By TERALENE FOXX
Where there is an acute human need caused by disasters such as fires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, political turmoil, or civil disaster, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is one of the relief organizations prepared to provide help to displaced and suffering people as quickly as assembled disaster kits can be shipped and distributed.
This simple birthing kit contains a piece of plastic, two receiving blankets, soap, plastic gloves, a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, and string to tie it. Photo by Teralene Foxx
Volunteers are the heart of this organization. Recently, eight members of the White Rock United Methodist Church, and seven members of two other Methodist churches in New Mexico (Angel Fire United Church and St. John’s Methodist Church, Santa Fe) traveled to Salt Lake City (UMCOR-West) to help by doing quality control on assembled kits, sewing baby items, and packaging pallets of kit-filled boxes ready for the next need.
At the depot we were guided by a dedicated pastor, Brian Diggs and his helper, Maika Tukuafu. These two manage the 22,000 sq. ft. warehouse and staging facility.
At the depot, we divided into two groups: packers/sorters and sewers. The packers/sorters went through kits sent in by churches and individuals. They also prepared kits. Kits must be exactly what is specified as being in the kit or a whole shipment can be rejected by Customs on the dock. Kits then cannot reach their destination. Kits do not have any patriotic or religious information, because the purpose of the kits is disaster relief, not converting or politicizing.
There are a variety of kits shipped out to more than 80 countries from UMCOR-West: health kits, birthing kits, school kits, layette kits, bedding kits, sewing kits. In addition, there are flood buckets for flood disasters in the US.
This year the packers /sorters worked on health kits and birthing kits. Each year there has been a need for change in kit contents because of lessons learned. This year it was removing ivory soap. Last year it was removing expired toothpaste. It turns out ivory soap has a lot of water in it and as it sits wrapped in a wash cloth and towel in a plastic bag, the water leaches out making the wash cloth and towel soggy. If the soap is in the birthing kit, it rusts the razor blade!
The packers and sorters prepared six pallets of kits, with 24 kits in a box and 28 boxes on a pallet (4,032 kits). After a pallet was completed everyone gathered around the pallet and sid the pallet prayer, then shouted, “When the Earth Rocks, UMCOR rolls.” They then basked in their work for just a moment and got back to filling kits.
This year there were four sewers and stitchers. In the sewing room, there is fabric for baby hoodies, gowns, diapers, and blankets. For four days, machines whirred and scissors snipped. Soon the clothes line was full of baby items to go in the layette and birthing kits. All together, we sewed 106 baby items.
The work is mundane but very necessary. When we were at the Center, there was an earthquake in Chile. Our first thought was, who will get one of these kits? Who will wrap their new born in a blanket we have stitched? Will a baby be born on the ground using plastic in the birthing kit and the razor blade and string provided to cut and tie the cord?
We are scheduled to go again next year. Those who are interested may contact the White Rock United Methodist Church.