In recent weeks the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) has disbursed several grants, directed by the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff. The largest are helping to continue hurricane recovery work in Puerto Rico ($150,000), the Carolinas ($40,500), and the Bahamas ($25,000). Grants for COVID-19 response are going to Honduras (two grants for $20,000 and $4,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($15,000), and South Sudan ($4,000). For more information about the EDF and to donate to this relief work go to www.brethren.org/edf .
Puerto Rico hurricane response
An allocation of $150,000 continues funding for the Puerto Rico hurricane long-term recovery program organized and managed by Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren. The effort responds to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. This comprehensive relief and long-term recovery program focuses on the communities around the seven Church of the Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico.
This allocation is made in addition to four previous EDF grants, for a total of $600,000. It will support the project for another 3 to 4 months.
In addition, a grant of $5,000 has been given for the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren to respond to emergency unmet needs as a result of the January earthquakes.
Brethren Disaster Ministries hurricane rebuilding project in the Carolinas
A grant of $40,500 finances the remaining work at the Brethren Disaster Ministris rebuilding site in the Carolinas, supporting recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Hurricane Florence in September 2018.
Hurricane Matthew rebuilding took place in Marion County, S.C., from September 2017 through May 2018, and then in Lumberton, N.C., starting in April 2018. After Hurricane Florence hit both states, re-affecting many who had just recovered from Hurricane Matthew, the project was reduced to a single site, with monthly and long-term leadership committed to serve in 2020. In February 2020, BDM made the decision to extend the Memorandum of Understanding with the housing location from April to August 2020 based on work, leadership, and weekly volunteer availability.
COVID-19 has affected volunteerism and the ability to travel beginning in March and the site is on suspension pending changes in social distancing and stay-at-home orders. BDM remains in close communication with partners and will monitor CDC and federal and local government guidance to determine when it is safe to send volunteers. EDF funding is being planned in case it is possible.
Along with prior EDF grants for this project a total of $216,300 has been allocated.
Church World Service relief in the Bahamas
An allocation of $25,000 supports the Church World Service (CWS) response to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The hurricane made landfall last September. CWS, working with the ACT Alliance, has developed a long-term recovery program focused on supporting the most vulnerable migrant population, because other organizations are focused on Bahamian residents. The goal is to assist local organizations and congregations to build their long-term recovery capacity and work with civil society and humanitarian organizations to address immediate needs in ways that contribute to durable solutions. The response also includes advocacy for the human rights of the migrant population. A previous grant of $10,000 was given to the project in September 2019.
COVID-19 response in Honduras
A grant of $20,000 has been given for Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG) support for community pharmacies in central and western Honduras. PAG, which is directed by a Church of the Brethren member, is being proactive in preparing for the anticipated spread of COVID-19 in the area. Community pharmacies will become the first line of defense in preparing communities to combat the virus by implementing simple hygiene procedures and helping the population to be healthier and more resistant to the virus. They are working to restock before movement within the country is further restricted. PAG has been in contact with pharmaceutical supply houses and has obtained the necessary government documentation to travel and move the supplies by truck from one part of the country to another. Grant funds will assist with the purchase of medicines, medical and cleaning supplies, canned goods, and other necessary items.
In addition, a grant of $4,000 supports distribution of food baskets to vulnerable families in the Flor del Campo area of Tegucigalpa by Iglesia Cristiana Viviendo en Amor y Fe (VAF), an independent church with connections to the Church of the Brethren. The province of Francisco Morazán, where the capital city of Tegucigalpa is located, currently has the most cases in the country. The government has taken strict action to close borders, schools, markets, and businesses, and has instituted regulations to control the movement of people. These actions have had an especially detrimental effect on the most vulnerable populations who, even in the best of times, suffer from high poverty levels and income inequality. VAF has identified families with which it works who have not received any assistance from the government or relief organizations and will provide 25 of the poorest families with a monthly emergency basket of basic food products for four months.
COVID-19 response by IMA World Health in Democratic Republic of Congo
An allocation of $15,000 supports IMA World Health in establishing a free-standing COVID-19 isolation and treatment center in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In anticipation of increased numbers of people requiring medical care, the DRC Ministry of Health has designated the non-profit HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma as a COVID-19 isolation and care facility. IMA World Health is supporting HEAL Africa’s efforts and requested funding to assist in the transformation of a former hotel property into an isolation and care unit capable of receiving and holding 25 to 30 patients at a time. The hospital is close to the DRC Church of the Brethren congregations, including one in Goma. HEAL and IMA are uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively, leveraging both organizations’ experiences with responding to the Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo.
COVID-19 response in South Sudan
A grant of $4,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund to provide seed funds for a COVID-19 response in South Sudan, to be carried out by Church of the Brethren mission staff. South Sudan has closed its borders to travelers, closed markets, and is restricting travel, creating hardships for many people and limiting access to food for the most at-risk and vulnerable people. After years of civil war, families are returning from refugee camps to rebuild their lives, but with few or no resources, and government aid to starving people is limited. The Church of the Brethren mission, based in Torit, is supporting agricultural development and education, teaching peace and reconciliation, and will soon be building churches in communities being evangelized. Funds and resources are needed for staff to respond to the COVID-19 restrictions. This grant will allow mission staff to respond to arising needs.