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“Do not doubt, but believe.” John 20:27

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
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PDA is a member of act allianceInterAction logo

For more information:

Pamela Burdine
(800) 728-7228(800) 728-7228, x5839
Send email

Or write to
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202

FAQ - Volunteer Work Teams

  1. Where do we start?
  2. What does our group need to do to get ready?
  3. I have heard about a disaster with urgent needs on the news. Why can't PDA facilitate our team's service at that site right away?
  4. What are key factors for a successful disaster response team experience?
  5. Who pays for the trip?
  6. How much time should we plan?
  7. What will we do?
  8. How do we schedule a date and place to serve?
  9. How do we get additional information and PDA t-shirts?
  10. What if I need to cancel my mission trip?
  11. How can we help publicize this important work?
  12. What work team resources are available?
  13. Can I volunteer internationally?
  14. What do we need to do after our trip? How do we share our story?

1. Where do we start?

Begin to organize a team from your church, a cluster of churches, or a presbytery. Determine the number of participants, skill levels and experience. Identify a team leader/contact person – this person will serve as the main point of contact for the disaster site coordinator and PDA.


2. What does our group need to do to get ready?

To best prepare for serving in a disaster-affected community, a recovery team needs to spend time together: get to know each other; inventory skills and degree of expertise; work out the responsibilities, communication issues and kinks in relationships ahead of time. It is important to work well together as a team on any trip, and especially so in a disaster response situation.


3. I have heard about a disaster with urgent needs on the news. Why can't PDA facilitate our team's service at that site right away?

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance seeks to serve; sometimes that means waiting until we are invited to be of service. PDA does not send teams before they are asked to do so by the Presbytery or local church body. The request usually comes after the needs are clear and after an infrastructure is in place to support visiting teams. Keep an eye on the web site. We will post the opportunities as soon as we can. You may also call the PDA Call Center at (866) 732-6121 to find out where current opportunities are.


4. What are key factors for a successful disaster response team experience?

The community affected by disaster has been subjected to sudden change, great loss and trauma, leaving their world in state of upheaval. To be in the best position to serve in a disaster situation, the team should plan time for rest, devotions, and reflection at the disaster site. Keep in mind that you are guests and servants under the authority of the community in which you are serving. Take time to listen to and get to know the disaster survivors. Remain flexible! If the work assignment is redirected, accept and affirm the change, pitch in, and do it!


5. Who pays for the trip?

Each group (or church sending the group) bears the costs of their own transportation, lodging, food and incidentals. Most disaster sites make arrangements for lodging at a reduced cost.


6. How much time should we plan?

Most sites like to have groups stay for a week or longer. Options for shorter trips are available on a site by site basis.


Woman wearing a mask, working on dry wall

Photo by Dwight K. Morita

7. What will we do?

Work team responsibilities will vary from site to site, and individual site coordinators will be able to give you updated information. Generally, services and skills needed will vary with each stage of disaster response.

  • The emergency stage (days or weeks following the disaster) involves meeting urgent needs such as helping to establish emergency shelters or feeding stations. During the emergency state, an assessment of needs occurs, and clean-up activities begin.
  • The relief phase includes continued clean-up activities and temporary repairs. This phase can last from one to several months; longer when flooding is involved.
  • The recovery stage deals with permanent repairs and rebuilding. This stage can last from several months to several years. In this phase, the biggest need is for skilled teams.

8. How do we schedule a date and place to serve?

The work team opportunities list allows you to explore opportunities around the United States.  For some locations, such as Presbyterian Volunteer Villages, you will begin by contacting the PDA Call Center at (866) 732-6121.  Other hosting sites have a contact person listed, who you will speak with directly about the opportunities in their state or hosting site.

Discuss with the contact person the dates you’d like to serve, locations, and facilities available. 

