IMA Supports Brethren Response to Katrina and Rita Disasters

The first-ever domestic disaster response by Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) has provided $19,500 for rebuilding work coordinated by the Church of the Brethren Emergency Response office.

Created in 1960 to support overseas church-based health development and emergency response activities, IMA had never been called on to assist with a domestic disaster until Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf states. Just hours after the hurricane struck, donors began sending contributions to IMA, many of them repeat donors who had appreciated the effectiveness of IMA’s assistance for the tsunami disaster in South Asia.

As the extent of the damage became evident in the days immediately following the hurricane, IMA’s member relief and development agencies–themselves expert in disaster assistance–called on IMA to provide Medicine Boxes of emergency medicines and supplies. The boxes were placed in shelters for use by medical personnel treating the everyday health needs of displaced people. Over the course of about four months, IMA coordinated five shipments of medical products with a total value of $89,476.

As relief efforts moved into the longterm phase, medicines and medical supplies were no longer needed. But IMA’s emergency fund for the Katrina disaster had not been depleted, and IMA began discussions about longterm recovery projects that needed funding.

IMA announced early this month that the remaining $19,500 in Katrina disaster relief funds will assist rebuilding activities under the leadership of the Emergency Response program of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The Brethren response to both hurricanes collectively included deploying 128 Disaster Child Care volunteers who interacted with 3,027 children affected by the disaster; coordinating 183 volunteers who helped to clean up or repair the homes of 188 families in Alabama and Louisiana; facilitating shipments of material aid valued at $2.1 million from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., in collaboration with Church World Service; and providing grants totaling $257,000 for the disaster response activities.

“The disaster response work of the Church of the Brethren is well respected on all fronts,” stated Paul Derstine, IMA president. “IMA is diligent about staying faithful to our donors’ wishes, so we’re happy to be able to use their contributions for longterm recovery activities in response to the Katrina and Rita hurricane disasters. Having IMA’s headquarters located at the Brethren Service Center enables us to maintain a close working relationship with the Emergency Response office and to receive timely status reports, which we can then pass on to our donors.”

The financial support offered by IMA will help pay for building materials and their transport to the affected areas, with a goal of building one new house per week or repairing three houses per week over the next two years. In addition to using volunteers for the construction activities, the project makes use of and relies upon local leadership in the affected areas, enhancing the efficiency of the project and strategically identifying areas of greatest need.

“The strength of our work rests on the partnerships we develop with local (city or regional area) long-term recovery committees, which guide the recovery process in their communities by completing needs assessment and case management for those low income, elderly, or disabled disaster survivors,” stated Roy Winter, director of Emergency Response. “Part of our support involves coordinating volunteers who assist with construction needs for families who could not recover without outside assistance.”

IMA is a nonprofit association of 12 Protestant relief and development agencies providing comprehensive technical and material assistance for overseas health programs of partner churches, faith-based development and relief organizations, and public and private agencies with similar goals. Major activities focus on disease elimination and treatment; strengthening health care systems; procurement of medicines, medical supplies, and equipment; and serving as liaison between international funding entities and overseas health-related community organizations.

For more about IMA go to To read this story at the IMA website, go to

(This article is taken from a press release from Interchurch Medical Assistance, written by Vickie Johnson.)


The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to Submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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