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Evan Seitz's blog posts
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 Evan Seitz on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 12:55pm.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, December 3–10. In the post below, trip leaders Nicole McConvery of the UUA and Evan Seitz of UUSC share their thoughts on the journey to help rebuild the community and lives of earthquake survivors in Haiti.
Post authors and trip leaders Nicole McConvery and Evan Seitz.
After months of planning, we can't wait for the volunteers to arrive for our next JustWorks experience! As trip leaders, we've arrived safely in Port-au-Prince, and it has been nonstop preparation for the arrival of participants ever since. Last night, all the trip leaders met at the hotel and went over last-minute logistics. It is great working with the team, including UUSC Haiti Emergency Response Manager Wendy Flick, who has over 10 years of experience in Haiti. We reviewed the flight itineraries of our volunteers and are ready to pick them up at the airport tomorrow.
We have a great and diverse group of volunteers on this trip, thanks to the generosity of UUA donors. Ten Unitarian Universalists from nine states will be working to construct a community building at the eco-village site, a project of UUSC's partner the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). Located several hours outside of Port-au-Prince in the Central Plateau, the eco-village is providing sustainable homes and livelihoods for 10 Haitian families displaced by the earthquake — and establishing a model for future villages that are already being planned.
On the UUA-UUSC joint JustWorks trip for youth in August 2011, we helped construct the final two homes in this village. Now all 10 homes have been constructed, the families have moved in, and the first crops have been harvested. It is an exciting time! The community building will be used for communal agricultural activities, trainings, and social gatherings.
We're happy to report that this is the first time in Haiti for trip leader Nicole, who is part of the UUA's International Office, as well as for fellow trip leader Erik Mohn, the UUA's young adult spirituality and service consultant as well as a consultant for UUSC's College of Social Justice. Evan remembers being quite nervous his first time in Haiti, which was also his first time leading a trip for UUSC. If Nicole and Erik are nervous, they certainly don't show it!
That's it for now; we need to go get some rest. Our first set of volunteers arrives at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, and we want to be bright-eyed to greet them! We're so looking forward to another powerful experience working with Unitarian Universalists and MPP in the unforgettable countryside of Haiti's Central Plateau.
Submitted by Evan Seitz on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 6:17am.
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20–27. In the post below, trip leader Evan Seitz, UUSC's associate for experiential learning and youth services, gives a quick update after the group arrived in the Central Plateau on Sunday.
Members of the youth delegation listening to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste speak at MPP.
Just letting you know the group arrived safely in Papaye this afternoon at the training center of our partner the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP)! This first thing we did was have a delicious lunch of pizza, beet and carrot salad, and cold passion-fruit juice. In the late afternoon, we had a chance to meet MPP's inspirational founder, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste.
We are aware that tropical storm Irene may pass over Haiti late tomorrow or Tuesday. If it does pass near here, we plan to sit out the rain and wind in our dormitory — a very well-constructed building (in fact, the second story was completed just several months ago with help from a UUSC grant). We have plenty of water and food as well. While the storm may disrupt our work plans at the eco-village, the group will be safe.
We will be posting updates about our experience here on the UUSC JustWorks blog and over at the UUA's Faith Without Borders blog — check back daily for the latest entries.
Thanks to everyone for your support of these young adults as we embark on a week of service and learning!
Submitted by Evan Seitz on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 7:52am.
UUSC Haiti medical trip participant Holly with a young girl at KOFAVIV's main facility.
Participant Linda Brundage leads the women of KOFAVIV in a stress-reduction workshop.
Two leaders of KOFAVIV with UUSC JustWorks shirts.
The following post, written by Evan Seitz, UUSC's associate for experiential learning and youth services, was written Friday morning about the medical trip's Thursday visit to KOFAVIV (Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, which translates to the Commission of Women Victims for Victims).
At KOFAVIV, discouragement is not an option. I was seated in an airy conference room with two of KOFAVIV's founders. "What do you do when you get discouraged?" I asked. "We don't get discouraged," they replied. They added, "We only get discouraged when the government doesn't support us."
KOFAVIV was founded by women survivors of gender-based violence. Their mission is to support women survivors and to find ways to end gender-based violence in Haiti. Since the earthquake in 2010, they have implemented an innovative system to address this type of violence in the tent camps. KOFAVIV trains camp agents to live in the camps and serve as resources for women. Camp agents provide education and support, and can refer women to further programs at KOFAVIV's leafy and inviting facility in Port-au-Prince. KOFAVIV also assists victims taking legal action against perpetrators. In 2010, KOFAVIV's portfolio included 459 cases of gender-based violence. Of those, 70 cases went to trial. There were 0 convictions.
Our team ran two trainings at KOFAVIV: a stress-reduction and coping workshop and a talk on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and family planning. What impressed me most about these trainings was how willing the women were to participate and share their stories. Linda ran the first workshop, and within minutes she had the group of 20 or so women singing and dancing on the veranda. The stomping was so loud and so vigorous that our medical team downstairs wondered if a disco had spontaneously opened for business. The STD training was led by Kathy. Although more subdued, the women were no less willing to participate. Many shared personal stories that I think Americans would have been uncomfortable revealing in a group setting.
Downstairs, half of our team performed medical checkups. Before the earthquake, KOFAVIV had a medical clinic and pharmacy. Their facility was totally destroyed in the earthquake, and although they have relocated to a beautiful building, the clinic and pharmacy have not reopened yet. Without a clinic for over a year, the need for medical care at KOFAVIV was great. Despite all-day efforts by our team, we were unable to see all of the women who waited outside for hours to see a doctor.
At the end of the day, we bought handmade tie-dyed T-shirts. The shirts were made in a youth art program set up with funding from UUSC. I don't know if it was because the group was sweaty and needed clean clothes or because the vibrant colored T-shirts were impossible to pass up, but many of our group left KOFAVIV with significantly lighter wallets and heavier backpacks. I purchases two shirts and was one of the most conservative spenders. Family and friends be aware: you may have a new shirt or piece of jewelry in your future!