‘Response hosting’ is an initiative of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
by Eden Roberts, Jim Kirk and Dartha Rivera, Mission Mosaic | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has worked in long-term recovery efforts following disasters for years. This includes scheduling volunteer work teams at recovery host sites who clean, rebuild or repair homes years after a disaster. In the past two years, PDA has scheduled 16,516 volunteers from 468 different churches, universities and organizations to stay at one of our many host sites.
This model — aimed at meeting needs identified for the recovery phase — is extremely effective. However, there is an additional area of disaster response we are excited to develop: response hosting. While recovery host sites typically open six to 12 months after a disaster, response host sites could feasibly open within days.
After large disasters, Eden Roberts, manager of the PDA National Call Center, takes scores of calls from people asking how they can assist those in distress. “After telling compassionate folks with a desire to help immediately after a big disaster that PDA may open host sites in a few months, it is a pleasure to have response hosting alternatives for those willing and able to serve much earlier,” Roberts says.
Jim Kirk, associate for national disaster response, has considered this need for some time. “There is a definite need for organized, vetted volunteers in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and there are many in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who hear the call to respond,” Kirk says. “The response hosting initiative will bring together needs and resources in an organized, faithful fashion and will further enable us to witness to the healing love of Christ in communities impacted by a disaster.”
Kirk, along with a committed team of staff and National Response Team (NRT) members, devised a plan for PDA to be part of early response, complementing PDA’s well-established contributions in long-term recovery. The idea of response hosting is not new to PDA; it was previously introduced in a few suitable places. However, specific protocols and basic strategies are now in place for intentional, successful implementation.
Twelve members of the NRT have been selected for response hosting deployments. These members commit to being available three to six weeks at a time, have advanced training in all aspects of volunteer hosting, and have training in long-term recovery. They also have knowledge of response work and possess the supportive skills that are vital when working with countless others in a fluid situation. These NRT members will initially oversee the host site, organize the location and manage volunteers, thereby freeing church members and staff to concentrate on critical needs within their family, congregation or community.
As with all PDA activity, our involvement with response hosting will occur at the invitation of the presbytery in appropriate disasters: broad areas impacted by a large, regional disaster — most likely hurricanes.
In certain circumstances, response host sites may transition into recovery host sites. PDA’s commitment to provide safe and meaningful work remains unchanged. Interested parties may contact the National Call Center by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, who can then refer volunteers to the response hosting National Response Team member in the impacted area. You can also view a list of current volunteer opportunities here.
This article comes from the current edition of Mission Mosaic, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s annual report. Read the full report here.
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