Tsunami Funds Continue Work to Rebuild Lives

Post a Comment » Written on February 5th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

PUNE, INDIA (February 5, 2007) – The more than one million dollars donated by Covenanters and others for tsunami relief in Southeast Asia has now been spent or allocated, and two Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) leaders say they are thrilled with the work that has been accomplished.

“It’s the kind of thing where the partners have been so good, we could use them as models for best practices,” says Jim Sundholm, director of Covenant World Relief (CWR). He traveled in November and December with Elliott Johnson, ECC controller and director of finance, as part of an “accountability trip” to see how well the funding was used.

The money has funded the development of new businesses and construction of new homes. It also enabled the Hindustani Covenant Church to add two new congregations. But, perhaps as important, it also has contributed in a positive way to the dismantling of some local social barriers in the India caste system, Sundholm says.

FoundationsCovenanters and others around the world donated more than $1 million for work in Sri Lanka, India, and the Andaman Islands following the December 2004 disaster. Although death toll figures vary, the number of fatalities attributed to the wave, which reached higher than 90 feet in some areas, was around 300,000 individuals.

Sundholm says the partners, including the Hindustani Covenant Church, located in Pune, and the India Rural Evangelical Fellowship (IREF), “are very engaged in what they are doing.” The partners have multiplied the donations by using the funds to obtain matching grants and other financial resources.

Grants have been used to help rebuild businesses, including replacement fishing nets and boats to help restart the fishing industry, as well as new micro-business enterprises. Funds also have provided support for a variety of medical services, including a medical clinic (lower photo). To see additional photos, visit Rebuilding Effort.

Hundreds of homes have been built throughout the region, including areas where other relief agencies did not venture. In India, thatched huts are being replaced by homes of 350 square feet with roofs that also can be adapted for living space. The top photo shows the hand-digging work required to lay foundations for some of the new housing.

In other areas, new structurally strong houses have been built on the highest ground in a community and offer water, sewage and an electrical system. “The houses are bigger, stronger and higher than they were before,” Sundholm says. The Covenant also has provided $600 worth of basic furniture such as beds and tables for each home.

ClinicEven though enough permanent housing is not available for everyone, tsunami victims in the Andaman Islands are excited to continue living in what initially was to be temporary structures. “The poor say these are better than we had before. Can we stay?” Sundholm explains. “They are thrilled.”

Sundholm notes that while the temporary homes don’t look like much and are constructed of tin, they are well built with cement footings and are elevated above ground level.

Where homes have been built, some historical social barriers have given way. The caste system traditionally has separated different society strata in India. “The Hindustani church told two castes that they would have to work together, and they did it,” Sundholm says.

Almost all of the people were in the lower caste and the church assisted many with starting micro-enterprises. “What the church is doing with micro-enterprise businesses is exciting,” Sundholm says.

The opportunity to share the gospel on a personal level has resulted from the development work. “It opens the door for questions,” Sundholm says. “It is the right thing to do because we are to help the poor.”

“This is an example of staying,” Sundholm points out. Covenant World Relief provides immediate disaster relief, but stresses the importance of remaining engaged in the long-term process of rebuilding of communities and lives, long after other relief agencies have moved on to respond to other worldwide tragedies.

Editor’s note: Part two of a three-part series will appear tomorrow. It shares the welcome the two Covenant leaders received when they visited the village of Santhinagar.

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