Community and Song on the Front Porch in Haiti
UUSC is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, March 10-17. In the post below, trip participant Linda Kim Duncan tells the story of a delightful song-filled evening of connection with people of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). The UUA-UUSC 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. What a kick. We've just finished an impromptu songfest with a group of Haitians who are also staying on this campus. We met them earlier today when their leader showed how they were learning to make and use organic pesticides from old oranges, garlic, onions, oil, and leaves. (It looks gross, but it works and doesn't cost much). That session was serious, and it appeared that these trainees had no clue about why we were remotely interested in them or this process. I think we were a curiosity to most of them and an interruption to their training. Tonight was a romp and the strangeness I observed in the afternoon evaporated. We gathered on the big front porch of the guest house where we are staying. We were there to learn some of the MPP training songs. This is the way in which instruction is given at MPP because of low literacy rates. We were going to get some real "eye-to-eye" training for ourselves tonight. One of MPP's most exuberant trainers (they call them "animators" because they instill enthusiasm in their learners — and do they ever work hard) was attempting to teach us Creole and a tune at the same time. She showed her mettle. She had us singing in lame Creole, decidedly off-key but with gusto. As we practiced one of the most familiar songs over and over (just as they do in the trainings), we saw a small crowd gather in the dim light outside the porch. They were our acquaintances from this afternoon. Were they ever amused — and frankly, they seemed delighted. Then, there they were — up on the porch, clapping, singing along with us, and urging us to greatness. And then they sang for us with such joy and "animation" that we really understood the word. Our group of UUs looked at each other with some desperation (remember we've only known one another for five days) to find a song we could sing together, reaching back to camp experiences so many years ago. We gave them a rousing rendition of "This Little Light of Mine," which had all of us — Haitian and American — on our feet, stomping and clapping. We closed with "'Spirit of Life" (including the signing of the song, which I'm convinced utterly baffled them). We were no longer curiosities — we shared a boisterous connection that left us all laughing.