Work in progress at Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI), a project supported by United Methodist Women and UMCOR.
By David Tereshchuk*
July 30, 2012—Haiti’s horrific experience of the 2010 earthquake, and the people’s determined recovery efforts since then, are providing valuable lessons internationally.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, recently produced a review of work carried out since the disaster, Haiti Progress Report: TWO YEARS LATER. The report highlights how the organization’s work has been “facilitated by our strong connections forged over decades of service in Haiti.”
Stressing deep associations with the Haitian church, Eglise Méthodiste d’Haiti (EMH), the report asserts a primary role for such partnering in “advancing work in the fields of education, health and hygiene, shelter and reconstruction, livelihoods, and capacity-strengthening.”
And now the Haitian experience is providing a basis for even wider awareness-raising about the challenging combination of quandaries and opportunities that a major catastrophe like Haiti’s can present.
The UMCOR report is a component of the United Methodist Women study, “Haiti—Challenges and Hope.” The geographic mission study was produced in 2011 and is in its second season at United Methodist Women–sponsored Schools of Christian Mission across the United States.
Schools of Christian Mission offer a geographic study, an issue study, and a spiritual growth study each year. The lens of mutuality in mission, or being in mission “with” rather than “to” or “for,” is apparent in each study produced by United Methodist Women for The United Methodist Church. In the Haiti study, participants discover ways they as individuals and the church as a whole can best be in mission with the people of Haiti.
The study program focuses on the well-demonstrated and ongoing exchanges of cultural understanding, mutual respect, and mission partnership between the people of the United Methodist Church and the people of Haiti, and it includes the chance to learn about Haiti’s own distinctive religious history, as a way to gain deeper perspectives on the wider cultural context for the disaster and the recovery.
Schools of Christian Mission were begun in the mid-1930s by what was then the Woman’s Home Missionary Society, and the annual Regional Schools provide training for leaders at various conferences’ Schools of Christian Mission and in United Methodist Women conferences.
Annually about 20,000 people participate in this transformative educational process. Participants take their classroom experiences home and give many more people the opportunity to learn and grow through these studies.
Melissa Crutchfield, International Disaster Response executive for UMCOR, said the idea of using the Haiti report as a basis for people to learn about disaster-aid missions generally emerged out of two roundtable reviews of the Haiti work in 2010 and 2011 (which are to be followed by another in the first week of September 2012).
The roundtables have brought together all the agencies working together, including in this case UMCOR, United Methodist Women, UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission), EMH, other branches of United Methodist ministry, and many local and international partnering organizations.
Crutchfield recalled: “We thought it could be helpful if we laid out clearly how much we invested in the ability of others besides ourselves to work not just on short-term recovery, but on long-term rebuilding and the development of capacity to address large-scale disaster in the future.”
“It’s important to appreciate that it’s not just an UMCOR effort,” she added, “but that such recovery truly involves a huge number of different groups and communities, and that partnering is absolutely essential.”
And the central plank of the Regional School’s course, UMW’s close Haiti-based collaboration with UMCOR, was welcomed by James Rollins, UMCOR’s director of Marketing and Communications. “United Methodist Women continue to be strong, vital supporters of the work of UMCOR,” he said. “I was so pleased to learn that as a resource the Haiti report complements their two-year study on the country, and that we could offer something back to them."
The hope is that out of this full account of Haiti’s terrible suffering and its remarkable strengthening in reaction, valuable guidance will come for others; people of goodwill everywhere will be better able to respond with clear purpose and effectiveness when called upon to help in a major disaster.
To help with Haiti’s continuing and vital recovery efforts, please give to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance # 418325.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic and a regular contributor to umcor.org.