In a time of disaster it is more important than ever to concentrate the community’s stretched resources in the most effective way. Disaster relief and recovery organisations need to be able to rely on trained, identified personnel who are already experienced at working in a team. Past experience has shown that “spontaneous volunteers” are overall more trouble than help.
The State Disaster Recovery Plan relies on specified community organisations to co-ordinate particular aspects of emergency relief and recovery – food, clothing, accommodation, personal services and welfare information. Other government and voluntary agencies support the lead organisations by making available their resources and trained personnel. The effectiveness of the partnership between “Participating” (lead) and “Supporting” (back-up) organisations requires previous planning, communication and training.
The Uniting Church’s people and resources have been available in five ways:
Disaster “recovery” is the long-term process of the community adapting and growing beyond the ravages of the disaster. It can take months or years and, while of lower intensity, is often of more lasting benefit than the immediate help offered to disaster-affected people to alleviate the emotional and economic severity of the disaster.
Both terms are used to refer to large-scale disruptive events that overwhelm the community’s resources to cope. “Disaster” usually implies an emergency with long-term problems for the individuals, families and the wider community affected. “Emergency” is usually the shorter-term, but equally destructive, crisis caused by extraordinary natural, industrial, transport, or terrorist events and other accidents. “Disasters” and “emergencies” -- implying the need for maximum mobilisation of community resources -- both go beyond specific tragic incidents involving a few individuals or families, though the Uniting Church’s concern and expertise is equally available in the smaller scale incidents.
The specialised chaplaincy, counselling and welfare activities require already trained and supervised people. Disaster Welfare lead agencies provide ongoing training throughout NSW for volunteers, including people from Supporting Organizations, who will be called on when a disaster strikes.
Experience has shown that disaster-affected people are best helped by being given money, (not goods), which they can spend locally to help them survive and recover. In any proclaimed disaster, the Moderator and or Assembly President will announce an appeal to which we can contribute funds.
The Assembly Appeal, which is tax-deductible, has to be allocated to specific projects which will benefit the people for whom the appeal has been launched. Examples are grants to individuals or church communities to replace what has been lost in a flood or fire.
The Synod Appeal, not constrained by the tax provisions, is available for wider, long-term reconstruction projects like the funding of a rural minister who is supporting the families and communities devastated by the prolonged NSW drought.
The Trustees of the Assembly and State Appeal Funds, advised by the Synod Disaster Committee, allocate funds as appropriate to applications supported by the local Uniting Church presbytery.
Disaster Relief and Recovery funds are intended to supplement, not replace, the funds available from insurance, government grants and public appeals. Government departments have an on-going responsibility to promote the recovery and rehabilitation of disaster affected people. The pastoral and welfare support of the Church community is available as long as necessary until individuals, families and the community have come to grips with the disaster and are beginning to get on with life.
The Assembly Appeal Fund has an impressive record of making immediate grants available to help disaster-affected people, particularly in our own area of the world.
In the Bali bombing NSW churches participated in commemorative services and supportive pastoral activities for those killed or injured, survivors and their families.