Fund Makes Grants to Start New Brethren Disaster Project, Aid Congolese Refugees

Photo by T. Rodeffer
A Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer at work at a project site. Grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) make possible Brethren responses to disasters around the world, including the participation of volunteers at Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding sites such as the one opening up in southeastern Indiana.

Grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) have been given to start up a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding site in southeastern Indiana, and to help a church group that is aiding Congolese refugees fleeing violence on the border with Rwanda.

An allocation of $20,000 opens a new Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Holton, Ind., following a tornado that destroyed nearly 20 homes and damaged dozens of others in March.

This fall, district disaster coordinators in the region were contacted by the local recovery agency seeking volunteers to assist with construction of new homes to replace those that had been destroyed. In response, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have been collaborating with district coordinators to develop a joint response that couples regional and national resources to address the need.

The EDF grant will underwrite operational expenses related to volunteer support including housing, food, and travel expenses incurred on site as well as volunteer training, tools, and equipment needed for rebuilding and repair.

A grant of $8,000 has been made to Gisenyi Friends Church located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an area where violence has been a part of life for years as different armed groups fight with government forces or each other.

Recent violence has focused around the city of Goma, in an area considered the front line between government troops and the M23 rebel group. The ACT Alliance, in which the Church of the Brethren participates, has expressed “extreme” concern for the situation of displaced Congolese civilians in the province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Gisenyi Friends Church, a Quaker congregation, is at the edge of this area and has been receiving many Congolese people displaced by the violence. Pastor Etienne is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., a sister school to Bethany Theological Seminary. The town of Gisenyi is near Goma but across the border in the country of Rwanda.

The Gisenyi church’s committee on social justice has appealed for help with immediate needs for the displaced Congolese. The church hopes to support at least 275 families, and is attempting to care for the most needy and vulnerable, particularly women and abandoned children, as well as rape survivors. The grant will help the Gisenyi Friends purchase corn and beans for refugees and will cover transportation costs for delivery of the food.

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