The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, UUSC Haiti Emergency Response Manager Wendy Flick shared mid-trip snapshots of the experiences of working and connecting with members of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). 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.

Just a quick note to say everything is going great here, one of the best trips yet. We’ve had some wonderful rain in the late afternoon or evening most days, sometimes heavy, but because of the late-day timing it hasn’t changed anything in the program significantly and has actually helped keep the nights a little cooler for sleeping. It brings out the frogs, and it’s nice to fall asleep to their singing.

We have had some amazing experiences and serendipities during this trip. Last night we had finished our evening reflection circle, and some of us remained on the porch to sing a bit more. Our singing attracted some Haitians who were passing by on the path, who stopped to listen, and whom we then invited onto the porch. Gradually we were joined by more and more passersby, and we began to exchange songs: we would sing a UU hymn or other song and then they would sing a song in Haitian Creole.

Together we were able to sing a couple of the Haitian Creole songs that our Haitian consultant Nanouche had taught us — songs about solidarity and about working together to bring about a brighter future for Haiti. It was completely unplanned, with people we didn’t know at all, but in the end it turned out to be the same group we were to meet with today, who are here at the MPP Training Center for a five day course in chicken farming. Tonight they returned just as our evening reflection was ending, bringing with them even more friends until our porch was crowded with about 50 people. They also brought with them their pastor, who gave a short speech about how it was to sing “Makonnen Fos Nou” together with us. These types of exchanges are creating some profound experiences and memories that I think the participants will never forget; I know I won’t. They were perfect endings to some amazing days.

A couple of snapshots from the past 24 hours were particularly moving to me. Tonight on the porch of our guesthouse when we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Our Haitian friends sang a verse in Haitian Creole, and we followed it with the same verse in English, with the backdrop of some boys playing soccer in the muddy path under the street lamp just beyond the porch and flashes of quiet lightning in the faraway sky.

Another came this morning as participants of this trip entered the original eco-village for the first time. On this journey, we have been toiling away in the sun to build the foundations for homes in the second and third eco-villages, so for most of the group this was the first peek at the original village and at a vision of what their labors on the foundations will evolve into within the next few months. As we crested the ridge above the village, chills ran along my spine and my eyes moistened. Eleven short months ago there was nothing in this valley but a few trees, and now it is a tapestry of colors — homes with bright pink and lavender flowers, dozens of tire gardens overflowing with everything from bok choy to tomatoes. It really looks like a kind of Eden. I thought to myself that if there exists something that is “the answer” to Haiti’s challenges, it is right here in this place and in these people.

I know that the toughest moment is approaching, which is when, at the airport, I will have to say goodbye for now to these precious souls that I have so enjoyed sharing this experience with. Every soul on its perfect and unique path, all of us together on the path to justice. It’s a beautiful thing.

EcoVillage community center. Photo on the left is from the December 2011 trip; on the right, the completed center.

 

 

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