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Stories invigorate those doing CROP Hunger Walks

Invigorated by stories from the field that don’t make the headlines, Lynn Magnuson returned from the 60th anniversary celebration of Church World Service (CWS) in January in Dallas to begin her spring support for CROP Hunger Walks as Pacific Northwest regional director of CWS/CROP.

Those walks are set for April 21 in Sunnyside, April 29 in Spokane and May 20 in Milton-Freewater and the Upper Valley in the Leavenworth area.

Linda Carter, her staff associate, joined her for the six-day celebration of the ecumenical commitment of the denominations and other partners.

Lynn said that denominations often connect with partners abroad with the assistance of CWS.

In addition to its ongoing work, Church World Service will emphasize 1) Water for Life, which is expanding from providing wells to planning water systems for people, animals and agriculture; 2) Giving Hope, empowerment of children who are heads of households; 3) School Safe Zones, a program in West Africa; 4) Build a Village, helping people in the Balkans return home, and 5) Emergency Response Ready, helping communities prepare for disasters through a new training program. 

These are funded by gifts from individuals and churches, Lynn said.

“Improved communications means Africa is becoming smaller.  The East, West and South are recognizing common problems, so Church World Service can assist with cross-region forums and training events to help communities learn from each other,” she explained.

With 20 active conflicts in the world and 15 non-violent problem areas, there now are more refugees than ever before—10 million people in refugee camps, 8 million of them “warehoused” for more than 5 years.  In addition, there are 23.5 million internally displaced people, forced to flee their homes, but still in their own countries.

CWS helps with job training and education so refugees can connect with communities near camps, because few will come to the United States or other countries, Lynn said.

“CWS continues assistance through material aid, peace-building and resettlement programs, such as the Balkan “Build a Village” program.  Since 1946, CWS has helped more than 450,000 refugees begin new lives in the United States. Currently CWS and seven participating denominations resettle about 8,000 people each year.

A forum on disasters highlighted Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Gulf Coast and Washington state.  Current disaster responses include nine in the United States, four in the Middle East, five in Indonesia, three in Pakistan, four in Sudan and two in Kenya.

For example, in Iraq, 10 percent of the population is displaced and 100,000 people left the country in December.

“In our state, four groups have been formed under CWS’ leadership to organize local long-term recovery efforts after the flooding last fall,” Lynn said.

“In small groups, we learned more about work in regions through CROP Hunger Walk funding, as well as sharpening our skills. For example, Tammi Mott, the Southern Africa director, demonstrated how literacy training in Angola leads to community changes.”

A workshop on security focused on the real threats overseas staff face each day, as humanitarian workers have become targets of violence, she added.

The “Kit Program” needs more kits as country directors increase their requests to meet the needs of people affected by violence and natural disasters.

“We heard how the Tools and Blanket programs help in times of need, and have stories available as congregations have Tool or Blanket Sundays,” Lynn said.

 “God Grew Tired of Us” is a new movie telling of three Sudanese “Lost Boys” who spent 15 years on foot and in refugee camps, then came to the United States.  Those gathered at Dallas had a special screening of the award-winning film from National Geographic.

Lynn and Linda have many stories to tell of how CWS is making a difference around the world, including through Gulf Coast Interfaith Disaster Response.

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Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © February 2007