Dr. Charlie Clements, president of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, an independent human rights group, gave a report at Saturday's plenary session on several of UUSC's recent projects. UUSC has traditionally worked through partnerships with grassroots organizations (both domestic and international) serving the most marginalized in society. He described a recent effort in which UUSC supported South Africans in getting the water quota for poor families increased from 25 liters per person to 50. In another action, the UUSC helped garment workers in Mexico unionize; and in another, they helped someone set up two women's centers in Darfur.
The UUSC has also worked with the UUA in establishing relief funds, including one for Kenya, in the wake of the violence surrounding the presidential elections there in January; for Myanmar, the site of a devastating cyclone in May that took thousands of lives and left millions homeless; and for the post-Hurricane Katrina Gulf Coast.
With most of the Gulf Coast relief fund spent, UUSC and UUA efforts have gone into supporting UU volunteer efforts in that area. But now, volunteer efforts will be managed by the three UU congregations in the New Orleans area. Clements introduced Quo Vadis Breaux, the new executive director of the New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Center.
A small piece of the Gulf Coast was brought to the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in the form of a FEMA trailer. Activist Derek Evans, who brought the trailer, spoke to the crowd, thanking UUs for their staunch and consistent volunteerism in the Gulf. He has been traveling the country with the trailer since last August trying to educate the American public about the realities of Gulf Coast living conditions.
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.