Nebraska's Orphan Grain Train Helps Feed World's Poor; Reflects Increase in Aid from Nongovernmental agencies.(NATION)

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Nebraska relief ministry called the Orphan Grain Train has shipped 9,000 tons of mostly clothes and medical supplies to the needy overseas in the past decade.

Although it is a small amount measured against the poverty and natural disasters rampant in the world, the relief ministry is a vital part of the American tradition of sending humanitarian and development aid abroad - a tradition that still has the support of voters and which has received a new policy emphasis since the war against terrorism.

"Everything we get is donated," said Vern Steinman, project manager for the Nebraska group, which has five warehouses nationwide. "Most of our projects overseas are proposed by missionaries or orphanages," he said.

Like some of the nation's largest relief agencies, from Save the Children and Care to Catholic Relief Services and World Vision, the Nebraska project started small with a visionary founder and a specific goal.

In 1992, the Rev. Ray S. Wilke, a Lutheran pastor and farmer, visited the Soviet Union to support theological schools with the Lutheran Hour Ministries. He returned with the hope of aiding orphanages in Latvia and Estonia.

The Orphan Grain Train was built on the expertise of volunteers in relief, commodities and international moving. It expanded its warehouses and then began fulfilling target projects ranging from Nigeria to the American Indian reservations in New Mexico.

Such nongovernmental aid - consisting of both charity and business investment - makes up 80 percent of all U.S. funds going to developing countries, said Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He said, as recently as a few decades ago, 70 percent of such funding was U. …