UMCOR Distributes Relief Supplies in Philippines

October 09, 2009

By Linda Bloom
Oct. 2, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

United Methodists have been working to get emergency supplies to families affected by Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines.
"With the limited supplies we had on hand, we were able to supply immediate relief to about 500 families," reported Melissa Crutchfield, the executive in charge of international disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Volunteers are preparing supplies at UMCOR's Philippines Office, located on the campus of Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, about 50 miles south of Manila. They are assembling packets of rice, sardines, coffee, oil, sugar, and special items for women and children to distribute in evacuation centers. Some blankets also were available for flood victims.
Church members in the United Methodist Manila Episcopal Area are collecting supplies as well, Crutchfield noted.
Nearly 2 million people in the Manila area were affected by the flooding from the late September storm, which at one point left most of the capital city under water and resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people in the Philippines.
A second storm, Typhoon Parma, was heading toward the Philippines on Oct. 2. "I think people are bracing themselves for the new storm this weekend," Crutchfield said. "We're keeping a close eye on it."
Representatives of UMCOR, Christian Aid and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines met Oct. 1 to discuss how to handle relief work. The trio will appeal to Action by Churches Together International for funding, she added.
Distribution at Harris Memorial College
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines reported on its Web site that the organization would be distributing relief goods Oct. 2 in the Rizal area in cooperation with United Methodist-related Harris Memorial College. Supplies also have been distributed to three poor urban communities in Metro Manila: Tatalon, Payatas and North Triangle.
During their pastoral and solidarity mission to the Philippines this summer, members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference delegation spent time at Harris Memorial College, passing out food to an indigenous group, the Dumagat people, and hearing their stories of hardship. (Harris Memorial College is a United Methodist-related school, established in 1903. Its Center for Community Development houses the Dumagat Program, an effort to reach out to the Dumagat people - an ancient tribe living in a rural region around the Laguna Bay, southeast of Manila.)
Because the flooding in Metro Manila has received a lot of attention, Crutchfield expects UMCOR will focus on bordering provinces, such as Bulacan and Pampanga. Ciony Eduarte, who runs the UMCOR Philippines office, will continue to coordinate relief efforts with local partners, bishops and volunteers.
UMCOR conducted disaster relief training for Filipino United Methodists over the summer. For three days before the office opened in July, Crutchfield and Lisa Jackson, another staff executive, led workshops on developing a disaster response plan with church representatives from different regions of the Philippines.
Neglect worsens problems
In a letter to "all United Methodists," Bishop Lito Cabacungan Tangonan of the Manila Episcopal Area called for assistance. "The calamity brought havoc to the lives of our people, and they need our prayers, financial support and helping hands during this time of calamity," he wrote.
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Justo told Ecumenical News International that the massive damage from the floods was "primarily caused by man's sins of social irresponsibility, neglect, opportunism, laziness and lack of vision."
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has documented cases of drainage systems being clogged with tons of garbage, mostly plastics. It said the floods could hardly recede because of the blocked waterways, ENI reported.
Donations to UMCOR's relief work in the Philippines can be made through Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235.