Originally Posted by Catholic Charities USA
Last week, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) hosted the 2023 Applied Institute for Disaster Excellence (AIDE) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over five days, roughly 225 participants from more than 60 Catholic Charities agencies, nonprofits and government partners took part in a rigorous training to help the Catholic Charities network be better prepared to offer critical short- and long-term aid in the aftermath of disasters. As the official domestic relief agency of the Catholic Church in the U.S., Catholic Charities responds to dozens of disasters each year, providing critical support to devastated communities around the country.
Attendees participated in thorough, tangible sessions focused on a wide variety of topics related to disaster preparedness and relief, from communications and fundraising strategies to blueprints for aid distribution and volunteer management. AIDE, which CCUSA holds annually each fall, includes valuable resources and education for those who are new to disaster relief as well as seasoned experts.
The week featured a number of informative and inspiring plenary sessions. CCUSA President and CEO Kerry Alys Robinson praised the collaborative spirit that animates the Catholic Charities network’s approach to disaster relief. She also emphasized how critical this ministry is to the mission of Catholic Charities.
“In so many ways, the support you offer communities in the wake of disasters represents, at its core, how we are called to act and called to love as Catholics,” Robinson said. “This work is both tangible and profound. When we help individuals and families whose lives have been upended, we uphold our commitment to the dignity of every human person and we live out the call to serve and support the most vulnerable among us.”
During his plenary address, FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik A. Hooks thanked the Catholic Charities network for its years of valuable collaboration with the federal government in responding to disasters.
“Catholic Charities is more than just a partner,” Hooks said. “You are a pioneer and leader in disaster recovery on the ground, reaching communities both in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and supporting them throughout a long-term recovery.”
Other plenary speakers included Naeem Naz, diocesan program coordinator and head of operations at Caritas Pakistan, and Ben Wortham, vice president of behavioral health integration at CCUSA.
During AIDE, CCUSA also honored Catholic Social Services, Diocese of Birmingham with the 2023 Great AIDE IDEA (Innovation in Disaster Excellence) award. The agency was celebrated for its creative, thoughtful response to a deadly tornado that struck Fultondale, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham.
One day after the conclusion of AIDE, powerful thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes struck Tennessee and Kentucky, killing at least six and displacing thousands. The Catholic Charities network quickly mobilized and launched a dedicated fundraising effort, with 100 percent of the money raised directly supporting those suffering in the aftermath of the storms.