Helping Disaster Survivors

Helping Disaster Survivors

September 20, 2017

A Conversation with Disaster Response Coordinator, Rev. Catie Newman

The sheer number of natural disasters in recent weeks has been overwhelming. Hurricanes have wreaked havoc in the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and now Puerto Rico, while wildfires have raged out west. “Everybody really wants to do something to help when we see those pictures of folks surrounded by devastation,” says Rev. Catie Newman, the disaster response coordinator for the Iowa Annual Conference. “And through the United Methodist system, the best way we help is by kits and financial donations.”
Click to listen to the conversation with Rev. Newman
There are a number of different kinds of kits that volunteers can assemble themselves to help those in need. ‘Clean-up Buckets’ are five-gallon buckets with lids that contain cleaning items and even a clothesline and pins so that people are able to dry their clothes. ‘Hygiene Kits’ (or ‘Health Kits’) include personal items so that people can wash their faces, brush their hair, and take care of other personal needs.

“The next one that’s going to be important is the ‘School Kits,’” Rev. Newman explains, “because so many of our schools were affected, all across the south, and especially in Florida. Children, in their school classrooms, really have lost everything that they use every day, so those kits will be important as well.”

Anyone interested in either donating money or putting together some of these disaster aid kits can visit here to find out about what items are needed and where their local designated drop-off spot is located. September 29 is the deadline for kits to be included in the next shipment going out. The kits will be going to Midwest Missions, and then dispersed to the places where they are needed by Midwest Missions and UMCOR.

For those interested in hands-on volunteering, Rev. Newman also notes that two conferences, the Texas Conference and the Rio Conference, have invited out-of-state volunteers to come help. However, they need to be teams, not individuals, and at least one team member must have Early Response Team (ERT) training. Teams also must be prepared to be completely self-sufficient, including housing and food. “The gift in that for the conference needing help is that they don’t have to take care of us, along with all the survivors,” she adds. Go directly to those conference websites to find out more about signing up.

“Down the road there will be many, many opportunities for larger groups, for youth groups, for folks to come and volunteer,” says Rev. Newman. “In fact, it will probably be years’ worth of volunteer needs in all of those locations. And down the road we will also be hearing about helping to rebuild after the wildfires out of the west and in the northwest. But, at this point, they really want us to stay away from there as well.”

In the meantime, one way that absolutely everyone can help is by praying. “It’s through prayer that we unleash God’s power for one another,” Rev. Newman affirms. “UMCOR and other international organizations have been responding, but the scope of the task is just enormous. So prayer is really our best and our first line of action in caring for our brothers and sisters.”