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Eco-village rises in Haiti’s Central Plateau

UUA and UUSC leaders, along with seminarians, help Haitian families rebuild.
By Michelle Bates Deakin
6.6.11

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Two Haitian children

Two children watch a group of Unitarian Universalist volunteers who visited Haiti’s Central Plateau in late May to help build an eco-village for families displaced by last year’s devastating earthquake. (Dea Brayden)

Recovery from last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti has been painfully slow for the tens of thousands of Haitians who still sleep in tent cities in the capital of Port-au-Prince. But on a joint service trip of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in late May, there were signs of hope and action.

Along with 10 UU seminary students, leaders of the UUA and UUSC travelled to Haiti’s Central Plateau to participate in a hands-on eco-village building project that will help 40 Haitian families rebuild their homes and their lives.

The Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), one of the UUSC’s partners in Haiti, set aside several hectares of land for families fleeing the destruction in the nation’s capital. In addition to homes, the village will include energy-efficient and sustainable family farming.

Accompanying the seminarians on the “JustWorks” trip was the Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, UUSC president and CEO. “Haiti evokes two common responses: empathy and cynicism,” Schulz wrote during the trip on the “Faith Without Borders” blog, which chronicled their work and travels. “To truly encounter the enormity of the tragedy here, and not just the recent one, is both to risk a broken heart (which can itself be discouraging to efforts to rebuild) or a sense that Haiti is beyond repair.” But, he said, meeting and working alongside the Haitians “to realize their dreams . . . is to be dissuaded from such pessimism.”

In addition to Schulz and the 10 seminarians, who represented five theological schools, were UUA Moderator Gini Courter and the Rev. Eric Cherry, director of International Resources for the UUA. The Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, president of the Meadville Lombard Theological School, and Ned Wight, director of the UU Veatch Program administered by the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., also made the trip. Posts from many of the trip’s participants are on the “Faith Without Borders” blog.

UUA President Peter Morales had to cancel his plans to travel to Haiti due to illness. Prior to the trip, he expressed his excitement that UU seminarians would have this opportunity, funded by UUA scholarships. “Multicultural experiences like the JustWorks program are crucial to the formation of our future ministers,” Morales said.

This spring, the UUSC launched its Haiti Volunteer Program, which has included trips for medical professionals and this trip for seminarians. It will also be coordinating trips for volunteers interested in rebuilding and reconstruction projects, agricultural programs, and teaching.

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