Food For The Hungry, Phoenix Officials Assess Relief Programs in Indonesia

An assessment team of representatives from a Christian Humanitarian organization and the City of Phoenix is in Indonesia reviewing relief and development programs they implemented in January through a unique partnership.

The joint "Rising to Help" venture, between the municipality and the Phoenix-based Food for the Hungry (FH), was formed just days after the December tsunami and is helping thousands of survivors in Meulaboh. Joining the tour this month to represent the City of Phoenix are Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten and civil engineer Mike Frisbie.

“We’ve moved from providing relief to long-term development,” said Ben Homan, president of Food for the Hungry, prior to the assessment team’s departure on May 12.

“Early on, Phoenicians provided emergency supplies such as food and medicine; and now, the citizens of Phoenix are sending a civil engineer, as well as helping Indonesian small business owners such as rickshaw drivers, salon workers, and chicken farmers, recover their livelihoods,” he added.

According to ministry officials, Meulaboh – which lost 40,000 of its 120,000 residents in the earthquake and tsunami – is critical to the long-term stability of all Indonesia.

“Our goals for this trip are threefold,” said John Frick, Food for the Hungry’s senior director of Ministry Partnerships, who is helping lead the expedition. “We will review and evaluate current programs and strategize future development plans; meet with provincial leaders to further the political relationship between the City of Phoenix and the leaders of Meulaboh; and encourage our locally hired workers, the citizens of Meulaboh and our program management staff.”

To date, the alliance has raised more than $200,000 to help rebuild Meulaboh. The money was donated by private citizens, associations, school-children, and more than 50 businesses, groups and foundations including Carl’s JR, Home Depot, and The United Phoenix Firefighters.

Although Food for the Hungry has strategic partnerships around the world, the agency reports that this is the first large-scale initiative where a U.S. city is mobilizing businesses and citizens to reach out to tsunami victims in a long-term relief and development plan.