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Donations grow for Kosovo aid

BY SUSAN KIM | Washington | April 16, 1999

Relief organizations report that, as they continue to care for an estimated 700,000 Kosovan refugees, the public has been making donations with

compassion, common sense -- and creativity.

M'Annette Ruddell, director of donor services for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), received a $58 check this week from the family of a

4-year-old boy, who heard his parents talking about the refugees, and decided he wanted to help. He gathered rocks and sticks, took them to a Friends

meeting, and sold them to benefit the refugees.

Another $300 came from a fundraising fashion show planned by an eighth-grade class at Camel's Hump Middle School in Richmond, VT. In a letter to AFSC,

the students summarized the reason many people are compelled to help Kosovan refugees: "We are thankful to see that sometimes people can do

something about the worst things that happen in the world." The class is now spearheading a school-wide campaign to collect and pack Emergency Kits for


Ruddell said that, during the past few weeks of working long hours and contacting many donors, she has been "impressed and touched by the range, the

generosity, the enthusiasm, the creativity of people across the nation."

Donors are contributing cash by mail, by phone, and on-line. In turn, relief organizations are buying food, bedding, medicines, candles, children's supplies,

and other supplies for refugees. Though over-the-phone credit card donations and mailed checks are still the most popular way to make monetary

donations, on-line giving has increased dramatically since the Kosovo crisis began.

Rita Stone-Smith, media relations manager for CARE, an international development and relief organization, said that CARE has received nearly $200,000 in

on-line donations through its website -- already more than the total on-line contributions they received for Hurricane Mitch survivors. Church World

Service reports that six percent of its total contributions have been given on-line, while International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) said its number of

on-line contributions is six times what it has been in the past.

Many relief agencies that don't offer on-line giving opportunities are planning to add that feature to their websites. "Our contributors, our sponsors, our

donors are asking for it," said Jimeequa Harris, communications coordinator for the Christian Childrens Fund.

While most relief agencies are accepting only cash donations -- as opposed to material goods -- a few are encouraging donors to prepare kits using specific

guidelines for items and packaging. This week Church World Service expanded its call for "Gift of the Heart" jits to include layette and school Kits as well as

health kits.

"We have also had many people call and offer to volunteer, but regrettably we cannot accept volunteer help related to the Kosovo crisis right now," said

Donna Derr, acting director for the Church World Service Emergency Response Program. "However, we have built a database with 78 people so far, so if

we need their help in the future, we know we can contact them."

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is also collecting Refugee Kits, and the AFSC is gathering Emergency Kits as part of a "Kits for Kosovo" campaign

in place since fall 1998. "We found that having a kit project provided an opportunity for kids to get involved in relief efforts," said Ruddell. "They get the

satisfaction of a hands-on activity that could even help someone their own age."

On April 1, AFSC sent 7,314 kits to Kosovo, as well as 15,000 pounds of clothing and shoes, 33,000 toothbrushes, and 25,000 bars of soap.

Other relief organizations are sending donations of similar magnitude, and, in order to meet the challenges of coordinating logistics of one of the largest

humanitarian aid efforts since World War II, almost no relief agency is working solo. MCC is partnering with Catholic Relief Services, IOCC, and Bread of

Life. AFSC is shipping goods directly to Mercy Corps in the Kosovo region.

Last week the Adventist Development and Relief Agency announced an agreement with the World Food Programme to distribute food to 100,000 Kosovar

refugees pouring over Albania's border. The American Red Cross continued to activate its domestic local chapters in fundraising and its international leaders

in hands-on emergency relief efforts, and is also working with the Christian Childrens Fund to offer psychosocial assistance for traumatized refugees,

particularly children.

Most faith-based organizations, including Lutheran World Relief, are also working with Action by Churches Together (ACT) to meet an appeal for $4 million

toward Kosovan refugees' needs.

ACT has shipped 120 metric tons of food to refugees in Albania during the last 10 days alone, and has airlifted enough tents and blankets for 7,000 people.

With quantities of that magnitude, relief leaders are determined to keep donations coming in order to maintain consistent efforts. "You can never have

enough in this situation," said Ammanuel Moore, communications assistant with Catholic Relief Services.

Lee Hickman, assistant to the director for Baptist World Aid, added that cash donations from individuals have been arriving more quickly than donations

from churches, since it takes time to collect funds from a congregation. "We will be involved for the long haul," she said.

Kevin King, material resource manager for MCC, added that people should not overlook the needs of refugees who have fled to Belgrade. "Serbia seems

the devil in the world's eyes, so it's not the first place people think to offer help," he said. "But we remain committed because there is a real need there. There

are people whose needs haven't gone away since the Bosnian War."

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