Samaritan’s Purse: Replacing blue tarps with rebuilt homes | THE DAILY HERALD

~ Distributed US $2.5M in household vouchers ~

PHILIPSBURG–The ubiquitous blue tarpaulins emblazoned with the words “Samaritan’s Purse” are a stark reminder of that day in September 2017 that irrevocably changed the life of every person on this island. The tarps were described as “a godsend” by some recipients, many of whom were encountering the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organisation for the first time.

Rewind to September 5, 2017: Samaritan’s Purse was not even on the radar of St. Maarten. Some 24 hours later, it was the organisation with a barrage of volunteers and aid supplies, including the much-needed tarps for Hurricane Irma-destroyed roofs.

Today, Samaritan’s Purse is one of the most organic aid organisations operating on the island. It has delivered directly to the hardest-hit residents everything from a spoon to stir their pot to 10,258 blue tarps to protect the little salvaged from Irma to a rebuilt house constructed by volunteer labour.

Samaritan’s Purse Area Coordinator Hannah Hamrick said St. Maarten, as one of the islands most affected by Irma, was immediately included in the initial phase of the organisation’s disaster response.

Samaritan’s Purse has a team at its headquarters in Boone, North Carolina, that monitors events and natural disasters around the globe. “So, even before Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean, our teams were mobilised to respond to multiple locations across the Caribbean,” said Hamrick.

The mobilisation first materialised with the landing of a large white jetliner at severely-wrecked Princess Juliana International Airport. This DC-8 plane gave residents so weary from cleaning up a moment to pause and wonder who or what was responsible for this group to respond so rapidly. The help that came was more than welcome, more so by those whose lives were drastically impacted for the better.

As Samaritan’s Purse wraps up its operations here some 40 days before Irma’s one-year mark, the aid organisation is leaving a lasting legacy, not only in volunteer effort and materials flown to the island. In total, Samaritan’s Purse distributed a total of 2,500 Ace Mega Centre vouchers valued at US $1,000 for residents to replace lost and destroyed household items.

“Samaritan’s Purse proves that relief aid and reconstruction can be executed quickly and effectively, without red tape, to help those in need. Thank you, Samaritan’s Purse. We are forever grateful,” said Maho Group President and Chief Executive Officer Saro Spadaro.

The first Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 plane that came loaded with relief supplies was the same one that evacuated the first group of Maho guests.

“What I immediately noticed about the men and women of Samaritan’s Purse was their exceptional kindness, generosity and selflessness. Over the last 10 months, the whole island learned just how grand their scope of generosity is, and how efficiently and effectively they deployed resources to help our communities. My team and I did everything we could to support their extraordinary efforts,” said Spadaro.

More houses fixed

Construction materials, bought locally, went to repair 278 houses, and 108 houses were contracted for repairs via churches. A total of 386 houses were provided with support for repairs.

Houses were recommended for repair assistance through local church partners. Pastors and church committees submitted needs assessments, and houses were selected based on their vulnerability criteria and whether the scope of the works fit within the parameters of Samaritan’s Purse repair programmes.

Church members often went door to door in their communities, identifying needs and recommending specific homes for support, Hamrick said.

She added, “Our hope is that not only have homes been repaired and lost items replaced, but that people who received those things are aware that there’s a God who loves them and cares about them and is meeting their needs through faithful members of the local church.”

In addition to the core rebuilding activities, throughout the initial disaster response Samaritan’s Purse sent a total of six DC-8 flights to St. Maarten with a total of 91.3 metric tonnes of emergency relief supplies. This amounted to 12,973 blankets, 4,324 hygiene kits, 2,090 chlorination tabs, 50,450 litres of water, 3,630 Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) jerrycans and 4.57 metric tonnes of World Food Programme (WFP) High Energy Biscuits (HEB).

‘Helping in Jesus’ name’

Besides houses, Samaritan’s Purse also helped the places to which people went for comfort and solace – churches. Fifty-two places of Christian worship received funds for building repairs.

Churches were provided with materials or funds for church repairs. Houses were repaired both via direct procurement of materials by Samaritan’s Purse team and via churches working with homeowners to oversee contractor repairs of individual homes.

Churches facilitated repairs for homes within their communities, for both members of the churches and non-members. Their aim was to assist those in their communities affected by the storm regardless of church affiliation.

Local factor

All Samaritan’s Purse programmes in St. Maarten were conducted in coordination with local churches. In the initial phase of the response, the organisation came in contact with many pastors and churches that were actively meeting the needs of their communities to the best that their resources allowed, said Hamrick.

“We met pastors whose soup kitchens were filled to overflowing after the storm, and we wanted our support for the island to be funnelled through the church, through men and women that were already faithfully responding to the needs around them,” she said.

The Samaritan’s Purse team comprised five expat staff and three national staff. The bulk of the work in St. Maarten was carried out by pastors and members of partner churches who selflessly volunteered their time to help their communities.

These men and women spent countless hours identifying those in need, filling out needs assessments, helping homeowners to oversee contractor repairs and facilitating voucher distribution for their communities in their churches.

“This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we are incredibly grateful to these churches and to their leadership for the incredible work they’ve done. Our team will finish our programmes and depart at the end of July. It’s been a joy and an honour for our team to work here on this beautiful, diverse island and to get to know so many of its amazing people,” Hamrick said.

With Samaritan’s Purse moving on to the next hotspot in need of assistance, leaving behind a St. Maarten that is less hurricane-damaged and broken, those who benefited from assistance or are grateful for the assistance rendered to the island can “pay it forward” via the organisation. Go online to to donate to a specific response or to ongoing work the organisation is doing around the globe.

Samaritan’s Purse is continually responding to international disasters, and most of the funding for those responses comes from individual donors.

Source: The Daily Herald