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Long, long way from 'normal'

"Long, long way from 'normal'" Continued...

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

While the Evangelical Council's Mr. Seale is grateful for that kind of generosity, he notes that a million dollars "is really only a drop in the bucket" when tens of thousands are homeless.

Meanwhile, several faith-based relief organizations, including Operation Mobilization, Samaritan's Purse, and World Relief, are teaming with denominational groups and local churches to aid Jamaica and Grenada. The Evangelical Association of the Caribbean sent $30,000 in seed money to jumpstart relief efforts. Samaritan's Purse and World Relief sent $100,000 each and plan to send more. And the Barbados Evangelical Association agreed to raise at least $100,000 to assist in long-term recovery, including housing and school reconstruction. In its fury, Ivan left only two schools standing.

Relief agencies were still assessing the full extent of the storm's nasty wake, tallying needs, and sending out calls for critical supplies such as food, potable water, and medicine. On Sept. 15, a fishing boat from Barbados ferried some food to Grenada. En route are several pallets of plastic sheeting, which islanders and aid workers will use to create temporary shelters.

The consensus among faith-based groups is that Grenada's churches are best suited to distribute aid fairly. "We want to encourage churches not to just help church members, but for churches to help their communities," said World Relief disaster response director Mark C. Smith. He called the high concentration of churches in the islands a "natural distribution system."

Ms. Phillips said local pastors have agreed to warehouse food and relief supplies in huts, then "take the food back into the neighborhoods. If we do it that way, we can get aid to . . . the people in little villages who can't get into the town centers."

Ms. Phillips said she has already had to turn away aid from people who called to donate money and supplies, but only if their contributions were earmarked for distribution in specific areas. "We can't be involved in anything like that," Ms. Phillips said. "The whole idea is that regardless of who you are, you need food. We want even distribution."

For now, she said, more than 80,000 people are eating whatever they can find. "I don't think there's going to be anything like 'normal' in Grenada for the next couple of years," said Ms. Phillips. "The best we can do right now is to give people food and shelter, and a little sense of hope."

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