Following the recent meeting of the Episcopal Relief & Development Volunteer Network in Belize, I have asked some of our Network Diocesan Coordinators to share about their experiences. Today, Kim Rossi, Coordinator for Western New York and Province II, gives an overview of the meeting events.
The annual meeting of the Episcopal Relief & Development Network was held in Belize City, Belize, from May 27 to 29, 2010. I attended the meeting along with 100 other Diocesan Coordinators, spouses and friends from 67 different dioceses and 3 seminaries, all committed to furthering the mission of Episcopal Relief & Development.
Hosted by the Anglican Diocese of Belize, this Network meeting was the first ever held internationally. The location was chosen to enable Network members to visit programs in the diocese supported by Episcopal Relief & Development. As Luke Fodor, Network Coordinator, said, “We wanted to provide Diocesan Coordinators an opportunity to witness the life-saving work of our worldwide church partners firsthand and to help them tell the story of our work more effectively.”
Bishop Philip Wright of the Anglican Diocese of Belize welcomed us at the opening Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Belize City. Following that, Bishop Robert J. O’Neill, Board Chair of Episcopal Relief & Development, preached on the importance of each of us in contributing to the organization’s ministry of bringing Christ’s healing to a hurting world.
The Diocesan Coordinators and guests visited three Anglican schools, where we observed HIV/AIDS prevention programs developed with the support of Episcopal Relief & Development. Mrs. Marlene Leslie, School Superintendent, described the impact of these programs on children in grades 1 through 8, as well as the widespread effect in the community, in fighting disease.
Additionally, we visited a number of small businesses begun or expanded with the help of a micro business loan program supported by Episcopal Relief & Development. The businesses we saw varied from agricultural to woodworking, including a small grocery store and fast food store. Mr. Dennis Jones, one of the loan counselors, spoke to us about the importance of the micro loan program in providing opportunities for persons who would not be eligible for business loans through more conventional methods. These programs help individuals support their families and contribute to the growth of their communities.
Another highlight of the meeting was seeing Dr. Roberta Gribbon, a Coordinator from Easton, Maryland, receive the third annual Joyce Hogg Award, named in memory of Episcopal Relief & Development’s late Network Coordinator. Dr. Gribbon was honored because of her constant and dedicated ministry—some 13 years of service to the Network and Episcopal Relief & Development.
We wrapped up our time with a dinner that included a dance and musical performance representing the diverse culture and history of Belize, given by Anglican School children and St. Peter’s School young adults. Bishop Wright and the Anglican Diocese of Belize thanked Episcopal Relief & Development for their work by providing each of us with the gift of a cross. The crosses were carved from beams of the cathedral ceiling that were salvaged from a recent renovation and made from American pine—sent to Belize 200 years ago when the cathedral was built.
This year’s meeting showed us the long-term impact made by Episcopal Relief & Development programs both at home and in the global community. We are not only there to provide assistance when disasters happen, but to stay beyond the response and relief phase to support and strengthen communities for the long haul. It was a powerful experience for us as Diocesan Coordinators to see and hear for ourselves how Episcopal Relief & Development is working to help people overcome poverty and illness in very real and tangible ways.