By Chris Herlinger
Toms River, NJ – At the core of every CWS recovery training is a simple truism, spoken recently by one training participant here in central New Jersey, a region still trying to gain its footing after Hurricane Sandy.
"A training like this helps people (disaster survivors) by empowering the people who can help them," said Diane Riley, director of advocacy for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, an organization that worked with CWS in the initial days of the emergency. (CWS provided the FoodBank with $107,754 in assistance, including CWS Blankets, Baby Kits, School Kits, Hygiene Kits and Emergency Clean-up Buckets.)
Put another way, trainings like the Jan. 17 event in Toms River give those in the agencies that work on behalf of disaster survivors and in the groups providing long-term assistance the knowledge they need to help their communities recover.
That recovery, Riley believes, will take years – five at least, perhaps more. And the extent of recovery is still unfolding, three months after the storm hit the Jersey shore, said the Rev. David Joynt, the senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Toms River, which hosted the Jan. 17 event.
In a community where 10,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed, what is at stake is a sense of social justice, said the Rev. Joynt. "A lot of people are dealing with uncertainty and financial ruin," he said.
And yet, based on the turnout at the event –some 200 people registered and attended – "people are eager to move it forward. They're ready," said Florence Coppola, who heads National Disaster Ministries for the United Church of Christ, a CWS-member denomination and one of the other sponsors of the training event.
Long-term recovery is not a sexy process. It can be laborious and hard and complex. It is difficult for recovery groups and local organizations to navigate the terrain of volunteers and management; government assistance; emotional and spiritual care; and the national donations management system. These are all themes tackled by the CWS-sponsored trainings.
But education is a first step so that the communities can "take ownership of the recovery," said CWS Emergency Response Specialist Sandra Kennedy-Owes, who along with her colleague, Joann Hale, helped coordinate the Toms River session.
Hale said that among the vulnerable groups long-term recovery groups assist are the elderly people, immigrant groups and young families "who have never had to ask for assistance before."
Two other CWS-sponsored sessions were held in New Jersey the week of January 13, and two others are scheduled this week in New York: one held on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at Stony Point, NY, and one Thursday, Jan. 24 in South Bethpage, NY. (A training event scheduled for Friday, Jan. 25, in Jamaica, Queens, has been cancelled.)
Along with providing emergency relief supplies, CWS makes community level long-term recovery assistance a priority. In recent years, the agency has used training seminar formats to maximize sharing of its expertise, and has provided grants to startup groups.
Building grassroots recovery infrastructure to help the poorest – those who are uninsured, under-insured or as yet unserved by other sources -- is part of CWS's emergency response work, and a cornerstone of CWS’s global focus on advance preparedness to reduce the risks of disasters.
CWS worked with a number of agencies in conducting the New Jersey trainings. In addition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, these include the New Jersey Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD), Lutheran Disaster Response, World Renew, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the New Jersey Emergency Management Agency, United Methodist Committee on Relief and the United Church of Christ.
CWS is a global relief, sustainable development and refugee assistance agency, addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger around the world. As part of its work, CWS has a domestic disaster response program.