1998 NCC News Archives

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CWS Expands Hurricane Georges Recovery Program in Caribbean
Ecumenical Recovery Efforts Also Underway in Gulf Coast Region

Who We Are

CWS works in more than 70 countries, including the United States, 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.

How to Help

CONTACT Church World Service, Attn. Hurricane Georges, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

October 9, 1998, NEW YORK -- As continuing assessments in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Georges are revealing more extensive damage than was first expected, Church World Service (CWS) is expanding its response to provide emergency relief shipments and to determine long-term needs in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, strong faith-based recovery efforts assisted by CWS volunteer disaster consultants are coalescing around long-term needs in the Gulf Coast and Texas-Mexico border area.

Damage in Puerto Rico alone is now estimated at more than $2 billion, including 45,000 homes destroyed, another 45,000 with severe damage, and considerable crop losses.

"In some areas, power may be out for as long as eight months," reported Shirley Norman, CWS/FEMA Regional Facilitator from Puerto Rico. "Some 17,000 people remain homeless by the storm, and in rural areas, a lack of clean water is leading to an increase in dysentery."

The cornerstone of CWS efforts will be a shipment of material goods to Puerto Rico and Cuba. A shipment valued at more than $100,000 will go to the Puerto Rican Council of Churches and other groups and include sheets; blankets; clean-up, health and school kits; flashlights; backpacks; kerosene lanterns; air mattresses, and portable generators. A shipment valued at more than $70,000 will go to the Cuban Council of Churches, including sheets; blankets; health, sewing and school kits, and canned beef donated by the Church of the Brethren.

To support the appeal, congregations and community groups are being urged to assemble "Gifts of the Heart" clean-up and health kits.

Additional recovery efforts in the region supported by this appeal include:

  • $50,000 for Haiti, where CWS will assist relief and reconstruction efforts through the ecumenical organizations CONASPEH (National Spiritual Council of Churches in Haiti), Ecumenical Committee for Peace and Justice (COPJ) and SKDE (Christian Center for Integrated Development).
  • CWS has sent $8,000 to the Puerto Rican Council of Churches for immediate food distributions. Ms. Norman, a Church of the Brethren representative from Pennsylvania, is working with Waddy Gonzalez, Puerto Rico-based FEMA voluntary agency liaison, to organize a broad-based ecumenical response that will bring together the Council, CWS member denominations, and members of small Pentecostal churches and the Catholic Church.
  • CWS has sent $15,000 in Emergency Advance Funds to Dominican Churches Social Service (SSID), a long-time partner in the Dominican Republic, for immediate relief needs there, including blankets and construction materials.

Meanwhile, faith-based recovery efforts continue in the Gulf Coast region and in the Texas-Mexico border area:

  • Work in the Del Rio, Texas, area following late summer flooding is continuing on two fronts, according to Regional Facilitator Norman Hein (FEMA Region VI), of Lutheran Disaster Response. The ecumenical group "Del Rio Recovers" has hired staff and is working with partner churches across the border in Mexico to assist poorer "colonias" in Acuna. The partnership is focused now on supplying mattresses to disaster survivors. Volunteers to assist with construction work will be needed later in the year through early 1999, Mr. Hein reports.
  • Jodi Hill of Florida Interfaiths Networking in Disasters has been assisting in assessments in Florida, where cleanup efforts are ongoing.
  • Back Bay Mission is taking the lead on faith-based recovery efforts in the Biloxi, Miss., area, while Mobile-VOAD Interfaith is likely to head efforts in Alabama. Among those who may be assisted in the Mississippi Delta area are Laotian and Vietnamese fishing communities.
  • Rains from Georges spared New Orleans, but exacerbated problems in Louisiana from Hurricane Frances. CWS Louisiana-based Disaster Resource Consultant Peggy Case of Catholic Charities is overseeing the already established Terrebone Recovery Assistance, which is responding. CWS is also helping the religious community elsewhere in the state to build interfaith organizations based on the Terrebone model.

Sept. 25, 1998, NCC News Release, "U.S. Ecumenical Community Channels Aid to Caribbean Following Hurricane Georges"


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