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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 Bill Schulz on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 8:20am.
William F. Schulz
When an organization has a huge budget, it can afford to waste a few dollars here and there without worrying that that profligacy will have a substantial impact on its mission. For an organization of UUSC's size, however, every penny counts.
That's why we're so proud we spend 87 cents of every dollar on programs. And it's why we take the three themes of of our 2012 Annual Report so seriously.
First, engagement. We're eager to use the people power at our disposal to optimize our effectiveness. Our members, most of whom are associated with Unitarian Universalist congregations, are natural born activists. They're itching to get their hands dirty, be it on their computer keyboards taking online actions or by building an eco-village in Haiti. UUSC is committed to helping our members do justice because a modest investment in activism can bring enormous dividends to everyone.
Second, innovation. Wherever we go in the world, we ask ourselves, "Who's been forgotten and who is doing the most creative, groundbreaking work to transform and empower those forgotten populations?" By finding the most innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to problems and crises, we accomplish several things at once: we support the risk takers, those on the cutting edge, who governments or more traditional agencies may have overlooked or shunned; we encourage new solutions to old quandaries; we engage with communities, often of women or ethnic minorities, too often marginalized in their societies; and we do all this at a modest cost.
But how do we know whether what we, our activists, and our partners are doing is truly making a difference, accomplishing our objectives? That brings us to our third theme, impact. Over the past year UUSC has begun a groundbreaking process of establishing measurements of project success and accountability, doing an honest assessment of impact, and learning from our achievements and perhaps even more often from when we fall short of our goals. It's not always easy to measure social change. Not everything we do is by any means quantifiable. But we're experimenting with different approaches to measuring impact because we know that at the end of the day the only thing that really counts is how many lives we've actually changed.
You'll find in our annual report many examples of our engagement with activists, our commitment to innovation, and our determination to make an identifiable impact on the world. You'll also find the voices and names of many of those who make our work possible; who know that UUSC is smart, nimble, and relentless; who want to see the cause of justice flourish; and who are convinced that UUSC is one of best means to make it so.
To all of you who have made that investment, be it in time, energy, or money, our warmest, deepest thanks. Happy reading!
William F. Schulz
President and CEO
Chair, Board of Trustees
Submitted by Ariel Jacobson on Mon, 10/22/2012 - 12:52pm.
Chef and restaurateur Mario Batali. CC 2012 USDA/Lance Cheung
A few weeks ago, we witnessed a major victory for restaurant workers organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a UUSC partner, in this case led by the New York affiliate (ROC-NY). After two years of organizing, restaurant workers in New York City signed a settlement agreement with Del Posto Restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Mario Batali.
The settlement agreement includes paid sick days, new human resource policies, and $1.15 million in back wages. Most importantly, Batali has agreed to join ROC's Restaurant Industry Roundtable as a "high road" partner. News on the settlement made headlines across the country, with coverage from the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.
It's important to note that this victory does not just affect the 31 current Del Posto workers immediately involved in the settlement — it will indirectly affect the many other workers within Batali's restaurant group and will have ripple effects for restaurant workers across New York City and throughout the industry at large. This strategy of organizing campaigns targeting high-profile fine-dining companies is all about setting standards across the industry.
This is just another affirmation that ROC's model truly works — and we're working with them to make sure similar victories will emerge from future campaigns!
Learn more about ROC-United's strategy from cofounder Saru Jayaraman:
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 Jessica Atcheson on Fri, 10/12/2012 - 10:06am.
UUSC works in more than 20 countries, doing our best to make this world a place where everyone can realize their full human rights. With such a task, we obviously can't do it alone — local partners at the grassroots level are essential in this struggle. We can't create effective change in the world without truly involving the people whose lives are being changed. In the process, we learn as much from our partners and members as they might learn from us. These ideas are at the core of UUSC's eye-to-eye partnership model. In essence, our approach is about "the power of we" — which happens to be the theme of today's Blog Action Day.
When you're working to end oppression in the world, the last thing you want to do is re-create it — that's why I think eye-to-eye partnerships are so important. One of our goals is to foster an exchange, a true meeting of equals, because we believe that we all are equal and we want to make sure that we come into partnership treating people with the dignity and respect that everyone deserves. When we start working with a partner, we don't assume to know what the best course of action on a given issue is — we ask questions, we listen, we discuss, and together we forge the best solution. We offer the expertise of our staff while recognizing and honoring the expertise of the people on the ground.
The other day, Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian human rights activist and executive director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development, a UUSC partner, was visiting UUSC's offices in Cambridge, and I had the privilege to sit down with her for an interview. I asked her what it's like to work with UUSC. "What I most like about UUSC, first of all, is the teamwork approach. . . . this sense of communication and involvement — real involvement — from the team here at UUSC with the people working on the ground is what makes it so special and so influential as well."
Collaborating with our partners makes the work of social justice deeper and richer, and it is also the only way to make the work effective. We can't do this — make human rights an honest reality for all — without doing it with others, and most especially with the people we're hoping to serve. "Nothing about us without us," the saying goes — and we take that deeply to heart in all of our work.
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.