When natural and manmade disasters happen anywhere in the world, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is ready to respond. Melissa Crutchfield has built a career on reaching out to people in crisis to help rebuild lives.
(Locator: New York, NY)
(Voice of Melissa Crutchfield) “Every disaster is very different. So you can’t apply the same exact framework to one disaster as you did to the next because circumstances are different. The context is different.”
(Melissa thumbing through passport) “Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Djibouti.”
Melissa Crutchfield: “My passport, it actually doesn’t expire for a while yet. But I have to get a new one because I’ve added so many extra pages they won’t let me add anymore.”
Melissa Crutchfield has lived or worked in 25 countries.
Melissa Crutchfield: “We’ve done some training programs in response in like Jamaica, Barbados, Panama, spent a lot of time in Chile the last couple of years…Japan, Cambodia, the Philippines, all through UMCOR response.”
Crutchfield is the Associate General Secretary of International Development for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Melissa Crutchfield: “I grew up in a family that really valued travel. I always have been very interested in other cultures and certainly growing up in a United Methodist family with the values around helping people and sort of mission-minded work, that it’s very prophetic, I think, in a lot of ways that I ended up here because it meets a lot of everything I wanted when I was growing up.”
She travels all over the world responding to natural and manmade disasters but the 2010 earthquake in Haiti stands out.
(Locator: Haiti 2010)
Melissa Crutchfield: “It was challenging for a lot of different reasons. I think the magnitude and the scope of the disaster itself was quite large. And so quite a huge challenge to really respond quickly and efficiently, but then also because it impacted our own organization so personally with the death of Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb. It was sort of the perfect storm, personally and professionally, just the magnitude of what happened. When we were in Haiti the week after the earthquake, they had just ID’d the bodies of our colleagues. We were going up to the Hotel Montana actually to have a small devotional. And they were still actually doing search and rescue work there, so there were a lot of emergency teams. Everything was very chaotic and piles of rubble. It’s interesting to look back on some of those pictures now and remember how I was feeling and how all of us were feeling at that time and knowing that, you know, what the work that lay ahead of us and kind of how we were gonna cope with our own, you know, challenges in the meantime to get there. Time does help. At the time I think I actually felt quite privileged to be involved in the direct response.”
(Melissa speaking in French to man in Haiti)
Melissa Crutchfield: “I know a lot of my other colleagues and just people around the world that were looking at Haiti and looking at UMCOR and looking at all of us. I think a lot of people felt very helpless about the situation. And you know, they could donate money or relief supplies, but I actually felt quite privileged to be able to work through some of my own challenge and grief by actually helping with the response, by helping to plan it. And so that was very cathartic for me.”
In disaster response, UMCOR is often the first to arrive and the last to leave. Crutchfield identifies long-term partners within a community.
Melissa Crutchfield: “I think in some ways that makes UMCOR very unique among a lot of our counterparts that do disaster response in the world because we don’t leave when the immediate needs are kind of met. We actually stay and try to rebuild the community better. I think United Methodists in particular are very socially conscious. You know, the Wesleyan kind of tradition is really focused on social justice and I think that’s really spoken to me, like, the reaching out to everyone regardless of race and creed.”
Melissa Crutchfield: “There is usually always a disaster on the radar. And I think that’s because there’s not just one kind of disaster. There’s clearly the things like the earthquakes and tsunamis and things that are sort of quick onset. I think this job does bring with it a lot of challenges in that it’s easy to burn out on the situation. It is a lot of pressure. It is a difficult thing to balance work and personal life when you’re doing this kind of job. But I think in so many ways I have my dream job. I mean, I can’t imagine, even on the most difficult days doing anything very different than what I do. And I feel very blessed and very privileged to have the opportunity to do this. And I, you know, when the going gets tough and I go home and complain about my day sometimes, I have to remind myself that you know, this is actually what I wanted. And on most days I’m very clear on that. I’m really appreciative of the opportunity.”
For more information on Melissa Crutchfield and the work of UMCOR, read her bio or contact: United Methodist Committee on Relief at 1-800-554-8583.
Posted: January 9, 2013