CWS Commits to Aid Provision, Collaboration in Wilma Aftermath

The Florida Keys are flooded and millions of people are left without electricity by Hurricane Wilma, which forecasters said was the strongest storm to hit the Miami area since Hurricane Andrew in August 1992.

Still early on in the aftermath of Wilma, officials are unable to determine damage costs and recovery work estimates.

Recovery works, however, have already begun to show promising results as power was returned to the storm-struck homes and aid agencies distributed provisions.

With relief workers still on site in the Gulf Coast in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Christian relief groups including Church World Service say they are ready to commit another flow of aid resources and collaborative work by the request of affected local churches and communities.

"At this point, we're waiting on the locals to tell us what's needed," Linda Reed Brown, associate director of CWS' domestic emergency response programs, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.

CWS disaster response involves the assessment of needs through local networks including churches and organizations already in the area. Currently, CWS is working with Florida Interfaiths Networking in Disaster (FIND) to coordinate unmet needs.

"We support FIND's efforts as they do the local building in terms of recovery ... because it's not CWS's intention to just come in and take over, but rather to support the local groups and the local decision-making when that's in place," said Brown.

The CWS associate director explained the agency's greater flexibility to reach places missed by larger relief groups or churches that may be tied to respective congregations in the affected areas.

"We work quickly to train and build the capacity and collaborate with denominational partners recognizing the work that needs to be done," she said. "We do something [in areas] not being already covered."

Communities are not ready to discuss long-term recovery at this point, said Brown. However, when the time calls for it, CWS will be there to act.

"We follow the will of the community."

As disaster relief groups respond to the devastations caused in the past several months through both immediate and long-term relief and recovery efforts, little concern is felt over the exhaustion of supplies.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper that tracks charitable organizations, charitable giving in the United States rose 11.6 percent from 2003 to 2004 and continues to rise.

Brown said donations for Katrina relief alone were much higher than what was received over a number of years.

"The churches across the country have been so responsive that we continue to have supplies replenished," she said. "I think, yes, the donations are continuing to rise ... for disasters of this magnitude," she commented.

Contributions may be made at www.churchworldservice.org.