3rd April 2014
As much of the South West of England was battered by torrential rain throughout the winter, causing widespread power cuts, road closures and significant damage to homes, Samaritan’s Purse quickly assembled a team to help those most affected by the disaster.
“Samaritan’s Purse is one of the world’s largest and quickest responders to disasters internationally in places like the Philippines, South Sudan and Haiti, but we’ve never worked in the UK before. However our staff and volunteers were so moved by the situation in Somerset that we decided to evaluate if this was a situation where we could give assistance,” explains Samaritan’s Purse UK Head of Operations and Logistics, Ian MacLeod.
He added: “When the water was at its highest we began meeting with the police, local authorities and local Churches to explore how we could help. It became clear that we could offer basic mud-out, which involves clearing the debris, helping homeowners to sort their belongings, to provide labour and to deal with the first level of intervention.”
Samaritan’s Purse worked closely alongside several local churches primarily assisting some of the most vulnerable people whose homes weren’t fully insured and helping clear their badly damaged gardens.
“It’s heart breaking to see people find their personal items, now covered in water, mud and slime. So we’re helping them to sort and sift them into items that are to be thrown away and items that can be restored.
“Garden furniture has appeared from other people’s gardens as well as a lot of logs and debris and silt which has come from rivers and fields and a lot of refuse. A lot of that is also contaminated by sewage and garden fertilisers and oil which have been spilled. It’s a physical task that has to be done.”
“Alongside this is the relational side, an opportunity to stop and talk to people, to understand their stories, their points of need and where appropriate to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them if people ask why we’re doing this and on some occasions to offer them a free Bible.
“One lady was overwhelmed by the friendliness and love that we showed to her. She had been wanting to know God better and at the end prayed to receive Jesus into her heart and ask for forgiveness of her sins, which she did freely.
“A few days later she came to church with us and said to us afterwards that she’d been to church many times, but this time was different. This time there was something inside her as this new relationship with Jesus has made a big difference in giving her hope and assurance.”
As Samaritan’s Purse concluded their first phase response in Somerset, Ian shared his thoughts towards the future: “We’re so privileged to have seen such an impact from our first ever disaster response in the UK and we’ll now be assessing and learning from our experience here, to see how we can continue to respond to situations like this in the future.”