Brethren center aids victims of volcano

NEIGHBORS

January 31, 2002|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AFRICA MIGHT BE far away, but that hasn't stopped Brethren Service Center in New Windsor from joining disaster relief efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo this month has caused tens of thousands to lose their homes.

Interchurch Medical Assistance Inc. (IMA) and Emergency Response Service Ministry (ERSM), two of six organizations that make up the New Windsor campus of Brethren Service Center, sent aid within days of the volcano's eruption. The volcano, one of Africa's most active, erupted Jan. 17 and cut the city of Goma in two. About 25 people were reported killed.

ERSM had five tractor-trailer loads of aid ready to be shipped to Congo two days later, said Kathleen Campanella, a center spokeswoman.

The aid included 5,000 facemasks, 20,000 wool blankets, 20,000 five-gallon water jugs and 20 10,000-liter water bladders. The shipments were made on behalf of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

"In our warehouse, we have things we know will be needed in any response," Campanella said. "Each situation is different, and we have to be ready to respond as quickly as possible."

IMA also responded quickly. A week after the eruption, the group had shipped 30,529 pounds of medicines worth $2.3 million to Goma. A shipment of medicines valued at $2.7 million will be shipped to the area next month, said Vickie Johnson, communications manager for IMA at the center.

Johnson said IMA learned of the area's needs from two doctors and the Ministry of Health in the Congo. Dr. Joe Lusi, medical chief of the Goma Health Zone, gave an eyewitness account of the eruption and the area's needs to IMA's representative in the Congo, Dr. William Clemmer.

The doctors supplied a list of needs.

"We look at what supplies we have at the warehouse in New Windsor," Johnson said. "Then we call the pharmaceutical companies [from] which we have received donations before and ask them if they can make a donation."

Donating medicines were Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer and Roche.

In addition to the medicines, cash contributions have amounted to $97,000. IMA member churches contributing include American Baptist Churches USA, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Mennonite Central Committee and United Church of Christ USA. The Pfizer Foundation also made a cash donation.

Johnson said IMA gets involved in disaster relief about two to three times a year, though most are not as large as the Goma effort. She said she expects the relief effort to extend six months.

"This is an area where people are extremely poor," she said. "Some of the hospitals and clinics were destroyed, and we lost the warehouses where medicine had been stored. Transportation and communication are not in place to shore up an area when they encounter this kind of emergency. So, we're doing what we can."

IMA is a nonprofit association of 12 Protestant relief agencies that represent churches in the United States and throughout the world, according to the group's literature. The group has obtained and distributed medicine and medical supplies for international health care programs for people in need for nearly 40 years.

Brethren Service Center in New Windsor has been helping people for 55 years, Campanella said. The Church of the Brethren General Board operates it. The center houses programs for relief and development, disaster response, social justice and peace education. It was established in 1944 as a collection site to ship materials to war-torn Europe.

Baseball sign-up

Taneytown Lions Club Little League will hold baseball sign-up tomorrow and Saturday.

Registration will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the school.

A copy of the child's birth certificate is required. Costs vary depending on age.

Clarification

Last week, I wrote about the Westminster chapter of the Ravens Roost, which donated 800 Ravens flags to Runnymede Elementary School.

I need to make a clarification. Andrea Lurz, whose husband, Michael Lurz, is president of the club, said the couple takes their children to Ravens' games, but not other people's children.

I apologize for the error.

Bull and oyster feed

American Legion Hesson-Snider Post 120 will hold a bull and oyster feed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 9 at its hall in Taneytown. Beer and soda will be available. The cost is $20.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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