How do you choose where and when to give them? Steve Sanderson replies
The short answer is where there is a pressing human need. BMS does not distinguish Christian from non Christian beneficiaries in this regard although we may often work through an existing church partner.
Relief grants are aimed at providing some bridging assistance to places that have undergone catastrophes which they are struggling to cope with on their own. Typically, this would be a drought, famine, flood, earthquake or war-affected area where substantial numbers of people are at risk.
Relief is not development but BMS would look for ways in which giving relief could transition into a recovery and development situation. Therefore a policy of planning and best practice is required.
Invariably, relief grants need to assess the depth of a crisis. We also need to take into account how well those who ask for relief help from us will be able to deliver meaningful aid. In some cases though the need is so overwhelmingly obvious that it becomes a moral imperative for BMS to be involved.
For example, the recent earthquake in Haiti caused such a wide-scale destruction of life, livelihoods and property in a country with little ability to weather such a shock that people in the UK naturally looked to BMS to act. In this case BMS had little history of work in Haiti and, given the situation, it was important to act fast. In this instance BMS worked with Baptist World Aid and the Haiti Hospital Appeal to deliver relief to victims of the earthquake.
Where possible, BMS will seek to work with existing partners with whom relationships of trust and exchange have already been established. Partners have the advantage of having local understanding which allows early warning requests for relief and also an understanding of how to best deliver relief to those most in need.
BMS will always seek an evaluation of the relief grant in terms of who it reached, how long it took and the effectiveness of the aid given.
Supporting partners through relief grants has the other advantage of rooting the partner in the communities where they operate, allowing them to gain closer links and credibility within the places where they work.
Relief grants therefore have become very useful tools for church partners to demonstrate the love of Christ and visibly reflect the concern and generosity of the global Church in times of crisis. Relief grants are an excellent expression of mission.
Not all aid, however well intentioned, is always helpful. There is a danger that relief grants can be misused or wasted. Certain scenarios require extremely good planning and the provision of checks and balances. For example, giving relief grants in complex conflict environments can have the unintended consequence of fuelling war economies.
The same is true where aid can be used as a political tool to encourage votes or support from a particular group of people. BMS clearly does not want to avoid desperate need by hiding behind ethical preclusions but neither do we want to compound a crisis.
Instead BMS draws on experience, relationships, partnerships and expertise to play an intermediary role of delivering church gifts through those best placed to provide the greatest benefit to those most in need.
Relief grants made in our current financial year (starting November 2009)
£9,700 – to Zimbabwe to help with food shortages
£11,000 – to Sri Lanka for families still homeless after the 2004 tsunami
£21,700 – to Haiti following a devastating earthquake
£1,000 – to Albania to help victims of flooding in the north of the country
£1,250 & £4,000 – to Peru following flooding and landslides in Cusco and Apurima
£3,850 – to Uganda when 50,000 people were displaced following flooding and landslides
£8,700 – to Mozambique to provide food and seed following an exceptional period of drought
£1,400 – to Ecuador to provide foods for indigenous village communities whose crops were destroyed by flooding.
£10,000, £30,000 + £40,000 – to Pakistan following severe floods.