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On UUSC’s blog, a range of contributors — from staff members to participants on experiential learning trips — share their thoughts and reflections on UUSC’s work and related topics. The views expressed by individual contributors here do not necessarily reflect the views of UUSC.
Submitted by Shelby Meyerhoff on Fri, 06/29/2012 - 12:31pm.
As a member of UUSC's Communications staff, I spent General Assembly (GA) Tweeting and photographing at UUSC workshops and special events. It was wonderful to meet so many UUSC supporters in person and to be inspired by your commitment to human rights.
One of the central themes of this Justice General Assembly was the importance of taking lessons from workshops and events back to our local communities. To that end, I want to highlight five resources from GA that you can use and share in your congregation!
Local Civil Rights Restoration tool kit from the Bill of Rights Defense
During the workshop on profiling, Shahid Buttar walked us through how activists can use power maps and other tools to identify local partners and start building coalitions. To me, one of the powerful things that Shahid said was that while different communities may experience oppression in different ways, the source of the oppression is often the same. So, he encouraged us not to just look at our particular grievances, but to see instead the common target that we can address together with other groups.
- The social-media training video
that UUSC made, in case you missed the presentation by UUSC, the UUA, and the UU
This video is geared toward congregations trying to decide which social-media tools to use in advancing their social-justice work. Yes, I'm biased, because this video features me! But I thought it might be helpful to people who missed the workshop or who want to bring it back to their congregations. I also very much recommend that you download the workshop slides (from all five presenters) and read the live Tweets from workshop attendees (who did a great job of reporting from the workshop).
- The UU
College of Social Justice service-learning video, which gives you a
firsthand view of what it's like to take a service learning trip
This video was shown during the UUCSJ workshop. It would be a great choice to show in your congregation if you are considering traveling with UUCSJ!
- The Blue Revolution webinar recording
with Cynthia Barnett
She was a fabulous speaker at GA, and a large crowd turned out to hear her workshop. We don't have a video of the workshop, but we have the next best thing! You can learn more from Cynthia about the water crisis in America by listening to the audio recording a webinar that she gave for UUSC supporters in spring 2012.
- UUSC's election-related
The 2012 elections workshop led by UUSC, the UUA, and the UU Statewide Networks also had a high turnout, and audience members asked questions about how congregations can participate in the election season. Don't miss the UUSC guide that addresses do's and don'ts for congregation.
Submitted by Rita Butterfield on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 10:27am.
Photo 2010 courtesy of Standing on the Side of Love.
I've been looking forward to General Assembly this year, especially the chance to talk with so many UUSC members and supporters about our work promoting human rights around the world. I'm also eager to return to Phoenix for the cause of justice.
On July 29, 2010, I joined dozens of other UU protestors in the intersection in front of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's plush offices to protest Arizona's anti-immigrant law S.B. 1070. It was very hot. Police were everywhere. A young seminarian sitting led us in singing, "When I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love." We continued chanting for 40 minutes, as our group grew ever smaller while we were arrested one at a time.
At one point, a young Latino man took my picture. I smiled at him as I sang. He leaned in closer and whispered in my ear with tears in his voice and a heavy accent: "Thank you. I will never forget you." His words assured me that I was doing the right thing. That young man's gratitude helped sustain me during the 27 hours I spent in Sheriff Arpaio's jail.
The food was terrible. Arpaio prides himself spending only 87 cents per day per prisoner. It was impossible to sleep. It was cold and there were no blankets. The bright fluorescent lights were kept on, there was no place but the concrete floor to lie down, and the guards kept inexplicably moving people between the three cells that held us. We learned from those who had been in jail before that toilet paper has many uses. A full roll makes a pretty good pillow. Toilet paper can be wrapped around bare arms to create a sweater of sorts, or unraveled to create a thin but better-than-nothing mattress.
The Phoenix police who arrested us had been surprisingly polite. The county deputies who guarded us were anything but. Whenever we were moved from our cells, we were shouted at and made to stand against the wall. I found it difficult to be treated with such disrespect and those feelings made me all the more aware of my privileged place in our society. It is a luxury, I realized, to expect to be treated with respect by the police, which I normally take for granted.
Throughout the afternoon and night, a variety of women were brought in and out of our cell. Some recognized us from the TV news. They were impressed by such "celebrities," and grateful that a group of middle-aged church ladies would stand up for their community. They were, with only one or two exceptions, women of color. I definitely learned some things about racism in the Maricopa County Jail.
I didn't go to Phoenix to learn about jail. I went because of a law that scapegoats immigrants and Latinos. I went because of an immigration system that separates families, that makes people in some communities afraid to call the police. I went because my ancestors came here on a boat a century and a half ago and they too were made into scapegoats. But there was no law insisting that they be deported, and so my grandparents were born citizens of the United States and I am an American. I went because each year hundreds of people die crossing the Sonora Desert. I chose to be arrested because my faith calls me to proclaim injustice when I see it and to offer hope when I can — which is exactly what UUSC is all about. See you in Phoenix!
Submitted by Guest on Thu, 05/24/2012 - 8:27am.
