The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28–May 5, 2012. In the post below, chaplain and trip participant Megan Lynes talks about the powerful sense of community and interconnection she is finding there. 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 came on this trip to Haiti because I felt deep compassion for the Haitian people following the earthquake two years ago. In learning about the devastation, I was aghast to find out about the centuries-long history of oppression and the long-term disempowerment of the Haitian people. When it became possible for me to participate in a UUA-UUSC service-learning trip, I knew I wanted to come here, learn all I could, contribute anything I could, and return home to teach others about what we can do together. What I didn’t know when I signed up was that I would come into contact with one of the most important grassroots peasant-worker movements in the world today — and I didn’t know how much hope is alive and spreading through this powerful people’s movement.
Yesterday was our second day at the Papaye Peasant Movement (Mouvement Paysan de Papaye, known by its acronym, MPP), and we spent much of it touring the compound and meeting Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the executive director. He is warm, enthusiastic, clear-minded, and kind. It’s easy to see why he has led more than 60,000 people for over 35 years, building this community into a place of health, equality, and visionary purpose.
Chavannes told us how human-rights organizations like the UUSC, and many governments all over the globe, partner with MPP. I felt in that moment that my life is intrinsically linked to the lives of the peasants here. What I have been so lucky to experience firsthand here in the Central Plateau is a sustainable community that most in Haiti can only hope to dream about. Yet, because we are all a part of the interconnected web of all existence, even the Haitians living in cities are part of the web, too. I cannot help but see each struggling or helping person as part of the entire picture. We each matter more to one another than we can ever really fathom.
“No one educates no one. We humans educate one another through the intermediary of the world.” These words come from The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,a book written by Paulo Frieri. Chavannes mentioned them in his talk with us, describing how one of MPP’s key goals is to empower the oppressed, emphasizing that everyone has the capacity to teach and learn from one another. He described “gwoupman,” the organizational system of MPP, in which groups of 15–20 people spend three months working, bonding, and learning how to be cooperative together. They then stay together as a united group through the years. This is a powerful community model with respect at its center. I think there are many elements of U.S. society that could benefit greatly from the wisdom of their organizing model. The interconnected web of life extends beyond borders. Educating one another through the intermediary of the world begins with each of us.