Those who schedule through the PDA Call Center will receive registration confirmation and a packet of volunteer information.  This packet needs to be read thoroughly.  About a month prior to your scheduled mission trip, you will receive a call to confirm your participant numbers, housing arrangements, etc.  If you have any questions during your planning or pre-departure time, please feel free to call (866) 732-6121.


Two volunteers with their arms around each other

Photo by Judith Hugg-Eckhard

9. How do we get additional information and PDA t-shirts?

Get additional information about work team opportunities by contacting the PDA Call Center by email or by calling (866) 732-6121.

We would like to provide PDA T-shirts for all Presbyterian disaster response teams. Some hosting sites have PDA t-shirts on site for volunteers. If the site where you are scheduled to serve indicates they do not have the t-shirts, you may request them at least two weeks before your trip by emailing PDA or calling (888) 728-7228 x 5805 with the following details:

  • location and dates you will be serving
  • contact/mailing information for your congregation and team leader
  • a list of team members’ sizes (adult S – XXL)

10. What if I need to cancel my mission trip?

If you need to cancel your trip or if the number of people participating changes, please contact the PDA Call Center or the hosting site contact as soon as the information is available.


11. How can we help publicize this important work?

Share this Web site with your church or community. Email PDA to request a DVD showing the impact of work by volunteers and the need for teams. PDA also has a poster which has space for you to put your trip information and is large enough to be placed in strategic locations to help publicize the date of your trip.


12. What work team resources are available?

Litany of Commitment for Work Teams

Principles of Partnership for work teams

On the Job Training with God: Devotions for Work Teams — Originally written for youth teams serving in U.S. Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, these devotions offer tactile and visual reminders of spiritual insights to be discovered while serving God as part of a volunteer work team. Devotions include nine days’ worth of materials – for use before, during, and after a week-long disaster recovery mission trip. Download

Safety Manual for Workcamp Leaders and Volunteers — available to download and print. This manual written by Harold B. Confer provides important tips to ensure a safe work team experience; includes information about hazards, power tools, vehicle and equipment safety, and emergency procedures; also includes reproducible signs for encouraging safety practices on the work site. Download

Together We Triumph: Youth Response to Disaster — This 5-module booklet provides resources for youth leaders, pastors, camp directors and others who want to prepare young people for ministry in disaster situations. Includes Leader’s Guide and Student Activity Guide. Order free from PDS or download.


13. Can I volunteer internationally?

PDA does not promote volunteers serving in international disaster situations.  Volunteers should keep in mind that international relief work is a profession – and that it takes unique individuals who speak the language, know the culture, and can work effectively in incredibly difficult conditions.

For information on international disaster response, visit the Center for International Disaster Information’s Web site or read about Volunteers for Prosperity, a volunteer program managed by USAID.


A group of women volunteers

Photo by Judith Hugg-Eckhard

14. What do we need to do after our trip? How do we share our story?

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance would like to share your volunteer work team story with others. When you return from your trip, please send us a few of your photos and comments or reflections from your volunteer experience. We would like to share many of these on our Stories of Hope section of the PDA Web site, and possibly a few of them in print.

Help us encourage others to participate in this ministry!

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Upcoming Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Events

PHP Advisory Committee

March 30 - April 1, 2014

Presbyterian Hunger Program Advisory Committee meets March 30 - April 1, 2014, in New Orleans, LA, in conjunction with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Advisory Committee and Self-Development of People Steering Committee.

PDA Advisory Committee

March 30 - April 1, 2014

In a One Great Hour of Sharing Joint Meeting, The PDA Advisory Committee will meet in conjunction with PHP Advisory Committee and the SDOP Steering Committee March 30 – April 1 at the Omni Royal Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana. Discussions will include the work and vision of each department, long term Presbyterian involvement, issues and generative thinking.  A mission site tour will be made, followed individual committee meetings, and PHP will visit grant partner, Latino Farmer’s Cooperative of Louisiana.

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Presbyterian Disaster Assistance