Mennonites lend support to the hurricane clear-up
While large-scale relief and development work in Louisiana and Mississippi gets under way through US state and federal agencies, and ecumenical coordinating bodies like Church World Service, local faith and community groups on the ground are also keen to play their part.
An example is the work of Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS), an expert programme supported jointly by the Mennonite churches in the USA and Canada, which reports significant progress in its response to the devastation wreaked by Katrina.
MDS investigation teams travelling in the hurricane-affected region have been identifying a number of appropriate response sites. Three areas are activating relief efforts this weekend, with two groups beginning their work yesterday.
Gulfhaven Mennonite Church, in Gulfport, Mississippi has agreed to become a staging area for work teams. One is involved in chainsaw clean-up in the Meridian region. They will be supplemented with a larger pool of volunteers early next week.
A team from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is also due to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, tonight. They will begin recovery work in the storm-damaged area southwest of the city.
Mennonite Disaster Services is urgently asking people to volunteer to serve on already existing project sites, especially during the interim while longer term responses to Katrina are developed.
Three MDS sites from last year's Florida Hurricanes in Arcadia, Wauchula, and Century are also reopening after a short break. The aim is to complete the work by late Autumn.
Mennonite Disaster Services currently involves more than 3,000 Mennonite, Amish and Brethren in Christ churches and districts across the USA. It is being backed in its Hurricane Katrina work by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the internationally-known relief, service and peace agency.
Contributions to the work of MDS can be made online. Donations will be employed to house and support volunteers while they are in the field. While MDS does not pay for homeowners' building materials, it says funds will also be used to purchase the supplies and equipment needed to keep construction projects running smoothly.