Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
(Adapted from The Word, March 2013)
Last fall, the Antiochian parish of St. Mary in Chambersburg, PA, began its fourth year of service to the surrounding community through the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SS OC). Affiliated with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), the ministry serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests on Thursdays and Saturdays, complimenting the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army.
During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the Center in the downtown area, and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.
Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage and a well-known Orthodox philanthropist, has been named the new chairman of the Board of Directors for FOCUS North America, or Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve. Gerich succeeds Charles Ajalat, who completed a four-year chairmanship in January, 2013.
"FOCUS is a dynamic ministry and an expression of Christ's love, offering jobs, housing, feeding programs, and other human services to the homeless and working poor of America," said Gerich, "FOCUS also plays a vital role in bringing Orthodox Christians into direct relationship with the poor, positively impacting their own lives while helping those in need."
Under Ajalat's leadership as founder and first board chairman, FOCUS grew into a vibrant and strong organization with eight flagship FOCUS Centers across the country and a dedicated volunteer corps of more than 6,000 people. In 2013, FOCUS has forecasted an annual budget of $10 million, with service outreach programs planned for 29 cities.
Gerich said he is humbled to succeed Ajalat. "I have worked with Charles for over 25 years. Charles is an amazing man whom God has blessed with many gifts and talents. His commitment to serving the poor is amazing."
"In just four short years FOCUS has touched the lives of so many, and we're growing daily," said Executive Director Nicholas Chakos, "It's an exciting time in FOCUS' history."
FOCUS North America is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.
Samira, 32, was eight months pregnant when she was forced to flee her home in Syria with her six small children. After a grueling 12-hour journey, Samira and her children arrived at a settlement in western Lebanon's Bekaa Valley with nothing other than her identity papers. They now live in a crudely constructed tent of wood and billboard vinyl, with a small diesel heater that does little to keep out the cold and damp. "I am not comfortable here," Samira says. "The situation is very bad for my children. I am worried about their health." Samira's youngest child, Ahmed, just a few weeks old, is underweight.
Expectant and new mothers are among the most vulnerable refugees fleeing Syria, faced with great risk to their own health and uncertainty about their newborn's survival under such precarious conditions. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the ACT Alliance, is working to help protect the well-being of displaced Syrian mothers and infants by providing prenatal care for expectant mothers living in the harshest conditions, providing access to hospital deliveries in Bekaa, and following up with post-natal care. More than 150 expectant mothers have received healthcare support from IOCC, and 100 refugee women have delivered their babies with assistance from IOCC and local relief partners.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) has been commissioned by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to help Orthodox Christians to make disciples of all nations. Among the Turkana of Northern Kenya, OCMC's ministries have helped welcome hundreds of people into the Body of Christ. A new video, "A Journey of Faith," tells the story of how missionaries have supported and encouraged the growth of the Orthodox Church in the previously unreached Turkana people group. A recent mission team that served in Kenya is depicted in the video; members of Antiochian parishes from various regions of the United States participated in the team, which visited the Turkana in the summer of 2012 to offer practical and spiritual help.
For more information please visit OCMC's website or call the Mission Center at 1-877-GO-FORTH.
The Treehouse in Wichita, Kansas, is looking for an Executive Director. Created in 2002 to fill a unique niche, helping economically challenged moms and children with basic necessities and programs, the Treehouse is a Christian-based, not-for-profit organization. The Executive Director is responsible for providing strategic leadership for The Treehouse by working with the Board to establish long-range goals, strategies and policies. The Executive Director is responsible for the administration of the comprehensive Treehouse program, leading its public relations, community relations, and fundraising efforts.
The Treehouse offers compassionate physical and emotional support and positive Christian relationships. It is a special place, created by members of the Orthodox Christian community, especially for moms to receive education guidance and support after their baby is born. Parenting education, spiritual support, diapers and formula, and an inexpensive thrift store with books, toys and clothes are just a few of the resources. The Treehouse provides to women referred to our organization from our approved partners.
