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After the passage of Typhoon Bopha, Ciony Ayo-Eduarte (in yellow shirt), the director of operations in the Philippines for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, distributes emergency food supplies to people displaced by the storm in Iligan, on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. Assisting her is Minnie Anne Calub (center), the emergency coordinator for the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.

Help That’s Wanted; UMCOR Advance


Several years ago, the Rev. Denise Honeycutt was in a meeting with a West African bishop when he learned that huge regional floods had killed a number of people, wiped out homes and destroyed a church in his episcopal area. The bishop asked the group to pray about the desperate situation.

Honeycutt, now deputy general secretary for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) at the General Board of Global Ministries, never saw the flood mentioned in newspapers or other media in the United States. However, UMCOR helped the community rebuild with donations from United Methodists around the world.

In 2012, selfless giving to UMCOR Advance projects provided $48.6 million for disaster response and other programs that fight poverty and promote health. Organizing the efforts were experienced staff and coordinators from UMCOR.

Around the world, governments and other relief organizations know UMCOR for its integrity and reliability in disaster situations. Says the Rev. Shawn Bakker, a Global Ministries' executive, "One can usually turn to UMCOR and ask, ‘What is the response in this time of need?’"

As with all other Advance projects, 100 percent of the donations flow into the donor-designated UMCOR Advance projects and relief appeals without a cut for administrative or operational costs. However, unlike other Global Ministries' departments, UMCOR receives no apportionment or World Service Fund money to cover its administrative costs. Overhead and administrative expenses come from the One Great Hour of Sharing or undesignated giving. The One Great Hour collection is vital to UMCOR continuing its humanitarian work around the world.

Cash helps without hurting

After a disaster, UMCOR intervenes at the invitation of community partners, explains James Rollins, director of communications and marketing. "We're not first responders — we're early responders."

That response often begins with community assessment – prioritizing and asking what supplies or services are needed – before organizing help from the global community.

United Methodists want to help. However, to make a difference, we need to listen to the coordinators on the ground, Honeycutt explains. "Over and over, disaster coordinators say, ‘Please don't send us thing,’" she said.

Clothing donations have become known as "the second disaster," according to Rollins. Likewise, truckloads of teddy bears and toys inundated Newtown, Conn., after the Sandy Hook School tragedy in December 2012. While clothes and materials may arrive with good intentions, Rollins says, they typically hinder relief instead of helping survivors.

Donating money is the quickest and best way to help, Rollins says, "It ensures that we meet community needs — not what we think the community needs." Donated dollars let UMCOR representatives supply local leaders with needed supplies or services.

Money also allows relief workers to purchase cleaning supplies, tools, food or other goods locally when available. "It's much better for [supplies] to come from their local economy," Honeycutt says.

To get money to where it is needed the most, gifts to the UMCOR Advance undesignated fund (Advance #999895) allow the agency to respond immediately. When tornadoes hit Alabama and Joplin, Mo., in 2011, funds were low in the UMCOR Advance for United States disaster response (Advance #901670), so UMCOR tapped the undesignated account to respond immediately, explains Rollins.

Beyond emergency response

UMCOR is the humanitarian aid and development organization of The United Methodist Church, explains Rollins. Whether suffering comes from natural disasters or poverty, UMCOR delivers aid and works to relieve it.

The Rev. Tom Hazelwood (left), then U. S. disaster response executive with UMCOR, discusses recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy with the Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, disaster response coordinator for the New York Conference. Needs assessment is the first step in UMCOR’s response following any disaster.
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood (left), then U. S. disaster response executive with UMCOR, discusses recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy with the Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, disaster response coordinator for the New York Conference. Needs assessment is the first step in UMCOR’s response following any disaster.

UMCOR's global health projects include maternal healthcare, hospitals and clinics, water sanitation and Imagine No Malaria. Global development programs cover sustainable agriculture, safe water, fair trade and nutrition.

"God's kingdom is more than just a quick response or charity," Honeycutt says. "It's moving into deep levels of compassion and justice and looking at issues of injustice and how we can be a part of the solution."

Using the Media to Support UMCOR

When disaster strikes, many people find their compassion ignited by news images that portray horrendous damage and serious needs. The news and social media coverage in the first hours and days after a disaster open the door for you to invite others in your congregation to make contributions through UMCOR. Monitor Facebook and Twitter for announcements about UMCOR's response and how to help.

Inform the media about UMCOR's response to disasters.

Get the word out. If you help spread the word about UMCOR's response to disasters among local news media, you'll help direct even more awareness – and donations – toward disaster survivors worldwide.

Say "100 percent." When donors give to an UMCOR Advance, 100 percent of their gifts go to that project. This statistic makes UMCOR stand out among dozens of other charities.

Move quickly. Even though UMCOR helps survivors through long-term recovery – which can last for years – the best time to land media coverage is within days or even hours after a disaster strikes. By contacting reporters sooner rather than later, church members can highlight their own efforts and remind reporters that donations to UMCOR will ultimately be used during all phases of recovery.

Tell the "human story." When speaking with reporters, church members can remember that UMCOR helps disaster survivors ultimately reach a "new normal." Catherine Earl, UMCOR's United States disaster response executive, suggested church members remember that UMCOR works through them. "We prepare, support and fund the church as the church walks with people through their recovery from disasters," she said.

General Board of Global Ministries