Dear Western Association Membership,
Last Sunday, while at St. Catherine of Siena Church with my wife and two young children, I had a moment to reflect and give thanks to our donors and supporters after the rapid succession of disasters we’ve all experienced the last few months. I am humbled and filled with gratitude for every contribution received since, to help people like…
Father John Tran Nguyen and his parish at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Texas;
Bradley and Carol Steiner in Rockport, who both suffer from debilitating illnesses;
Michelle, from Houston, who evacuated her elderly, traumatized mother shortly before the hurricane; and
Arnold Gonzales and his team of volunteers who feed the forgotten people on the outskirts of Rockport.
YOUR support is touching 25,0000 lives, while at the same time saving 25,000 lives, and it has returned hope to sick, poor, and devastated families…and I just want to say THANK YOU.
Harvey…Irma…Maria…this powerful trifecta of hurricanes brought record-breaking, monsoon floods and destructive gale force winds that heavily damaged cities and towns in the United States, and flattened entire islands in the Caribbean. They all left behind devastating scenes of ruin…and for some of our own family and friends, that ruin was in their own backyard…and they are now picking up the pieces. In the midst of these disasters, two powerful earthquakes struck Mexico in as many weeks causing more than 300 deaths and damage to many buildings. Sadly, it has been a tumultuous hurricane season of historic significance in the Americas…and the season is not yet over.
During that service I also found myself wondering, ‘Why?’ I think it is something that all compassionate people wonder during difficult times. ‘Why did all of these disasters happen? Why did they happen all at once? Why all of the senseless suffering?’ It is easy to feel overwhelmed by these disasters, and the hundreds of deaths, displaced communities, and ruined livelihoods they have caused.
For over 15 years in 16 countries worldwide, I’ve worked with Malteser International to bring emergency relief, a hopeful future, and dignity to children and families around the world during their greatest time of need – like the bloody child I carried from the rice fields in Cambodia whose limbs were lost on a landmine, to the displaced people in Myanmar and refugees in Thailand who were starving and forced from their own country for fear of being killed, to the crying babies and scared mothers who were suffering in the relief centers following Hurricane Harvey.
I have seen both the unimaginable beauty that comes from the sheer elation on the face of a 6-year old Haitian child who experiences the refreshing sensation of clean, running water on his face for the first time ever and the ghastly devastation of disasters that comes from the walking trauma in the eyes of an orphaned 4-year old girl who watched her parents die in front of her after a tsunami swallowed her village whole…
Being adopted from an orphanage in India, my heart has a special place for children who experience the devastation of any disaster.
As a man of devout faith, I was drawn to -and found comfort in- one particularly poignant scripture. As I sat with my family, Ecclesiastes 3:1 seemed to speak to me like a voice from above in the wake of these disasters and hardships. It reminded me that:
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
During this season of disasters, our purpose is to help alleviate suffering of the sick and the poor. Our faith demands it of us. We are compelled to sacrifice so that others may not want. And, throughout it all, Malteser International Americas, the U.S. Associations of the Order of Malta, and our faithful supporters have come together to make sure that survivors don’t have to ask another question…‘Why didn’t someone help me?’
Together, with YOUR support and the help of our exceptional Order of Malta networkand our local faith-based partners in the Texas region – St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Charities, and the Archdiocese of Corpus Christi – we’ve touched the lives of so many, and saved lives along the way. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and following the earthquakes in Mexico, we are:
Helping 750 families to put food on the table and regain their dignity along the way by distributing $100 cash cards from a local grocery store. The cards are helping the most at-risk people in the Rockport-Fulton, TX region to immediately purchase food and some of life’s necessities lost in the storm. Providing 1,000 hungry families with nutritious meals and supplying basic necessities to families in a forgotten community in the rural outskirts of Rockport, TX. We are providing financial assistance for repairs and the purchase of supplies at the Salt Lake Church Relief Center, a former church that now serves as a relief and warm meal distribution center, and is run by a group of devoted local volunteers from the community.
Rebuilding the lives of Aransas County's large Vietnamese population in Rockport, TX by providing financial assistance for the reconstruction of St. Peter Catholic Church, the heart and spiritual soul for 200 people in the tightly knit community. We are also improving the livelihoods of entire families by helping them to rebuild their community’s shrimping industry.
Helping to distribute 1,000 household kits in Beaumont, TX for up to 5,000 people which include critical cleaning supplies, food, paper goods, and toiletries. We are also continuing our relief with the distribution of cash cards for 1,000 desperate families to purchase food and hygiene essentials through Catholic Charities.
Saving lives and preventing malnutrition and dehydration in Puerto Rico. We are distributing bottled water and hygiene and kitchen kits to 1,000 poor and disadvantaged families – primarily women and children, the elderly, and the handicapped. Working with the Order of Malta network in Puerto Rico, we are distributing bottled water and warm, nutritious meals for up to 5,000 people in San Juan and Guaynabo, a town severely damaged.
Providing assistance to the Mexican Association of the Order of Malta to rebuild a school that was heavily damaged by the earthquakes, ensuring that children can continue their education in a safe environment. An elderly center in Mexico City is also receiving rebuilding help.
Supporting the distribution of hygiene and cleaning kits, food items, medicine, milk, blankets and tarps to 5,000 needy families in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Morelos who desperately need assistance.
“A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together”
For many close to us, they saw their home destroyed by storms…and others saw walls crumble to the ground. It is evident in the wake of these calamities that we are all vulnerable to natural disasters and investing in disaster preparedness is paramount. Natural disasters cannot be stopped, nor contained, but…
One thing we can do is come together in the wake of these destructive forces, build up emergency capacities and response, and prepare communities across the Americas, beginning in the United States, for future disasters, which are inevitable.
I look forward to working with all of the devoted members of the U.S. Associations of the Order of Malta to make our country -and other countries in the Americas- more resilient.
Finally, I am compelled to refer to the scripture one final time. As I reflect on a year of trials and tribulations of natural disasters across the globe, and I look ahead to 2018 with more fortification and with even greater faith in our devoted community, I pray
for “a time of peace” for all….in YOUR life and in the lives of all of the survivors whose lives have been forever altered from the disasters in their countries.
Thank you and God Bless,
Executive Director, Malteser International Americas