upper room daily devotions

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Health Kits Matter - Possible PNW Response for Haiti

In an appeal following the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, UMCOR, the disaster relief arm of the United Methodist Church, issued a call for health kits. For those not in the know, a United Methodist health kit is a gallon size bag with a few health essentials. Since secular news reports have detailed the enormity of the disaster and denominational news reports have focused our emergency response in helping people access water, people have asked me why health kits are important. They don't, after all, help first responders do the work of emergency relief. Two band aids, these folks say, won't save a life. And, when people are trapped under rubble and have no access to water, food, or sanitation, why are combs important? I think something wonderful is behind these questions - People want to help, really help, and they want to know exactly what is needed so they can provide it. And so, let me tell you why health kits are important...among other things.

The truth is that toothpaste, combs, and two band aids often won't mean the difference between life and death, but overall good hygiene does: the use of soap and water and the maintenance of good hygiene make a great deal of difference between life and death for people in stressed living conditions, with poor nutrition, and in the midst of disease and bad sanitation. For people who live with easy access to reliable water, soap at every sink, and proper nutrition, it's easy to discount how important those things are.

I am excited to read that UMCOR, who has suffered tremendous loss themselves through the deaths of the Revs. Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb in this disaster, has made grants available to other organizations, is networking with other organizations, and has begun to mobilize into Haiti to assess what our denomination's response might be. This is in addition to other Methodist responses that began soon after the earthquake. Despite the loss UMCOR is experiencing, it has partnered with Global Medic, the Methodist Church in Haiti, Church World Service, ACT, and others who were better positioned to begin aid work right away. From the distribution of water to oral rehydration sachets, to purification tablets, to work on sanitation, the distribution of blankets, and relief kits, donations made to UMCOR for Haiti have already begun providing relief through our partnerships.

Health kits are one part of this very large effort, and we must remember that health kits are also being sent to other locations all around the world. In a phone conversation with Brian Diggs, Director of UMCOR West which was followed by a letter sent (you can read it below) to the conferences of the Western Jurisdiction, I learned that the depot in Salt Lake City shipped 22,800 health kits just in the past week and provisions had been depleted. Not only is it important for us to make up the difference for the loss of health kits, but we need to add to that number so that the depot is able to continue its work of sending health kits all around the world. Layette kits are also in need. In addition to basic sanitation and clean water, clean receiving kits also make an incredible impact on survival for infants.

We are a connectional church. UMCOR has asked that we respond to Haiti by giving to the Haiti disaster Advance fund (418325 ) and to provide the money for health and layette kits (Depot Advance number is 901440) as well as sending kits already assembled. By sending money immediately to UMCOR designated for depot use, the depot can purchase materials in bulk and replenish their shelves without delay. A health kit is estimated to cost $12 and a layette kit $35. I don't know what the Pacific Northwest Conference will eventually send, but I hope that we send at least $65,000 for kits (health and layette) by Ash Wednesday; that buys 5,000 health kits plus $1 for shipping.

Next, we need to send assembled kits. We need to do this to connect ourselves to this ministry and to this story as well as to reduce the amount of labor needed at our two depots (Salt Lake and Sager Brown). Churches can send kits directly to Salt Lake City to UMCOR West or churches in the Seattle District can drop off kits at Woodland Park UMC (302 N 78th St, Seattle). We are working with the conference to get kits shipped off. By mailing them directly, we keep the flow going, but at approximately $30/box of 50 kits via UPS, at some point it becomes financially advantageous to ship kits together. I challenge us to assemble and send 10,000 kits as an annual conference - 10,000 by Easter.

And last, United Methodists have already contributed over $2,000,000 do UMCOR for Haiti relief. This relief effort will take many years. I challenge the Pacific Northwest Conference to raise $200,000 by Easter for this effort. Our ongoing response will need to be evaluated and changed as needed. Individuals and churches may send money directly to the Advance or they can send it through the conference treasurer.

The leadership of the Pacific Northwest conference may come up with different goals and strategies, but until those are laid out, these are my ideas.

Health kits will not rescue people crushed under toppled buildings, but they will provide people displaced by the earthquake, people living in very stressful conditions, the ability to wash, to clean themselves, and to make themselves less vulnerable to the diseases that accompany disasters. Two band aids will not make a difference in a traumatic wound, but they can make a difference in a small wound becoming infected and turning life-threatening. Health kits, especially those we assemble, tie us to that other person on the other end of the process, whether that person is in Haiti, the DR Congo, or in another county in our own state. Kits lovingly packed make a difference for them and for us. They tie us to one another and to this denomination that is at work all over the world.

Here is Brian's letter from UMCOR West:

I am writing on behalf of the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s UMCOR West Office and Depot which has been in operation since June 1, of 2009. We are a ministry that gathers, assembles, and sends disaster relief kits all round the world to the most vulnerable of populations. Along with UMCOR Sager Brown, UMCOR West is the second disaster relief depot. Except for Alaska and Hawaii, every western state has sent a work teams to UMCOR West to participate in our important ministry. You can find out more about our mission by going to UMCOR.org.

This last week has been particularly difficult for all of the UMCOR staff as a result of the earthquake in Haiti. As you may know, the Rev. Sam Dixon who was the head of UMCOR, along with the Rev. Clinton Rabb, head of mission volunteers, were killed in the earthquake. Your prayers for the UMCOR staff, the families of Rev. Dixon and Rev. Rabb, and for the people of Haiti are coveted during this grieving process.

On a more positive note, the people of Utah have responded powerfully to the call to help the people of Haiti. We have been working with hundreds of volunteers to assemble and send aid to the people of Haiti. Our first shipment of around 23,000 health kits will be sent from our warehouse in a few days!

As a result of this tremendous volunteer response, we are now running critically low on our disaster relief materials and we call on you to help. If you would like to help restock our warehouse in preparation for more supplies being sent to Haiti and other destinations you can:

Give financially through the Advance (gbgm-umc.org/Advance/ ) which is a powerful giving program in United Methodist Church. One hundred percent of the money donated goes toward the project you pick. Each mission project is assigned a number. The Advance number for both UMCOR West and UMCOR Sager Brown – our two UMCOR Depots – is #901440.

Consider putting together disaster relief kits at your home church. All of the information to assemble kits can be found at
www.umcor.org. If you choose to make kits at your home church we ask that you please focus on two kits, the Health Kit and Layette Kit. They can be sent to UMCOR West, 1479S 700W, Salt Lake City, UT, 84104. .

Thank you so much for your support and faithfulness! It is the work of United Methodists like you that makes a difference in the lives of people around the globe.


Rev. Brian Diggs, Director UMCOR West Office and Depot


Pastorjewels said...

Would you take health kits from Lutherans? I don't think ELCA is doing health kits for Haiti, but it's something our kids could get into easily! :)

Rev Katie M Ladd said...

I would love to have Lutherans making kits. Send them to the Salt Lake depot or bring them by Woodland Park UMC. We'll be accepting kits for quite a while.

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