LWR Plans Long Term Tsunami Rehabilitation

An agency acting on behalf of U.S. Lutherans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is planning to work with its local partners in India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia for the next ten years to help rebuild and reinvigorate communities affected by last year’s quake-tsunami disaster.

As many aid agencies begin pulling out of the tsunami-affected countries to focus on immediate emergencies elsewhere, Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is shifting from relief to rehabilitation - the second phase of its long-term commitments in South Asia.

This phase of the rebuilding process "is lots of meetings," said Barbara Wetsig, LWR's Team Leader for Tsunami Response, in a statement released by LWR.

"It takes time to do it right," said Wetsig, referring to the process of rebuilding devastated communities. "It takes sitting down with community members, including women, including the disabled, elderly and even kids, to understand what their needs are. Because of the scope and magnitude of this disaster, it's community planning starting from scratch."

Currently, the rebuilding process consists of working with current partners in LWR’s strategic planning, reviewing project proposals from potential new partners, and identifying local agencies that might be good partners. According to LWR, the investment of time and planning is crucial in order to ensure both good stewardship of donated funds and sustainable solutions.

To manage the rehabilitation efforts in those countries and to accompany local partners as they implement the projects that it will support, LWR will establish offices in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In India, where LWR has a 5-year history, such an office already existed.

For a long-term effort such as the tsunami response, this physical presence is important, Wetsig said. "We want our partners to know us, our values, and we want to know theirs ... it really takes having someone on the ground to build that kind of relationship."

Some of the projects that LWR will work on during the rehabilitation phase include building and repairing damaged homes and schools; provision of books and school supplies to children; repairing damaged fishing boats and providing new boats to fisher folk whose boats were destroyed; provision of trauma counseling for survivors; providing income-generating possibilities to women through small loans; and providing training on disaster risk management, advocacy and gender equity issues.

Since its founding in 1945, LWR has been responding to emergencies and disasters, working through partners and global relief and development networks in 50 countries. LWR is supported by the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, LCMS World Relief, individuals and parish groups.