Report on Syrian Aid and Needs from Patriarchate of Antioch Dept. of Ecumenical Relations and Development
Samer Laham, Director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, has released the latest report on ongoing relief work in Syria, and asks for continued prayers for all Syrian people.
The full report is available in PDF format. The report opens:
"The humanitarian situation within Syria continues to deteriorate as the violence spreads and displacement continues. According to SARC estimates, some 2.5 – 3 million people are in need of support, of which children represent a substantial proportion. By the end of September, the Syrian Government officially reported that the number of displaced persons was then more than 3 million. In response to meet the increasing needs at different levels DERD continues its historic and strategic partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Through this tight partnership and direct assistance and support of IOCC, DERD has been able to assist thousands of displaced Syrians, as well as those affected by the crisis."
On a sunny February afternoon in the Gerritson Beach section of Brooklyn, NY, the Vicar–General of the Antiochian Archdiocese The Very Rev. Thomas Zain and Mrs. Aida Nicolaou, a parish council member of St. Nicholas Cathedral, joined State Senator Martin Golden in one of the neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Sandy. There, on behalf of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, Fr. Thomas distributed $5000.00 worth of Home Depot gift cards to several families who sustained major damage to their homes and are trying to rebuild.
"Many people are still facing difficulties as they try to rebuild their homes and lives after the devastation wrought by Sandy last October, 2012," noted Fr. Tom. In addition to the financial distress and cold weather, many are facing bureaucracy from insurance companies, the government and private institutions. People in the community eventually requested help directly from Senator Golden, who has been working tirelessly as an advocate for his constituents, including the Gerritson Beach neighborhood.
On June 1, 2012, a tornado traveled eight miles down Highway 711 through the townships of Ligonier and Bolivar in Western Pennsylvania. At 5:20 p.m., the tornado stuck the Antiochian Village with winds of 110 miles per hour. In a matter of seconds, the tornado damaged or destroyed 50 acres at the Village, including 22 buildings and hundreds of trees. Of these buildings, six were girls’ cabins which were completely destroyed. The remaining buildings have required varying degrees of repair – from new roofs to collapsed walls.
The appraisers have determined the monetary cost of the damage to the Antiochian Village at well over one million dollars. While insurance paid for a portion, the Archdiocese has been required to cover the remainder. There were also many areas that were not covered by insurance, including the removal of downed trees and replacement of these trees for privacy purposes that surround the girls’ cabins.
The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) has announced that St. Herman's Orthodox House of Hospitality, a shelter for homeless men in Cleveland, OH managed by newly appointed Director Paul Finley, is now part of FOCUS North America. In addition to providing housing, jobs and support services to homeless men, St. Herman's House offers three free meals a day, year-round.
Accommodations for up to 25 men to stay overnight are available; guests are accepted after completing an intake process and agreeing to abide by the Rules of Conduct. While staying at St. Herman's, guests are assigned responsibilities in the house to aid the house in running smoothly. These include cleaning the house, preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals, maintaining the flower garden and completing projects within the Ohio City community.
Since 1998, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has offered an internship program to undergraduates and recent college graduates interested in careers in international relief and development. The IOCC Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain firsthand exposure to the operations of an Orthodox Christian international humanitarian aid and development organization.
The deadline for the 2013 Internship Program applications is February 28, 2013.
IOCC internships typically require a 10 to 12 week full-time commitment during the months of May – September. In 2013 IOCC is currently offering 2-3 opportunities for US-based interns, but there is a possibility for an overseas internship that would be posted by the end of February. Current US Internship possibilities are:
- Finance intern at our Baltimore headquarters;
- Communications intern at our Baltimore headquarters;
- US Program intern at our Minneapolis field office with travel to home build sites in New Orleans, Houston, Minot, ND, and NY/NJ area.
- US-based interns in 2013 will receive a stipend, BUT will need to find their own housing in the Baltimore area or Minneapolis area.