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December 15, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - The countdown to Christmas has begun and, for the person who has everything, there is one gift with international importance, to fit almost any budget. A Mercy Kit sends donation money to a Mercy Corps program selected by the donor in any of 40 countries.

Seth Rue, assistant program officer for the Middle East, has recently returned to the Portland headquarters of Mercy Corps from Gaza. He says the organization's efforts in that war-torn region include working with teens, hiring the unemployed to keep farming and fishing industries alive, and emergency food distribution.

"But while filling in those gaps, we're trying to build the capacity of the local community to respond to their own needs. And so, by the time we leave - which it is our intent to do - they're going to be able to respond to their own needs, at the same level."

Rue says that, despite working in some very dangerous areas, Mercy Corps has an advantage over other non-governmental organizations and aid groups.

"Really, I think Mercy Corps is unique among other international NGOs in higher-security environments like Gaza, because we don't carry any weapons and we don't hire any security details. And so, the community in most cases is much more open to our programs and accepting of our presence."

Rue says Mercy Corps teams stay in an area until the situation is stabilized, which may take a few months or a few years. Mercy Kit donations can be used for school supplies, safe drinking water, youth programs, medical care, and more, and the prices start at 18 dollars.

You can see the choices and order the kits online at mercycorps.org


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR