The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for seminarians, May 24-31. In the post below, participant Seth Carrier, who graduated this past weekend from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass., shares his thoughts on embarking on the journey to help rebuild the homes and lives of earthquake survivors in Haiti.
I am a lifelong Unitarian Universalist and I grew up in the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence, Mass. After spending several years as a member and lay leader at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, I moved back north for seminary, and I became a member at First Parish of Watertown, Mass.
My seminary experience was amazing. My first year I became very involved with social justice work. I volunteered at the UU Urban Ministry’s domestic violence shelter, and worked with the Alternatives to Violence Project, a group that offers weekend-long workshops to incarcerated people, helping them learn alternative responses to conflict besides violence. In year two, in addition to serving as the student minister at First Church and Parish in Dedham, Mass., I was offered an interfaith fellowship, where I worked closely with Christian and Jewish students on interfaith dialogues, events, and conferences. This past year I served as president of the student government, and next year, I am looking forward to serving as the intern at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla. Additionally, I was fortunate to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, Australia in December 2009, and to spend two weeks visiting a friend who was doing her sabbatical in Dakar, Senegal in January 2010.
The trip to Dakar really opened my eyes. I have been lucky enough to travel to and live in places such as Japan and England, which were amazing experiences, but very different from spending time in a developing country. While in Senegal, I saw firsthand many of the challenges facing developing countries, including the immense challenges of deep poverty. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able do any direct service on that trip, and the stories of people I met have continued to sit heavily in my heart. So when the possibility of going to Haiti and actually being able to be of help, I jumped at the opportunity.
This sounds perhaps a bit trite, but my genuine hope for the trip is that I am able, in some small way, to make a difference in some peoples’ lives, by giving them a place to live. We are going to build houses, and I can imagine no better way to spend a week of my time. I fear far too often we in liberal religion talk a big game, and I am really excited about walking the walk here, and not just talking the talk. On a deeper level, I hope to learn more about a culture I do not know, and to build not just houses, but connections and friendships with people who are different than I am.