Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

South Sudan: Healing Through Play

Posted on January 28, 2013 by Matthew Ley

Children playing after school at the Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan. Credit: LWF/Melany Markham

Children playing after school at the Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan.

The school day has finished and the children are running out the doors to find their favorite jump rope or ball or to join their favorite game. As the children laugh and pant, running around the field the sun finally sets and they head home for dinner, tired but happy.

A pretty common story for many of us as we remember back to our childhood days, as well it should be. These moments of play can have a major impact on the children who engage in them. This fact is not lost on the Lutheran World Federation who has taken seriously the need and impact of play as an act of healing for children in refugee camps, who may be escaping violence or disease. In places like Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan the LWF is creating child-friendly spaces and supplying the resources to let kids be kids, in the midst of this major disruption in their lives.

It’s another great example of how the ELCA, through our membership in the LWF, is helping to support more holistic approaches to disaster response and humanitarian aid. In the United States we support a similar program called Camp Noah, to help children process the impacts of disaster upon their lives.

To learn more about how this particular ministry is playing out at the Yusuf Batil camp and why it is so important, read the LWF story Healing through Play.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Trial and Error and then…Smiles

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Children filling up the school grounds as they eagerly await the start of classes. Credit: LWF/South Sudan

This past year the Lutheran World Federation set up three Emergency Hubs in areas prone to disasters. Their intent was to preposition staffing and resources in areas of the world prone to disaster. One of these hubs was set up in Nairobi to help address the needs of East Africa. When violence began to break out in South Sudan in areas like Juba, Blue Nile and Jonglei the LWF was able to help respond quickly from this hub. Yet, as is the case with disasters there are always unforeseen circumstances and situations.

Below is a great story from Mairo Retief, the Emergency Hub Team Leader in East Africa, on his experiences in Maban as they worked to meet the growing needs of South Sudanese displaced by violence, especially unaccompanied minors. It shares the trials that come with working with the multiple moving parts of pulling together a disaster response and also the immense joy that comes along with seeing the difference made.

LWF in Maban has all been worth it!

You can also learn about the LWF-run schools in their report: It’s Crowded but Learning Has Started under Tents in Upper Nile.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

World Refugee Day 2012

Posted on June 20, 2012 by meganbradfield

Poems of Hope from Kakuma, Rukiya Ibrahim, 19.

When The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was founded in 1947, its first service program provided assistance to refugees in Europe. Today the LWF continues to work with and for refugees and displaced persons, providing service and care for 1.2 million of the world’s refugees and displaced persons in Africa and Asia. In these camps, people from many nations live side by side seeking refuge from conflict and natural disaster.

The theme of the United Nations World Refugee Day 2012 is “one refugee without hope is one too many.”

A young Ethiopian woman, Rukiya Ibrahim, who lives in the LWF-managed Kakuma refugee camp, in northwestern Kenya, puts it powerfully: “when we do have hope that tomorrow will come and that tomorrow will come with a new change within itself, a new place to build you up, then that gives you hope to carry on.”

The ELCA, a member of the LWF, works as part of this 145 Lutheran member church communion which represents a total of 70 million members. This means that 70 Lutherans together take care of one refugee in this world.  As a member of the the LWF, the ELCA is dedicated to our vocation to uphold the rights of the poor and oppressed and promote dignity through our continuing work with refugees through ELCA Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger. Every person we serve has a history of struggle yet has hopes and dreams for the future.

On World Refugee Day, we are reminded of the suffering of too many people who are living as refugees and internally displaced persons in our world. But we are also reminded of the difference we can make by offering a basis of hope for the future through the efforts we participate in as a member of the Lutheran World Federation. 

