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Churches' SE Asia links help target aid

Christian World Service (CWS) thanks New Zealand churches for their overwhelming support for the victims of the Asian tsunamis. “We have been heartened by the outpouring of generosity and concern for people in the region,” says CWS national director Jonathan Fletcher. “The response to this emergency appeal has been unprecedented.”

With long-term partnerships in the devastated areas, CWS launched an appeal as soon as news of the scale of the disaster reached them.

Jonathan says CWS has close ties with partners who work with fisher-folk in coastal South India and poor farming communities in Sri Lanka. Despite their own losses of family members, homes and belongings, the staff of CWS partner groups rallied quickly to provide relief for their shattered communities.

In the immediate aftermath, refugee camps were set up in churches, mosques, temples and schools, and temporary shelter material was distributed. Food, medical supplies, clothing, clean water, health information and essential household goods (such as baby supplies, soap and cooking pots) were provided to survivors. Groups inland arranged for the delivery of locally donated food, clothing and money. Clean up operations were organised and committees set up so that people could identify their most pressing needs. The money New Zealand churches have raised has assisted these groups in their initial and ongoing efforts.

“We have been extremely impressed with the response of our partners,” Jonathan continues. “Although not normally functioning as emergency response agencies, they have been able to effectively use their local knowledge and networks to ensure people receive the help they really need. More importantly, they are working to ensure these people will have a voice in the reconstruction of their communities.”

In Indonesia and other affected areas, CWS is providing support through Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. ACT International is a global emergency response network of churches and their related aid agencies. With members in affected countries, relief efforts were again quickly organised drawing on local networks. In Aceh, local church groups were able to distribute food, blankets and medical kits and have since been providing gloves and gumboots to aid clean up efforts and assisting with medical services.

In the months ahead, CWS partners will be helping people rebuild their homes, livelihoods and community infrastructures as well as providing much needed trauma counselling. Groups will assist with disaster preparedness and advocate for the rights of poor communities who risk being marginalised by outside pressure to ‘modernise’ at the expense of their traditional ways of life.