Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Compassion Deficit Disorder

On Friday 13 March 2015, category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam lashed the islands of Vanuatu bringing with it destructive winds surpassing 300kph, heavy rainfall, storm surges and flooding. Large parts of the country were severely affected. 

Act for Peace (AfP) have supported the immediate needs of the disaster affected population (initial response) as well as their medium/longer term needs (early recovery). Initial response included the provision of WASH materials (hygiene kits) and water purification units, assistance with food distribution efforts along with seeds and farming tools to revive homestead gardens. These activities will be undertaken through local partner the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC).

Act for Peace in partnership with the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) has distributed tarpaulins to churches that were identified as appropriate cyclone evacuation centers (those with strong structural elements as well as bathroom and cooking facilities). The tarpaulins are providing important temporary roofing to allow churches to return as quickly as possible to their regular function not only as a place for church services but for important community gatherings including acting as food distribution areas, mothers group venue, youth group center and general spiritual and mental health support space for the community suffering stress and trauma following Cyclone Pam.  Churches are a significant community centre point for people to come together to connect and support each other.  With so many church roofs destroyed by Cyclone Pam some churches have had to halt community activities for weeks following Cyclone Pam meaning communities were not able to connect and continue their support activities.
Act for Peace in partnership with the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) ran independent needs assessments across several islands determining the requirements for the churches.  On many occasions VCCâs distribution of tarpaulins arrived more quickly to churches that had applied to the government weeks earlier for help and had not yet received any roofing aid.
Yesterday I was pondering the power of the media to immerse us in issues and circumstances of our world for a brief time, only to scurry off to the next disaster. In this year we were terrified by the prospect of the spreading Ebola virus, wondered about the implications of the invasion of Ukraine, were deeply saddened by the earthquake in Nepal. The threat of ISIS was front and centre, and now it is the great wave of refugees in Europe, as well as the Syrian crisis. Pope Francis has pushed us to be more aware of the environment.

What is difficult for us as global citizens and compassionate Christians is how to awaken to these issues and not return to slumber. How can we possibly respond to so much heartache and tragedy in our world.

Today we heard that the CBC won an International Emmy for its coverage of the Ebola crisis, and the courage of reporter Adrienne Arsenault was upheld. http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/cbc-news-wins-international-emmy-for-ebola-coverage-in-liberia-1.3247961She is one of my heroes actually, along with other CBC reporters who do such an exceptional job of keeping us informed in situations which often involve personal peril.

Image result for cbc emmy

I have other heroes, and they are the people from aid agencies who respond to medical emergencies and disaster relief with considerable fortitude and bravery. They are not "here today and gone tomorrow" but determinedly active in situations which must be overwhelming.

Our United Church continues to support partners in Nepal and the countries affected by Ebola through Act Alliance, a coalition of 140 churches and faith-based organizations. http://actalliance.org/ When the media attention shifts to the latest disaster -- and there are always new ones -- we are able to counteract Compassion Deficit Disorder by our involvement with those whose work is heroic but often unsung.

God bless those who live their faith in places of challenge and even danger.


1 comment:

Judy said...

It takes more heroism than dwells in me to go onto areas hit by e-bola, or earthquake, tsunami, flooding, or an immensely overcrowded refugee camp... indeed, these aides are REAL heroes. I am happy to contribute $$$ if others are willing to wade into those waters!