The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Europe, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is bigger than you think. With 29 active offices across the 32 countries that make up Europe, more than 225 staff and 11,000 volunteers support development projects in Europe and around the world.
Representatives from 19 of the country offices met in Brussels, Belgium, for three days of intense meetings Oct. 16-18. ADRA leaders and coordinators in Europe enjoyed the possibility of networking together, sharing plans, and developing a coordinated way forward for ADRA in the European continent.
ADRA Europe and Beyond
Until two years ago, ADRA in Europe was a loose coalition of offices, held together by two directors based at the Inter-European (EUD) and Trans-European Division (TED) offices. However, discussions between ADRA and the two division church regions concluded that a more coordinated approach across the whole of Europe could have significant benefits regarding funding, project coordination and the ability to draw expertise from various country offices to help the whole team.
The constant dialogue throughout the three days of meetings demonstrated that there are teams whose hearts and souls are committed to making a difference.
ADRA Europe now has an office based in Brussels, home to the European Union, providing a greater opportunity to work more closely with European projects. João Martins, formerly country director for ADRA Portugal, and briefly ADRA EUD Division director, heads the European team. Thomas Petracek, who until recently worked for ADRA Germany, has just joined as programs director, while office assistant Jackie Mubedi Ngalula is in charge of general coordination. ADRA Europe is currently in the process of appointing an advocacy/communication director.
However, more important than names and titles is a picture of current achievements. Internationally, a turnover of 45.5 million US dollars annually is assisting humanitarian, livelihood and income generating projects and Economic Development initiatives. Offices are involved in eight health and clean water projects, nine educational projects, and one focused on ecology. Using partnership funding, ADRA Europe is reaching and changing lives in countries such as the Sudan, Mali, Rwanda, Nepal, and Vietnam.
In Gokwe, a rural area of Zimbabwe where maternal mortality rates are still very high, ADRA United Kingdom (UK) is providing a 36-month program ensuring improved maternal health care services for women of childbearing age. With few, ill-equipped healthcare facilities combined with a limited awareness of the benefits of maternal health services, too many women and children are dying during childbirth. ADRA UK is providing not just equipment, but education and training so that the initiative will have long-term results.
Within Europe, fourteen offices also offer domestic assistance focused on humanitarian needs, social issues, refugee support and health at a total investment of 13.6 million Euros. Just five kilometers from central Belgrade, ADRA Serbia is running a community-based project that works both with refugees, the Roma community, and local Serbs. Working across the groups helps facilitate integration while at the same time assisting the refugees with school transport, community programs, language instruction, and extra homework support.
Equally importantly, they provide varied activities for women and children, including recreation and sport, as well as providing vocational training for 60 unaccompanied minors and adults. It is something that helps not only physically and practically but is essential for their mental wellbeing.
Similar programs are running in Italy where ADRA has just completed the first cycle of a one-year internship with migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who now have skills to be able to run and develop their businesses.
The vigorous debates during the three days of meetings demonstrated that every office is committed to the humanitarian and Christ-centred role of ADRA, changing “one life at a time” wherever there is a need.
“I am so excited about being here,” stated ADRA International president Jonathan Duffy. “We shared information and had healthy discussions. We may have more questions than answers, but this is a forum where we can obtain the answers.”
There are some big pending challenges. Some offices have very small teams or are run almost exclusively by volunteers. All are short of resources and wish they could do more. Some struggle with political issues or even how to balance the enthusiasm of committed community volunteers with the ethos and standards of the church community. Programs officers balance the best ways to access local and international EU funding and prioritize collaboration with other NGOs with similar visions and values.
ADRA leaders believe, however, that none of these issues are insurmountable. The constant dialogue throughout the three days of meetings demonstrated that there are teams whose hearts and souls are committed to making a difference, leaders said.