Many Ways to Build a Foundation

Barbara Nelson
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) 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 rocks 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. 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 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 stones 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.

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