When disaster strikes our communities, Food for the Hungry (FH) always contacts our child sponsors to inform them of the situation.
But even before that call or email, myriad FH staffers around the globe take action.
First, the staff who work daily with your sponsored child in the community make an emergency survey of the situation. They find out exactly which children are affected, and how. We help families access food, water, medical care, and safe shelter.
Usually, others in the community provide help. In many cases, families who lose a home find shelter immediately with other family members. But that doesn’t mean all their needs are met.
Part of this house wall collapsed when strong winds and rain hit communities in Rwanda, in early 2018.
Disaster Handouts: When Needed
FH is careful about giving handouts directly to families. But disaster is one of those times when it may be needed. We first assess whether any other groups within the community are already helping. The government, churches, and other religious organizations may already be providing aid. In fact, we want these local groups to step up to the plate and help their neighbors! So FH aims to fill in the gaps after others act.
For example, when floods struck a community in Rwanda recently, 38 families lost their homes. Everyone moved in with relatives, and our surveys showed they had all the food and water they needed. But we did hear that the families needed help rebuilding their houses. So FH offered to provide families with metal roofing material — their most expensive construction cost.
Walking With Sponsored Children After the Storm
In the weeks after a disaster, FH staff will meet with your sponsored child’s family for a check-up on their situation. Sometimes the aftereffects of a disaster arise weeks or months later. Some of the most common things we will watch for include:
- Are the children back in school? Did the disaster wipe out the family’s ability to pay school fees? Is the family keeping a child out of school to work, to make up for what they lost?
- Are there any lingering health concerns? In addition to infectious disease outbreaks, disasters often cause a spike in chronic illnesses like asthma, intestinal problems, and skin rashes that worsen with stress.
- Is the family getting along? Domestic disputes and even family violence can intensify after disasters. It’s especially hard in cases where a host family takes in relatives after the disaster. Particularly if the host family is struggling to provide food for the whole household.
Long-term: How Can We Protect Children?
Planting tough grasses like these in Haiti helps prevent flood damage when hurricanes hit.
Sometimes the hardest part of responding in your sponsored child’s community is protecting children from harm in future disasters. We can’t stop floods, droughts, and earthquakes from occurring, but we can lessen their impact. This takes long hours of hard relational work with parents, community leaders, teachers, and government personnel.
In the case of the recent Rwanda floods, families will have to assess whether it’s best to rebuild their homes in the same spot. Why rebuild if you know the floods will return next year? But there’s little available land in Rwandan communities, which is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. So those families will need help to figure out the best possible option.
And there are actions we can take to prevent damage. In Rwanda and Haiti, FH is helping communities plant grasses that prevent erosion. When flooding rains hit, the grasses stop the water from crashing downhill and help the soil absorb the flow.
In the Philippines, where typhoons can kill tens of thousands within hours, FH has helped stock evacuation shelters on high ground. We can’t halt the wind and rain, but we can give people a safe place to ride out the storm.
In each community, FH helps leaders identify possible threats and then discover solutions so that disasters no longer cause such horrific death and destruction.
Your sponsorship helps us develop sustainable, long-term community solutions that will not only affect the children you sponsor but their children as well.