In preparation for Justice GA in Phoenix, Ariz., (June 20-24, 2012) the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) have jointly organized three Service Learning trips to the U.S.-Mexico border with our partner organization, BorderLinks. In this blog post Rev. Eric Cherry, the Director of the UUA’s International Office, describes what is planned for the third trip which will begin on May 25th. The BorderLinks service learning trips are made possible through the generous contributions of UUA and UUSC donors.
It was a privilege to journey with Unitarian Universalists who are engaged in a diverse array of ministries during the BorderLinks delegation last January. And last month (April) a second UUA/UUSC delegation had an equally powerful experience. Together the people on these delegations grew in understanding the complex justice issues related to the US/Mexico border. They also found room for theological reflection about those matters. And, through the eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart connections with people living in this context, each returned deeply committed to the ongoing religious work for immigration justice.
The participants in this third UUA/UUSC delegation are also faith leaders engaged in diverse ministries: lay and ordained, in both parish and community settings. And, they are sure to have a deep and rich experience that will include visits with:
- Scholarships A-Z: A network of students and advisors working to make education accessible for all students. They help connect students to available resources and train them to be their own advocates.
- Grupos Beta: A Federal Mexican Organization that has offices along the northern and southern borders of Mexico and one in D.F. There mission is to protect the migrant.
- The Green Valley Samaritans: Volunteers who to into the desert on water runs and searches Their goal is to help protect any migrants they come across in the desert, in an effort to prevent deaths along the border region.
- Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (HEPAC): HEPAC is a sister organization to BorderLinks and a community center in Nogales, Sonora. Programs offered at HEPAC include adult education and training classes, and the Child Food Security Program, which provides lunch to children and education for their families on nutrition and gardening. HEPAC also is home to a women’s cooperative that produces jewelry that raises awareness about deaths in the desert.
- Observing Operation Streamline and analyzing its injustices with legal professionals who confront it constantly.
Further stories from the journey will be posted after the trip. Please come back to see the reflections of the participants.
Submitted by Wendy Flick on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:50pm.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, UUSC Haiti Emergency Response Manager Wendy Flick shared mid-trip snapshots of the experiences of working and connecting with members of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). The UUSC-UUA Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y.
Just a quick note to say everything is going great here, one of the best trips yet. We've had some wonderful rain in the late afternoon or evening most days, sometimes heavy, but because of the late-day timing it hasn't changed anything in the program significantly and has actually helped keep the nights a little cooler for sleeping. It brings out the frogs, and it's nice to fall asleep to their singing.
We have had some amazing experiences and serendipities during this trip. Last night we had finished our evening reflection circle, and some of us remained on the porch to sing a bit more. Our singing attracted some Haitians who were passing by on the path, who stopped to listen, and whom we then invited onto the porch. Gradually we were joined by more and more passersby, and we began to exchange songs: we would sing a UU hymn or other song and then they would sing a song in Haitian Creole.
Together we were able to sing a couple of the Haitian Creole songs that our Haitian consultant Nanouche had taught us — songs about solidarity and about working together to bring about a brighter future for Haiti. It was completely unplanned, with people we didn't know at all, but in the end it turned out to be the same group we were to meet with today, who are here at the MPP Training Center for a five day course in chicken farming. Tonight they returned just as our evening reflection was ending, bringing with them even more friends until our porch was crowded with about 50 people. They also brought with them their pastor, who gave a short speech about how it was to sing "Makonnen Fos Nou" together with us. These types of exchanges are creating some profound experiences and memories that I think the participants will never forget; I know I won't. They were perfect endings to some amazing days.
A couple of snapshots from the past 24 hours were particularly moving to me. Tonight on the porch of our guesthouse when we sang "Amazing Grace" together. Our Haitian friends sang a verse in Haitian Creole, and we followed it with the same verse in English, with the backdrop of some boys playing soccer in the muddy path under the street lamp just beyond the porch and flashes of quiet lightning in the faraway sky.
Another came this morning as participants of this trip entered the original eco-village for the first time. On this journey, we have been toiling away in the sun to build the foundations for homes in the second and third eco-villages, so for most of the group this was the first peek at the original village and at a vision of what their labors on the foundations will evolve into within the next few months. As we crested the ridge above the village, chills ran along my spine and my eyes moistened. Eleven short months ago there was nothing in this valley but a few trees, and now it is a tapestry of colors — homes with bright pink and lavender flowers, dozens of tire gardens overflowing with everything from bok choy to tomatoes. It really looks like a kind of Eden. I thought to myself that if there exists something that is "the answer" to Haiti's challenges, it is right here in this place and in these people.
I know that the toughest moment is approaching, which is when, at the airport, I will have to say goodbye for now to these precious souls that I have so enjoyed sharing this experience with. Every soul on its perfect and unique path, all of us together on the path to justice. It's a beautiful thing.
Submitted by Guest on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:21pm.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, trip participant Jocelyn Furbush writes about the hope and inspiration she experienced with the Papaye Peasant Movement, a UUSC partner in Haiti. The UUSC-UUA Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y.
