Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is responding to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, providing funding for relief, supporting the initial assessment team of an MCC partner organization, and working with partners to determine needs for longer-term recovery.
MCC is providing an initial $50,000 to Church World Service (CWS), which is working with the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Network, to respond with urgent food and non-food items. Initially this assistance is focusing on Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Island (both in Mindanao) and on Bohol and Samar (both in Visayas), areas where MCC’s partners have access.
MCC also is providing funding to Peacebuilders Community, a Mennonite-related agency, to send a 10-member team trained in disaster preparedness from Cebu and Mindanao to Leyte Island, an area where thousands of people are believed to have perished.
The team leaves Nov. 12, flying to Cebu, then traveling by barge because of transportation challenges.
Dan and Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi, area directors for MCC’s work in Southeast Asia, say that communication has been unreliable, and team members do not know what they will find. “They will try to go by foot to some of the areas that are not yet accessible by road because of debris, landslides, and bridges out,” the Jantzis report.
MCC partnered with Peacebuilders Community from 2009 to 2012 to train peace and reconciliation teams in disaster preparedness – a project planned in the Philippines because previous conflicts have arisen amid the severe needs after major disasters.
The Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches has connected Peacebuilders Community with local pastors in the area, and the team plans to help mobilize, train, and deploy some 50 volunteers from five churches to help in several affected areas. The goal is that working with local pastors and congregations will help prevent conflict.
“In a situation like this, training in disaster preparedness gives team members the experience to help communities respond in their own areas,” the Jantzis report. “That has more impact than trying to send volunteers from outside the country.”
Two of the team members are psychologists with experience in disaster trauma healing work. They will bring training materials and be prepared to work in this area as the need arises.
Bruce Guenther, MCC director of disaster response, stressed that this is the beginning of MCC’s response, which will help to meet immediate needs and support longer-term recovery. “There are urgent needs to be addressed now,” Guenther says. “At the same time, we want to explore how to support communities’ longer-term efforts to restore livelihoods and recover from this devastation.”
Donations from individual Canadians to MCC’s typhoon relief effort are eligible to be matched by the Canadian government.
Marla Pierson Lester is publications coordinator for MCC U.S.