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Mission volunteers begin pilot project in Haiti Elliott Wright, May 11, 2010
UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE PHOTOS BY MIKE DUBOSE
Dr. Brian Good of Salt Lake City, Utah, examines Medina Alexis at Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
By Elliott Wright United Methodist News Service
United Methodist mission volunteer service in post-earthquake Haiti will focus on housing, health, education and pastoral services through a six-month pilot project expected to get under way soon.
The pilot program, which could be extended, will involve both Haitians and volunteers from outside the country. It is the outcome of consultations among the representatives of the Methodist Church in Haiti, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and the volunteers office of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).
The program is open to qualified volunteers from the U.S. and from Methodist churches in the Caribbean, Latin America and other parts of the world. UMCOR directors approved on April 13 a $565,000 grant, which the GBGM affirmed.
Since a Jan. 12 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, more than 3,000 people have registered on a website maintained by Global Ministries their interest in going to Haiti as mission volunteers.
Family housing will be one of the initial priorities, said Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR’s international disaster coordinator. While earthquake-resistant housing will be the long-term goal, she said an immediate need is for transitional housing. Other priorities include facilities for schools and health services.
The project also will include training for Haitian pastors to become better equipped to deal with earthquake-related stress.
Infrastructure challenges—such as transportation for people and materials, and housing for visitors—have slowed the use of mission volunteers in post-earthquake Haiti, according to UMCOR staff.
In the pilot stage, volunteer teams will work on projects selected as priorities by the Methodist Church in Haiti. Each team will comprise eight to 12 members with skills appropriate to particular projects. U.S. teams will be coordinated through United Methodist Volunteers In Mission, a grassroots movement that operates on annual conference and jurisdictional levels.
Each team of volunteers will provide from $3,000 to $5,000 per qualifying project, amounts that will be matched by funds from the UMCOR grant. Team contributions will go through The Advance, the designated mission-giving channel of the church. Priority sites should be identified by mid-June.
Teams will be scheduled through a central U.S.-based office to ensure that paperwork covering insurance, finances and travel is appropriately handled. An office in Haiti will provide links to the church there and coordinate logistics and materials on the ground for teams.
Susan J. Meister of Belleville, Ill., has been chosen as the volunteer scheduling consultant. She is a member of Signal Hill United Methodist Church in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and has experience in mission, relief and church communications.
The Rev. Mike Willis of Vestal, N.Y., who is fluent in conversational Creole, the language of Haiti, will be based in Port-au-Prince. He and his wife, the Rev. Mary Ricketts, are pastors of the Vestal United Methodist Church. He has been involved in Haiti mission work since 1995 and has visited there some 20 times, leading work teams in construction, micro-credit and clean-water projects.
Haitians will be involved in each undertaking. The project hopes to hire “substantial numbers of Haitians” at a 2-to-1 ratio of Haitians to Americans.
The first step for volunteers is to register online at http://secure.gbgm-umc.org/HaitiVolunteer/. In the U.S., these names will go to the jurisdictional and conference coordinators, who will assist in assembling teams and coordinating with the calendar office.
Teams from Latin America and the Caribbean will be organized with the help of Global Ministries, the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas, and the Council of Evangelical United Methodist Churches in Latin America.
The United Methodist Church has been sending Volunteer In Mission teams to Haiti for more than 30 years, and has strong links to congregations and institutions there. Before the January earthquake, the network was placing about 100 teams in Haiti each year.
Mr. Wright is a writer and consultant to GBGM. For more UMNS stories, visit http://umns.umc.org.