As a meditation for the day, I want to leave us with a poem written by Rukiya:

Came as stranger
with lost hope
no home
and became your members

We found friends and family
a safe ground to stand
strength and a helping hand
a new life and a chapter to carry on

You made us see far
unlocked our potentials
with strength and hope
we stood firm

You took time and listened
came down and reached us
brought us to light
and exposed our hidden talents

We have dreams and visions
hopes and missions
to fulfil our live ambitions
and reach every hill top

Now we are up and strong
built on strong base
stand with every race
and move on same pace

Thank you for your continued commitment to serve and provide hope to those most in need.  ~ Megan Bradfield, Director for International Disaster Response, ELCA.

 Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Kenya, South Sudan & Sudan: New (and Returning) Arrivals at Kakuma

Posted on May 25, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new feature story from the Lutheran World Federation looks at the increasing number of South Sudanese and Sudanese who are ending up at Kakuma refugee camp in northwesetern Kenya. For some this is a return trip after they left the camp years ago to move home to Sudan and the new country of South Sudan. Yet violence on the border of the two countries and internally with South Sudan have led them to flee for safer areas.

The situation is also heightened because Kakuma has also been taking overflow Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab camp on the Kenya-Somilia border. This has led to a situation in Kakuma where overcrowding and processing have also become problems. Read the report from Rose Karimi, LWF gender equity and human rights officer at Kakuma camp, to learn more about the situation and the work of the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance in the camp.

Back Again at the Reception Center

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Reflection from the Field

Posted on May 25, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Sarah Dreier is the Legislative Representative for International Policy, a position shared jointly between the ELCA Washington Office and the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. She reflects upon her recent trip to South Sudan and suggests how you can get involved.

Resilience amidst uncertainty: Lessons from South Sudan

“But what do you do to cope?” I asked my new friend, Anne, who coordinates Lutheran World Federation refugee programming in Kenya and lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for several years.

Anne looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.

“In Dadaab, we dance. Every night, we dance.”

South Sudanese dancing and singing at an afternoon celebration in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

I saw this same resilience thriving across South Sudan, amidst the conflict, poverty, and desperate need for development – thriving over the daily trials. It was in the young woman, gracefully carrying gallons of water overhead as she strolled down Bor’s dusty, dirt road. I saw it in a local performance troupe, dancing and singing under Juba’s scorching afternoon sun. It was in Jonglei State’s tribal leaders as they returned once again to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution to their tribal conflicts that have taken so many lives this year. I felt from my fellow worshipers in the vibrant, packed Cathedral in Juba late Sunday morning and into Sunday afternoon. And I heard it in the powerful voice of South Sudan’s Minister of Labour as she commanded international aid agencies to hire more South Sudanese employees.

This is a resilience that the South Sudanese carry along with their looming memories of incomprehensible turmoil and their expectations for future uncertainty. I learned that one local development colleague who is working tirelessly to strengthen South Sudanese agricultural capacities while addressing the daily realities of malaria, poverty-based hunger, and conflict, had been kidnapped as a small boy to become a child soldier. Another young man had fled to a Ugandan refugee camp as a baby and returned to his country—on foot with his wife and two young children—only last year, when South Sudan became independent.

“How long did it take you to walk back?” I asked.

“Three or four days, only. But for you, it would take much longer,” he said with a grin.

Workers building an LWF emergency response compound outside Bor. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

It is hard for me to comprehend the daily challenges and insecurities the South Sudanese face. The tribes in Jonglei State just last week arrived at a delicate peace agreement to end violence, cattle raiding, and child abductions amongst them and have begun an equally precarious disarmament process focused (in part) on retrieving weapons from youth. South Sudan’s escalating war with Sudan (driven in large part by oil) has absorbed precious state resources away from development, forcing South Sudanese to live with unpaved dirt roads, insufficient education, bare-minimum health care services, and little capacity to farm their nutrient-rich land. Meanwhile, South Sudanese and other Christians living in the north face increased persecution and those living in the border regions live under the constant threat of random attack or starvation. But through it all, the South Sudanese remain resilient, wise, and capable.

