Tsunami Victims Get Relief through IOCC/Church Efforts

Baltimore, MD (January 7, 2005) — A global Orthodox Christian response, bolstered by a groundswell of charitable giving, is bringing life-sustaining assistance to some of the hardest hit victims of the South Asia tsunami.

Urgently-needed items such as medicines, tents, blankets, foodstuffs and hygiene supplies are reaching tsunami victims through airlifts being supported by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians.

At the same time, a team composed of IOCC staff from Greece and Hong Kong and local Indonesian church officials is gathering on the island of Sumatra to coordinate the growing response. The team’s needs-assessment mission is a joint effort of IOCC and the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

The team will focus on the situation on the ground in and around Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province in Indonesia, where the Metropolitanate has facilities and churches that can provide support to relief efforts there. Members of the team will coordinate with IOCC’s longtime partners Church World Service (CWS) and Action by Churches Together (ACT).

IOCC also is participating in ongoing CWS airlifts of humanitarian supplies valued at $4 million. The shipments contain 100 medicine boxes, each designed to provide routine medicines for 1,000 adults and children for three months, and other medical supplies; shelter and sanitation kits; blankets and emergency foodstuffs; and other critical supplies requested by IOCC partners in the region.

“We will continue to support these very concrete airlift efforts in the coming weeks,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou, “along with Orthodox church-based efforts in the United States — such as assembling and sending thousands of ‘Gift of the Heart’ health and school kits.”

IOCC is encouraging Orthodox Christians to continue assembling health kits, which are urgently needed for shipment to the areas hardest hit by the tsunami. To learn more about assembling the health kits, please visit www.iocc.org/healthkits.

“We are grateful for this unprecedented show of support,” Triantafilou said, “which will enable IOCC to meet the immediate needs of those affected and work toward long-term recovery and reconstruction.”

IOCC’s partnership with the Metropolitanate, CWS and ACT, and local authorities will help ensure that relief efforts are effectively coordinated, he said.

###

Americans and Canadians who donate to IOCC’s tsunami relief efforts by Jan. 31, 2005, may now claim a tax deduction on either their 2004 or 2005 tax returns. On Jan. 7, President Bush signed into law H.R. 241, which allows taxpayers to deduct cash contributions (defined to include cash, check, and credit card transactions) to bona fide charitable organizations such as IOCC for tsunami relief on their 2004 tax returns. IOCC is processing and acknowledging gifts for tsunami relief in as timely a manner as possible.

Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee respectively, introduced the legislation on Jan. 4, 2005. The legislation was approved quickly by the House and Senate and was signed by the president on Jan. 7. Previously, many people were concerned that they would not be able to take a tax deduction until 2006.

Baucus and Grassley noted that many relief organizations have asked for cash donations that actually save money by eliminating shipping costs to transport goods overseas and allowing funds to flow into storm-battered local economies, stimulating economic growth and reconstruction.

The Canadian federal government also announced that donors can, if they choose, have charitable donations from Jan. 1-11, 2005, to the tsunami relief effort considered as having been made during the 2004 taxation year.