AKRON, Pa. – Giving by U.S. contributors to Mennonite Central Committee is lagging behind last year’s levels, but supporters continue to show their generosity through donations to several special projects.
Overall contributions were down 12 percent as of Oct. 31. Giving to international and U.S. programming was about $9.8 million compared to $11.1 million in the same period in the previous fiscal year.
However, giving to Menno-Santé, a multi-year program to revitalize Mennonite-run hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has exceeded expectations. Donors also responded generously to recovery efforts for natural disasters in Asia. In early November, the response totaled about $343,000, nearly 25 percent more than MCC requested.
Arli Klassen, MCC executive director, points to the troubled economic climate as a reason why people are hesitating to commit to ongoing contributions.
“People give out of a sense of confidence in the future and a sense that they are able to be generous,” said Klassen. Unfortunately, this year, uncertainty about the future makes it difficult to give, she said.
At the same time, people around the world have fewer resources to meet their basic needs for food, education and health care, Klassen said. Hesitant giving and increased requests for assistance put the organization between a “rock and hard place,” she said.
One particularly vulnerable group is people with HIV and AIDS, whom MCC supports through its Generations at Risk program.
Through Generations at Risk, MCC works alongside the church to train caregivers who help people learn to manage the disease at home instead of in crowded or understaffed hospitals. Keeping people with HIV and AIDS healthy, emotionally and spiritually nurtured, and able to make a living allows families to stay together and children to stay with their parents, said Joanna Hiebert Bergen, coordinator of Generations at Risk.
In addition, Generations at Risk helps pay for peer group education and travel to clinics for free anti-retroviral drugs. AIDS kits and blankets bring comfort to people living with the disease and to their caregivers.
“Over and over I am asked to thank those who give,” said Hiebert Bergen. “They are just so grateful someone cares enough – and that speaks to who we are called to be as disciples of Christ.”
People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are benefitting from generous giving to revitalize Mennonite hospitals. Donor generosity to this program provides the confidence needed to continue expansion. In October, two hospitals were added to the program.
Generous contributions also have come in for victims of the fall flooding and earthquakes in Asia. MCC was able to expand its work to help even more people affected by the disasters in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos.
In Canada, the impact of the economic recession has generally been less severe than the U.S. However, donations to MCC in Canada, which also fund international programming, were also generally down this past fiscal year – with some provinces feeling the pinch more than others, said Rick Fast, resource generation coordinator for MCC Canada.
The decline was partially offset by an increase in giving to MCC's account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and by a significant increase in contributions from MCC thrift shops in Canada.
Currently MCC anticipates modest budget reductions for international programming and more extensive cuts for domestic work through MCC U.S. during fiscal year 2010-2011.
“There is a fear about the future, and it makes it so hard to give,” Klassen said. “And yet we have so many more resources to fall back on than people in other places. May we share from what is still abundance, with a confidence of God as part of this world and God as part of our future.”
Editor's note - Look for more information in the coming weeks concerning giving from Canadian contributors to MCC. Canadian MCC offices have a different fiscal year from the binational Mennonite Central Committee, which is referenced, along with MCC U.S., in the story above.