Former MS Conf. Member Leads Philippines Communication Relief

By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Senior Communications Specialist
 

Mississippi United Methodists may find it fascinating to know 

Rev. Neelley Hicks (center) is pictured with Mississippi Conference communicators Jasmine Haynes (L) and Tamica Smith-Jeuitt (R) in Nashville last March. 

that a former member of the conference is part of the United Methodist Communications team helping assess the communications needs of episcopal areas in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan on November 8.  The Rev. Neelley (Nancy) Hicks is director of information and communications technology (ICT) Church Initiatives for United Methodist Communications (UMCom). She lived in Mississippi over 20 years with time spent in Greenville and Jackson where she was a member of Galloway Memorial UMC.  

 

"The Mississippi Annual Conference holds a very special place in my heart -- it was there that I was called into ministry. I received so much support from Galloway -- both in my walk of faith and after becoming a candidate for ministry. That encouragement propelled me to serve God through communications ministry... so those in rural communities in the Philippines, Africa, Haiti and beyond can amplify their voices and finally be heard," said Hicks. To read some of her stories about UMCom's response click here.

 

UMCom continues to work with church leaders in the Philippines to ensure that the communication networks needed for relief and response are in place and accessible by the church.

 

Below is a report on efforts to restore from Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications:

 

Friends,

 

With the holiday season in full swing, it is well for us to remember the ongoing work in the Philippines to help people recover from the devastating damage of Typhoon Yolanda, as the storm is known there.

 

United Methodist Communications continues to work with Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco of the Davao Episcopal Area, district superintendents, local clergy and various humanitarian organizations addressing human needs, including UMCOR.

 

I write to update you on the efforts to restore communications in the area. The BBC-supported infoasaid project, which concluded recently, declared, "People need information as much as they need shelter, food, water and safety." You may find this short (three-minute) video interesting: http://ow.ly/rDPmJ.

 

Through partnerships with Inveneo, Google, Nokero and others, United Methodist Communications is providing communications training, software and hardware to assist in the humanitarian effort, as well as assessing the long-term communications needs of The United Methodist Church in the region. Our goal is to transition from assisting in the emergency to creating a sustainable communications system that will serve the church into the future.

 

For example:

  • Fifty tablets that were donated by Google are being formatted in San Francisco with apps and maps that will help 25 non-governmental organizations to more effectively distribute aid and relief. These will complement mobile phones and satellite phones that were provided to United Methodist staff three weeks ago. Each of the 25 NGOs will receive two tablets with car chargers, as all of them have vehicles to charge the tablet batteries.
  • We have received a request from a Philippines telecom to include an app they have developed that allows users to access a wide range of SMS text services at no cost. These services can be personalized according to the needs of the organization. We are delighted to have this interest from a national telecom carrier.
  • NetHope, a collaboration of 41 leading international humanitarian organizations providing the best information communication technology and best practices, is coordinating a training event for UMCom/Inveneo among the non-governmental organizations on the ground. These include NetHope, Americares, CARE, Concern Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, International Medical Corps, International Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Oxfam Great Britain, Plan International, Relief International, Save the Children, SOS, Children's Villages, World Vision International, UMCOR, and UMCom field staff.
  • UMCom field staff April Grace G. Mercado is recruiting two additional local persons to serve as communicators in the affected districts (2). The goal is to have them attend the training, meet the NGO leaders, and follow up with them to document how the tablets are being used to enhance recovery. We are looking particularly at emphasizing how communications assistance  helps in getting aid to areas that were ignored because they were "off the map," or unable to communicate with the outside world.
  • UMCom and UMCOR staffs are collaborating to document the training and report on progress.
  • Heifer International, which is not normally viewed as an emergency relief organization, is helping with relief and has requested to participate in the training event. We will accommodate this request and explore if there are other potential partners who might benefit from training.
  • UMCom is providing to local clergy 100 solar chargers and 50 solar light and phone chargers which also connect to AC electrical systems. The latter are donated by the Nokero company, a technology partner with UMCom.

In this Advent season, let us remember the people of the Philippines who are recovering from great tragedy. Let us pray that through efforts like this and others, they will look expectantly toward a future of hope and renewed life.

 

May your holiday be blessed by the coming of the Christ who brings hope, joy, love and peace. 

 

 

By: Circuit Rider On 12/19/2013