Yet U.S. policies and rhetoric do not reflect the South Sudanese’ promising capacity to thrive and flourish—by growing their own food, for example—which is tragically thwarted by a severe lack of resources.

Americans should shift our narrative—and the United States government its development policies—in South Sudan, away from assumptions of despair, to reflect this Sudanese capacity for resilience.

Tell your Representative to join the 14 Republicans and 62 Democrats who support HR 4169, the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, and to support the bill’s underlying commitment to sustainable peace and development by supplementing U.S. food assistance with robust funding to U.S. programs that invest in agricultural development and small-scale farming in South Sudan and around the world.

For more information check out the e-Advocacy Alert.

South Sudan: Resource Shares South Sudanese Stories of LWF Work

Posted on March 29, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Written by two members of Australian Lutheran World Service on a visit to South Sudan, “Coming Home” is a collection of stories around the work of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as it extends back many years in this newly formed country. It is not meant to be systematic or exhaustive and in this way it is actually quite an easy, and extremely interesting, read.

In these pages you will meet indiviudal South Sudanese citizens and hear their stories. What are the major issues that have affected them? How have LWF projects like boreholes and schools been received? What are the benefits of these programs? Who owns them? How have other LWF projects, like Kakuma refugee camp, played a role in the lives of these citizens of the new South Sudan?

If you find any of these questions intriguing than I would recommend give this resource a good look.

Download and read Coming home. (pdf)

South Sudan: Coordinating a Response in the Midst of Disaster

Posted on February 27, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new article from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) looks at the violence in South Sudan from the perspective of Michael Mading, the LWF South Sudan Emergency Coordinator. It walks through how he has gone about coordinating and implementing the LWF’s response and gives a good description of what disaster response looks like in the field. It also introduces us to Michael and why he is doing the work he is doing. It’s a good read, giving a perspective we don’t usually have access to. If you have a few minutes, I’d recommend giving it a look.

Read the article: From a Tent in Cattle Country

To learn more about the LWF response in South Sudan: LWF Blog

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Helping People Heal

Posted on February 8, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Violence continues to plague the new country of South Sudan as tribal cattle raids have become more frequent and intensified. As the situation unfolds, the Lutheran World Federation is building on its strong presence country to bring aid to those in need. One of the many services is looking towards ways to build sustainable and lasting peace for the people of the region. Towards this end they are working with the Church of Sweden to bring in workers to provide psychosocial support for traumatized individuals.

It is a great example of how international organizations are finding greater opportunities to work together through umbrella organizations like the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance. The ELCA is a proud member of both.

To learn more of how these two are working together and to learn how and what their peace-building and psychosocial services are, read the LWF newsletter: Helping People Heal

To better grasp the full extent of the LWF’s work in South Sudan see their webpage: South Sudan

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Update on LWF Response

Posted on January 19, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Driving home from work yesterday I was listening to National Public Radio and heard a report on the situation developing in the Jonglei state of South Sudan. It was an informative piece describing the deteriorating situation with tribal clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). It was a nice reminder of how this blog can help share how the ELCA and our partners are engaged in disaster response work around the world. For in Jonglei, the LWF is very active and has been on the forefront of the response.

I invite you read the third update from Arie Den Toom, LWF South Sudan Representative, on how the situation and response are developing: South Sudan – 3rd Sitrep on the conflict in Jonglei State

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: ACT Alliance Responding Through LWF in Jonglei

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance is mobilizing its funding channels to respond to the situation in Jonglei. The response is being implemented by the Lutheran World Federation. The situation in Jonglei has been declared a “humanitarian disaster area” by the government in Juba. Two local ethnic groups, the Lou Nuer and Murle, have continued escalating violence of the past few months, leading the UN to estimate more then 60,000 people being displaced.

To learn more, read the ACT Update: ACT launches humanitarian response, calls for peace in Jonglei.

Also, you can read an earlier post with situation reports from LWF: South Sudan: Crisis Unfolds in Jonglei State.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.