fear is that the fruit companies may move from being producers to traders of the products. The Honduran state does not have the capacity to recover the plantations."

"This disaster has revealed the underlying disaster of poverty that already existed," Bolioli says.

Contact: NCC News Department

NCC Home Page
NCC News Service Index