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Wendy Flick'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 Wendy Flick on Sun, 01/06/2013 - 11:05pm.
MPP founder Chanvannes Jean-Baptiste hands gift baskets to eco-village residents. See more photos of families with their gift baskets.
A few weeks ago, the 10 families of the first eco-village in Haiti's Central Plateau celebrated their first full year in their new homes! Having joined the Papaye Peasant Movement in this endeavor from the beginning, everyone here at UUSC was really excited about this milestone. And we knew many of you, our UUSC members and supporters — who have helped make the eco-village a reality — were, too. To mark the special occasion, we decided to send holiday gift baskets and warm wishes to our friends in the eco-village.
We asked you to sign the card and share your holiday sentiments, and you enthusiastically responded — with almost 900 signatures and more than 350 personal comments! I translated the messages into Haitian Creole and sent them to Nanouche Enaillo Forestal, our on-the-ground team member in Haiti. She included the messages in the holiday baskets, which she delivered by hand to the families in the eco-village.
Each basket contained seven packages of organic seeds, your holiday wishes, and some extra financial support. We know the seeds will flourish in the families' growing gardens, which are key to their new sustainable lives and livelihoods in rural Haiti. And the baskets were purchased from the Haitian artisans at the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Healthcare, a UUSC partner in Port-au-Prince.Nanouche reports that the families were very happy to be remembered. "They put together their voices to thank UUSC and everyone who helped them," she told me. "It was a wonderful day for all residents in the village, and I have confirmed their joys in their hearts." Thank you so much to everyone who helped us celebrate not just this project milestone but also the people who are living it — together, we're redefining recovery in Haiti and showing that Haitians themselves know how to transform surviving into thriving.
Submitted by Wendy Flick on Tue, 12/04/2012 - 9:39am.
I have been fortunate enough to spend the past couple of days in Los Angeles in support of Malya Villard-Appolon, a UUSC partner. She has been on a quest to become the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year on behalf of her organization KOFAVIV (Women Victims for Victims), a rape crisis center in Haiti. While Malya didn't win the grand prize, the journey has been remarkable and I think it's just the beginning of more good things for KOFAVIV.
The CNN Hero of the Year contest culminated in an awards ceremony Sunday night, which was just incredible. I am still pinching myself. I am not ashamed to admit that I was a bit starstruck when one of my film heroes, Susan Sarandon, strolled past my seat on her way to the stage (she actually made eye contact, and we smiled at each other!). But what impressed me most was that everyone there seemed to be well aware of who the real heroes we were there to celebrate were. Someone tweeted to CNN during the show about how rare it is "at a Hollywood awards show to hear stars say 'It's not about me.' And mean it." But there really was a palpable sense that there was something different about this show, about setting aside the tinsel of Tinseltown and getting down in the trenches to honor the nitty-gritty of the best of what it is to be human.
There was something so affirming about the attention and spotlights being directed to shine on these everyday heroes who are transforming tragedy into hope on a daily basis and shining a beacon for the rest of us of what can be possible. It was also so encouraging to know how many UU supporters had been sending in their votes daily for Malya. And even though she didn't win the ultimate prize, as a finalist she'll receive $50,000 to further KOFAVIV's work. And beyond that, I am confident that this experience will open doors for KOFAVIV's work to reach a whole new audience of potential supporters who will choose to become heroes in their own ways by supporting the work of KOFAVIV and Malya.
As exciting as it was to share my memorable moment with Susan Sarandon (memorable at least for me!), the highlight of the night for me was just before the show began, when I went to offer Malya a final wish for good luck. She was seated front row center in this huge auditorium surrounded by celebrities, decked out like a queen and smiling like a Buddha. I knelt to talk with her and was suddenly too overcome to speak, and we just looked into each other's eyes. Our eyes began to glisten with tears. All we could do was shake our heads and connect in a heartfelt hug. For my part, I was remembering when we met, shortly after the earthquake, and she was living in the depths of grief and loss and despair — but what she never lost, remarkably, was her fierce determination to continue the work, from the tent she was now sharing with her extended family in a camp for displaced people.
Working in the trenches of human rights, UUSC staff often experience a lot of the "dark side" in the tragedies our partners are struggling with. Even for the most optimistic of personalities, things can often feel so upside down and backwards from what they ought to be, as if the wrong people are being consistently rewarded for the wrong things. But there are those moments, like last night at the CNN Hero Awards seeing Malya in her place of honor, when for a couple of hours at least, all is right with the world.
Submitted by Wendy Flick on Mon, 10/22/2012 - 6:45am.
As you may have heard, there is some exciting news brewing for KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), a UUSC Haiti partner that works tirelessly to support survivors of rape in Haiti and to stem the tide of future violence. Malya Villard-Appolon, KOFAVIV cofounder, has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year, an enormous honor and powerful opportunity to bring the world's attention to the vital work that KOFAVIV is doing.
Two years ago, a few months after the earthquake, I remember meeting with Malya in the courtyard of a lawyer's office. It was there that she and her children had fled to for refuge after being threatened by men with guns in the camp for displaced people where she was living — the men were angered by her work to stop the rapes in the camps. She was soft-spoken and humble but clearly fiercely committed to continuing her powerful work regardless of the personal danger to her. Over the course of the past two years, I have seen her grow in confidence and have seen the work grow in its impact. Through partnerships with organizations like UUSC, MADRE, and Digital Democracy, KOFAVIV's work has been vital in lowering the number of rapes in the camps and neighborhoods where they work.
If Malya wins the top honor and is named CNN's 2012 Hero of the Year, she will receive $250,000 to further KOFAVIV's work. There is something very concrete — and very easy — that we can all do to make that happen. From now through November 28, you can cast 10 votes per day for Malya on the CNN website. You can also spread the word through your networks and encourage your friends to vote, too. The winner will be announced at a live televised event in Los Angeles on December 2. It takes only a few minutes a day to make a big difference — please join us in voting for Malya and honoring her work!
Here's how you can vote:
- Go to heroes.cnn.com.
- Click on the photo of MALYA VILLARD-APPOLON.
- Complete the fields.
- Click on VOTE.
You can vote 10 times per day with your e-mail or through Facebook.
For more on KOFAVIV:
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.