From the Worldwide Faith News archives

PDA helping with shelter for Afghans

Date 7 Jun 2002 09:09:49 -0400

Note #7197 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


PDA helping with shelter for Afghans

Aid also dispatched to ease suffering in Liberia, Missouri, Maryland

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE - Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is helping put roofs over the heads of homeless people in the Shomali Valley of Afghanistan.

PDA recently contributed $200,000 to a program sponsored by Church World Service (CWS) that is building 1,500 homes in the mountainous region north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Relief officials are planning to provide shelter for about 10,500 people. 

The Shomali Valley, although a place of long, cold winters and short summers, was once among the most fertile parts of Afghanistan. It was known for its agriculture, especially its vineyards. But that was before it became a battleground. Now thousands of its residents are without homes or jobs.

CWS, a relief and development agency related to the National Council of Churches, is providing housing kits that include virtually all the supplies necessary to build a home and latrine; families will contribute the necessary labor.

New housing will significantly help in the community's recovery, according to Pamela Burdine, PDA's communications officer. "With the re-establishment of housing comes the gift of hope, and the energy and courage to once again make the fertile valley bloom," she said in a May 28 situation report. 

Six million Afghans face famine-like conditions and four million are refugees, according to CWS estimates.

Refugees in Liberia

PDA sent $15,000 to the Concerned Christian Community in Liberia to be used to construct shelters for about 1,000 families routed from their homes by fighting in the countryside.

"I have never seen people so hopeless," one PDA official said. "People are walking around like zombies."

Recent violence reportedly has increased the flow of displaced people into the area around Monrovia. PDA officials have been active in the area for two years, especially in support of programs for women raped and otherwise abused by combatants. CWS and PDA officials were in the country recently to conduct emergency management training.

"The church has struggled long and hard in Liberia to be a voice of peace, a voice of strength, and a voice of encouragement," Burdine wrote in a June 4 report. "They have much to teach us about being faithful in adversity. ... We ask for prayers for those ... who unfortunately are beginning to lose hope." 

Storm damage in Missouri 

PDA recently dispatched $20,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy to relieve the effects of severe weather in southeastern Missouri earlier this spring. 

Storms and tornadoes raked southern Missouri on April 24, with the heaviest damage occurring in Poplar Bluff, Carter County and Madison counties, said Stan Hankins, the PDA's associate for U.S. disaster response. Later the same week, tornadoes caused extensive damage in Marble Hill; one person was killed.  

Heavy downpours late last month soaked some parts of Missouri with as much as eight inches of rain, causing flooding in 30 counties. 

"The area of most concern is Carter County, where some of the same homes that were struck by tornadoes just days ago are now flooded or inaccessible," Hankins said in a May 20 report. "In all, 37 Missouri counties are eligible for federal assistance."

The Rev. Kelly Allen of St. Louis, MO, a PDA team member, visited the area and met with local church leaders to help the presbytery coordinate its response. 

Maryland twister 

PDA officials last month rushed $10,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to National Capital Presbytery in the wake of a tornado in southern Maryland that killed three people and left a trail of destruction. 

The April 28 tornado, Maryland's strongest in 75 years, packed winds greater than 300 mph.

Two of the victims were killed in the town of La Plata; the third lived in Prince Frederick. Dozens of people were injured.

Another series of tornados from the same storm front swept through parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, killing three people and causing extensive property damage.

The buildings seriously damaged in Maryland included the United Methodist Church and Christ Episcopal Church. Sacred Heart Catholic Church lost its affiliated school. No Presbyterian churches were seriously damaged. The Rev. Merritt Schatz, the presbytery's disaster coordinator, is heading the Presbyterian response. 
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