In the United States, we mostly hear bad news about Haiti. I suspect that in the outpouring of support after the earthquake, many donors like me gave with the thought of temporarily alleviating suffering. We didn't expect to permanently lift anyone out of poverty, let alone transform the country. It's hard to imagine changing deeply rooted systems of power and oppression. It's hard to imagine restoring a depleted environment to the point where it could provide a decent life to millions of people, ensuring that the inherent worth and dignity of each is respected. Nonetheless, I came here in search of hope that both those things were possible — and that's exactly what I've found.
One example of this living hope is the home garden of Moccene, an MPP youth leader. His inspiring success in improving soil productivity (and thus family income and well-being) through creative and organic methods represents more than a single story of someone making a positive change. Because this change grew from and continues through a mature and sophisticated system of community organizing and because this young farmer connects his personal actions to the larger political struggle for food sovereignty, I truly believe it represents a movement.
Another example of hope stirring in Haiti is seen in the MPP's cooperatives, not just for agricultural production but for value-added processing from what's grown. These co-ops craft jams, peanut butter, honey, and I'm sure more to come. The twin pines logo on the jars connect the system of equal shared investment and reward that created these products to cooperatives of all kinds around the world. In 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives, I'm especially honored to learn from Haitians who are building the kind of cooperative economy I'd like to see in my corner of the world.
Just one more beacon from my short time here has been the joy and human connection I've found with my fellow UU travelers and the Haitians we've worked and eaten beside. I've discovered the power of spontaneous song and dance to cross language barriers. I've seen incredible resilience, generosity, humor, love, and faith. As I reconnect with my own UU faith and the space it creates in my life for balancing social-justice action with reflection, I'm blessed to be witnessing the community bonds here. They are strong enough to mobilize members to action and flexible enough to welcome newcomers. MPP calls their organizers "animators," which brings to mind waking the community up to its own potential and sparking it with new life. In returning home, I hope to be more of an "animatrice" than an activist, waking people like me to the hope Haiti has for itself and to offer to the rest of us.
Submitted by Guest on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:03pm.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, trip participant Barbara Nelson reflects on the various ways to build foundations — with stones and with voices. The UUSC-UUA Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y.
Trip participant Barbara Nelson, working with Haitian farmers on the next eco-village site.
I knew something was waiting here with this experience but had no idea what that something would be. Yesterday the form began to emerge. Much of what we had seen and heard began to fall into place. We now were participating in the helping to put the pieces together. The rain ceased, the preliminary steps were taken, and we actually began to build a home.
The organic nature of passing rocks and working side by side with the Haitians to lay the foundation of a new home was awesome. It felt so good to do something so concrete. To participate in an effort that will absolutely improve the quality of life for a family is amazing. At the start of the day it was "Yeah, stones!" At the end — tired, dirty, and sweaty — we still felt the same way: "Yeah, stones!"
Later on in the evening something totally unexpected happened. Our team was sitting on the front porch singing songs, practicing rounds, and sounding actually quite lovely in our own way. A young Haitian woman was standing on the path in front of our porch listening and smiling. We invited her up, along with some of her friends. With just very little encouragement she began to sing! Wow — how beautiful and powerful and very Haitian. Not a clue what she was singing, but we were still mesmerized. Our songs didn't quite have their energy, so we sat back and listened.
Over the next hour and a half, we sang. Well, mostly she and her friends sang, and we listened. We actually knew a Haitian song and sang it with them with gusto. And we all sang "Amazing Grace," us in English and them in Creole — that was magical.
As the evening wore down, we invited them to join us another evening for another song fest. We hugged and said goodnight to our newfound friends. Another stone was laid.
Submitted by Guest on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 11:35am.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, trip participant Orelia Busch reflects on tiny movements and cataclysmic earthquakes. The UUSC-UUA Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y.
Since our arrival in Haiti last Saturday, I have experienced moments that I can only describe as touch points, when my whole body responds to something I have seen or heard with a tingle or a shiver in the core of my being. On the drive north from Port-au-Prince through the mountains, we waited for the drivers to fix a flat tire on the side of the busy road. Haitians dressed up brightly and sharply for church passed by our car windows, and we talked about earthquakes.
Someone said that the tiniest movement deep within the earth creates what we experience on the planet's surface as a cataclysm that can wreak unbelievable destruction and chaos. One of the trip leaders told us that she didn't really understand the full impact of the earthquake until she witnessed that not only had it destroyed lives and homes, but it also left cracks in the earth that changed the pattern of the very rivers that feed the farms and the people of Haiti.
I think about earthquakes as I feel something stir in me and muddle through my own reflections on the sensory and new-experience overload of beauty and hardness that I see in Haiti. I think about earthquakes when I listen to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, our host and leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement, describe his dreams for Haiti. He is working with 60,000 others all over this country to build a nation where the divisions that keep neighbors from working together are no more; where all people have enough healthy, locally produced food to sustain their families; and where neighbors work together to educate themselves, better their lives, and preserve the environment for future generations.
I think about earthquakes and I believe that each small motion towards sustainability and self-determination in Haiti could have such great positive impact in the future.
I think about earthquakes, I feel those shivers and tingles at my core, and I wonder what new channels, cracks, and ways of being and seeing that this experience will forge within me.