Learning about Challenge, Progress, and Hope in Haiti
UUSC is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, January 21-28. Trip participant Casey Aspin writes about day four of her experience in the post below. 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. Day Four This week is going by way too fast. We got an earlier start today. Job one was hauling rocks from a pile to a square trench, where eco-villagers dropped the stones into the neatly dug trench, splattered it with slush cement, repeat. I live in a stone house and admired the skill of the Haitian masons recreating what Irish peasants made in America 240 years ago. The foundations were sturdy and attractive. Next was hauling cinder blocks to lay on top of the foundations. Between us, we worked on three community kitchens (possibly more yesterday). I did a little mango sawing. Joel is eager for my e-mail and for money. I don't blame him — I'd do the same in his shoes. (Did I say shoes? Sorry, flip flops.) But it isn't my place — I told him we give only to MPP, which is his employer this week. This pilot village has been such a success that a Presbyterian group wants to finance four more. I told Joel there should be plenty more work. After lunch we went to the market in Hinche. Very tough bargainers. We bought some supplies for the kitchens, but the general feeling was the fix was in. We managed to buy bowls, knives, and pots. The upside of bouncing around in the SUVs is learning about my companions en route. Today I learned how Wendy Flick went from being a leader in a hospice program in Sante Fe to an organizer of international programs for a private foundation (whose donor supported the hospice). Her focus became Haiti and, when the foundation wound down, UUSC grabbed her — a very smart move. She is fluent in Creole, she beams joy, the Haitians love her, and she's a good organizer who has been in sync with UUSC's modus operandi for a decade — we couldn't have found a more committed, effective leader. And then there's Evens Mary, one of our translators. He moved from Haiti to New Jersey at age eight, later became a paralegal at a law firm, and returned after the earthquake to work with U.S. lawyers who came down to help Haitians deal with immigration issues. They learned about the prevalence of rape, so they shifted focus and are now working, with Evens's help, to enforce Haiti's seven-year-old law criminalizing rape. Evens said the police don't enforce the law against rape and no lawyers have stepped up to demand justice for victims. So the U.S. team is pressing the Haitian courts and beginning appeals to the International Court. Evens is so committed to this work. I suggested that it is difficult for women to obtain justice if they don't have power in the government. He agreed that is a problem in Haiti but said it is changing — slowly. Thanks to people like him! Our afternoon was spent in the company of about 50 MPP students from two classes. One is working on erosion control, a major problem in Haiti, and the other is learning farming techniques to take back to their families. We had a lengthy Q&A that was interesting and inspiring for both sides, I think. Haitians clearly love their country, and it wounds them that it is portrayed negatively to the outside world. Their are doing everything possible to improve their country — saving and enriching soil, pumping water, conserving seeds, diversifying food sources — and they were tremendously pleased when we said we would go back to the United States and tell people about the beautiful gardens they are creating and of the hope they provide for all Haitians.