Volunteers flock to relief organizations
Regional groups step up outreach in wake of Sept. 11 trauma
Mercy Corps, the Portland-based humanitarian-relief
organization, expanded its
programs in Afghanistan and launched a kids counseling program in New York City last year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Northwest Medical Teams, another Portland-based relief organization, sent 128 teams Ñ the most in its history Ñ to disaster sites around the world after Sept. 11.
Leaders of both agencies said last year's events raised public awareness of their work and drew support from volunteers and donors.
Mercy Corps, with a 15-year presence in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, increased its staff there as well in other Central Asian countries, said Chief Executive Officer Neal Keny-Guyer.
'The events of Sept. 11 made us realize that the ultimate battle against terrorism Ñ a battle against poverty, despair and intolerance Ñ is a battle that we share,' he said.
In New York, Mercy Corps established 'Comfort for Kids,' providing counselors and educational materials to help children through traumatic events. The program continues in New York. The agency has produced a similar guide for educators for Portland Public Schools.
'People have become aware of the needs in other areas of the world as the result of Sept. 11,' said Bas Vanderzalm, president of Northwest Medical Teams. 'They have contacted us to explore ways of being involved as volunteers.'
Though most volunteers are medical workers who have gone to Afghanistan, Southeast Asia and a number of other countries, about a third are nonmedical volunteers who help build clean water systems and do other such work.
The agency sent trauma counselors to New York City last year and continues to provide counselors and training programs, Vanderzalm said.