When disaster strikes, we often think of the need for housing, food, clean water or other medical assistance in the immediate response efforts. But in order to truly serve the needs of an affected community or region, long-term planning and development is necessary.
Global Impact charity partner, Food For The Poor, responds immediately to needs borne out of crisis, whether man-made or natural disasters. But their end goal is to transition as quickly as possible to get people back on their feet in a more permanent way.
Their name may lead you to believe that their work focuses on food and nutrition for those in need. And while distributing food is a part of what they do, their expertise in disaster relief and resiliency goes far beyond a meal. Food For The Poor is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, with a presence in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. Their work spans the many facets of emergency response, including clean water, medical care, education, building homes, skills training, and economic development. They work alongside churches, missionaries and other nongovernmental organizations within the communities they serve to ensure that necessary supplies are delivered and distributed.
So how exactly does Food For The Poor navigate crisis situations and help communities rebuild? Initial assistance requires a quick assessment of the situation – what is needed, what is being provided and how can we contribute. The preliminary response focuses on basic needs, but the long term planning is far more complex. It involves even more listening, coordination with other organizations and sincere reflection, sometimes asking the question “Is our help needed here?”
Let’s take a look at some of Food For The Poor’s work and how they approach each situation and the varying needs of the different communities they serve.
Bahamas: Hurricane Dorian
Although Food For The Poor does not typically work in the Bahamas, it made sense for their teams to offer support after Hurricane Dorian, considering the severity of the situation and their proximity to the region.
Shortly after the storm, their team sent eight pallets of disaster relief supplies, including blankets, tarps, food and cooking stoves. This was followed up with two 40-foot tractors of goods like generators, chainsaws, 5-gallon buckets, hygiene kits, diapers and more. Over time, their relief teams are expected to deliver about 100 containers of aid. This is all done while working with partners on the ground.
The effort is ongoing, and eventually support will transition to development and longterm planning. "It's important to know exactly what the people in the Bahamas are saying they need," said Ed Raine, Food For The Poor’s executive vice president.
One thing is certain: with more than 70,000 dislocated, this is a situation of mass displacement – many of whom are Haitians who fled in the wake of other disasters. Food For The Poor is already asking themselves, “Could we help build housing? Or should we work with a partner to expand access to clean water?" As the situation evolves, Food For The Poor will continue to listen to the needs of the people and serve them in a way that makes sense.
Colombia: Venezuelan migrants
When talking about emergency response, we typically imagine hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters; however, in 2018 alone, there were 28 million new displacements due to conflict, famine, drought and man-made circumstances.
In recent years, more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country as its economy collapsed, seeking a safer home in an unknown place. This means leaving behind their home, most of their belongings, jobs, relatives and friends. More than 1 million of those seeking asylum have settled in Colombia, and nearly a quarter of them are homeless.
As this humanitarian crisis unfolds, Food For The Poor is serving the needs of Venezuelans who have migrated to Colombia. This starts with food and medical assistance. Together with their partners, Food For The Poor serves almost 8,000 people each day across 11 feeding centers. The next step is to transition from immediate needs to helping individuals become self-sufficient, learn new skills and gain employment to establish a steady income. The end goal is to set them up to thrive in their new communities.
Haiti: 2010 Earthquake
Food For The Poor has been working in Haiti since 1986, which positioned them to quickly respond when the island endured a magnitude 7 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. The island has encountered its share of obstacles since that day, such as a cholera outbreak in October 2010, Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in October 2018.
Because of their longstanding presence in the country, Food For The Poor was able to respond to the immediate needs in each of these crisis situations, as well as the long-term rebuilding. Today, the organization is one of the Haiti’s largest providers of emergency relief and sustainable development projects.
Since the 2010 earthquake, their teams have developed 64 schools, built 10,397 homes and established countless self-sufficiency projects, including fishing villages, aquaculture farms, bee keeping, fruit and vegetable gardens, and many others related to husbandry and management of animals like chickens, cows and goats.
Every emergency is different, requiring a comprehensive assessment of needs, listening to the communities and working with key players involved to develop a unique approach for success. Nonprofits like Food For The Poor rely on funding to meet the distinct needs of each crisis situation. They are thoughtful about the support they can and should provide to ensure the best for the communities they serve, and that flexibility comes from being able to direct goods and dollars to where the need is the greatest.
When it comes to crisis situations, it’s not a matter of if but when the next will occur. Donate to Food For The Poor through your workplace giving program, or give to Global Impact’s standing emergency response fund. Both of these options set aside unrestricted funds to help ensure that when the next crisis comes around, those affected will receive the immediate assistance they need, as well as the long-term support to get back on their feet.
Photo credit: Food For The Poor