Phone: (616) 846-7490 Fax: (616) 846-3842
SPRING LAKE, Michigan - Despair, desperation and hopelessness. The world saw those vivid images exactly one year ago when Hurricane Mitch - called the storm of the century - ravaged Central America, leaving over 10,000 dead and 2 million homeless while destroying much of the infrastructure of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Millions of people were left with dead or missing family members, no homes and no jobs. And little reason for hope. The survivors needed immediate help.
And they received that as the people of Michigan responded to the overwhelming needs by opening up their hearts in an outpouring of compassion through Michigan Gov. John Engler's "Michigan Cares" program.
The program, coordinated by Christian relief agency International Aid of Spring Lake, Michigan, immediately brought such needed materials as medical supplies, medicines, food, blankets, personal care items and cleaning supplies to the hurting people of Honduras and Nicaragua. The Michigan Air National Guard flew thousands of pounds of beans donated by Michigan farmers. Millions of dollars worth of medicines donated by pharmaceutical companies were shipped to Central America as Michigan businessmen, governmental leaders, school children and people from all walks of life united to bring health and hope to those in need.
Also, donations of food, blankets and supplies poured into International Aid headquarters as churches, schools, and civic groups across the state organized relief drives.
Central America is no longer in the headlines. The flood waters have receded. But the suffering remains. Over 50,000 people remain homeless.
Last month an International Aid assessment team reported that recent flooding has undone some relief efforts in certain areas of Honduras. Barren farmland lacking fertile topsoil blankets the landscape. Families remain isolated without adequate shelter, food, education and employment.
But "Michigan Cares" and International Aid have not abandoned the people after the initial emergency relief effort. Over the past year a total of 43 major shipments of relief supplies valued at over $11 million have been sent to the survivors.
"It has been so encouraging to see the positive, long-lasting effect on the people of Honduras and Nicaragua through the generosity of the citizens of Michigan through the 'Michigan Cares' campaign," says International Aid President Ralph Plumb. "Now, one year after the destructive winds and rains of Hurricane Mitch, and long after the media has shifted attention elsewhere, the help and hope that was provided is still making an impact. And the shipments continue. Thanks to the people of Michigan and their compassion for those in need."
Gov. Engler echoes those remarks.
"The people of Michigan have a proud history of coming to the aid of those in need and their response to the 'Michigan Cares' program proved that again," he states. "The partnership between the state of Michigan and International Aid has brought health and hope to thousands of hurting people in Central America. It's a year, later but the people of Central America have not and will not be forgotten."
Judith de Zelaya, director of relief ministries at the Abundant Life Church in Honduras, has coordinated relief shipments sent from Michigan this past year. She is appreciative of the helping hands extended by the people of Michigan.
"I thank God that in the middle of our hopelessness, caring people gave to help us," she says. "There is still much to be accomplished. But we thank the people of Michigan for showing compassion and care for our people."
In addition to the medical and relief supplies being shipped regularly to Honduras, International Aid will assist in rebuilding and supplying medical clinics, offer training support for mothers and their children and conduct hospital management workshops and biomedical training seminars.
"International Aid's challenge is to enhance the peoples' recovery from the recent flooding setback by continuing our partnership with the State of Michigan in the provision of medical support, food, housing and other vital needs," states Dr. Jack Henderson, International Aid's Medical Director who recently returned from Honduras.
International Aid has also partnered with the state of Michigan and Gov. Engler in the "Michigan Cares II" program to help the people of Kosovo.
Credit card donations may be made by calling the International Aid 24-hour hot line at 1-800-251-2502 or click here to donate online. Checks should be made out to International Aid and marked "International Programs." Checks may be sent to: International Aid, 17011 W. Hickory, Spring Lake, MI 49456.
International Aid was recognized as one of the nation's top 100 nonprofit organizations, and one of the country's top 10 relief and development agencies in the November 1999 issue of The NonProfit Times.
To learn more about International Aid, call 1-800-968-7490 or click here to fill out our information request/guest book.
For additional information, interviews or recent pictures of the International Aid team in Honduras, please contact Jerry Dykstra at International Aid (1-616-846-7490).