STAMFORD, Conn. – The delegates to the United Methodist Church’s Annual Conference, Oct. 20, agreed to invest much of the money remaining from the $21.5 million fund for the Sept. 11 tragedy on Seminars on Trauma Awareness and Recovery (STAR).
Sponsored by the Church World Service and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg Va., each five-day STAR seminar combines the experiences of participants with "best practices" in the areas of trauma awareness and recovery, restorative justice, conflict transformation and peace building.
"I have been searching for ways to respond to the numerous requests UMCOR has received from clergy and bishops across the country, to help prepare them to respond to any new incidents similar to Sept. 11," said Rev. Tom Hazelwood, domestic disaster coordinator for the churchwide Committee on Relief. "The STAR program has received great evaluations from those who have participated."
The $300,000 grant to Church World Service for the STAR program was one of 12 approved by relief agency directors during their annual meeting. Nearly $22 million was donated to the denomination’s “Love in the Midst of Tragedy" fund two years ago.
Bishop G. Lindsey Davis of Atlanta, president of the relief agency, said he was proud of how those gifts were administered.
"We’ve learned some valuable lessons about preparedness," he said. The relief agency has particularly worked hard with the New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Baltimore-Washington annual (regional) conferences "in a way that has strengthened them and their ability to do ministry into the future," he noted.
Other approved grants are directed towards the New York Annual Conference, the Disaster Response Task Force, three year budget of the New York Disaster Interfaith Services, and to the Blanton Peal Institute of Psychotherapy and other counseling providers.
Four of the final grants are related to Afghanistan. One of the earliest decisions about the Love in the Midst of Tragedy fund, Davis said, was to use a percentage of the money to help Afghans in need.
Through a partner relief organization, Diakonisches Werk of Germany, the Committee on Relief already had allocated $500,000 to rebuild 10 schools in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. Another $100,000 had been approved for a project extension for five new schools and a new health clinic. At this meeting, relief agency directors approved a request to grant the remaining $230,000 needed for the project.
Church World Service, which has built 1,500 new homes for returning refugees in the Shomali Valley of Afghanistan, is constructing another 1,000 homes. Relief agency directors granted $503,125 for the expanded housing project.
The Committee on Relief’s nongovernmental organization has enabled the rebuilding of homes and assisted with agricultural and income needs for 200 families in the Bagram District in Afghanistan’s Paktiya Province. Directors approved $600,000 for a similar project in three districts of the province.
UMCOR also granted $35,000 to International Assistance Mission, which has worked in Afghanistan for more than 36 years, to help rehabilitate an irrigation system in the Shamali Valley.