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Haiti Response Plan Approved for Additional Three Years

by Susan J. Meister

 
Members of an UMVIM Team from Southwest Texas Conference work with a Haitian construction worker to clear debris and rubble from the back 
courtyard and inside of the District Superintendent’s home in the Carrefour
District in September.
Members of an UMVIM Team from Southwest Texas Conference work with a Haitian construction worker to clear debris and rubble from the back courtyard and inside of the District Superintendent’s home in the Carrefour District in September.
Image by: courtesy Lara Whitley.
Source: Mission Volunteers

Declaring the six month Haiti Response Plan pilot project a success, the Board of Directors of UMCOR approved a grant of $3,094,500 to continue to field and host volunteer teams to address the humanitarian needs and priority projects of the Eglise Methodiste de Haiti (EMH). The project was approved and affirmed by the Board of Directors of the General Board of Global Ministries at the October 2010 board meeting in Stamford, CT.

The three year proposal was presented by the Mission Volunteers office of GBGM in collaboration with the EMH and the UMVIM Jurisdictional Coordinators. During the six month pilot phase, April – October 2010, the EMH identified and prioritized projects and the US and Haiti infrastructure was put in place to field UMVIM teams. Over 80 UMVIM teams will travel to Haiti in 2010, and nearly 150 are scheduled for 2011. The three year grant, scheduled to begin on November 1, 2010, will support and expand the current infrastructure and grant process already in place.

"The emphasis on collaboration, team placement procedures and calendar has created a greater economic impact for both long-term Haitian employment and the financial needs of the Eglise Methodist de Haiti," explained Gregory Forrester, Northeast Jurisdiction UMVIM Coordinator and principal author of the proposal. "A new methodology for placement of teams and strict guidelines for team leaders, training and team membership is in place."

Nearly 70% ($2,082,500) of the three year grant is allocated to Haitian labor development funds. Each UMVIM team traveling to Haiti is asked to raise $3500 in project funds. These funds are matched dollar for dollar by the grant, and serve to support the focus on hiring Haitian workers in a ratio of at least 2:1 to UMVIM team members. Workers include laborers, cooks, drivers, interpreters, foremen, engineers and more. In addition, the funds allow work to begin before the UMVIM team arrives and to continue after the team leaves, resulting in improved project continuity, a sense of ownership for the local community and greater inclusion of local persons in the decision making process.

Staffing in Haiti and the US supports the Haiti Response Project

The three year budget includes salaries for four persons (three in Haiti and one in the US), transportation support for vehicles in Haiti, and office support. The staff positions in Haiti are a Volunteer Management Coordinator, an Assistant Coordinator, and a Finance/Hospitality Coordinator. The staff position in the US focuses on calendaring and communications.

Rev. Mike Willis, who has held the position of Volunteer Management Coordinator in the pilot phase of the Haiti Response Project, will return to Vestal UMC (Upper New York Conference) at the beginning of November. He will be succeeded by Rev. Tom Vencuss of Wethersfield UMC (Connecticut/ New England Conference). The Assistant position will be filled by Bethany Guy, a lay person from the Church of the Resurrection, Kansas East Conference, who has served as an intern in the Haiti office since May. The Finance/Hospitality Coordinator will be filled by Deanna Hawkins, a lay person from Holy Trinity UMC (Minnesota Conference). Susan Meister, a lay person from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, will continue in the position of US-based Calendaring Coordinator.

"I am both proud and humbled by the response of our churches and the amazing work that has already been done in the past six months," remarked Vencuss. "There are some big shoes to fill and it is my hope to continue the work set by the staff over the past six months in the service of God's people in Haiti."

Rev. Cynthia Harvey, head of UMCOR, expressed her gratitude to Willis at the Board Meeting prior to the approval of the three year grant. "We have been focusing on laying a foundation for our work in Haiti over the past nine months," she said, "and there are challenges as UMVIM and UMCOR learn to work together. We own a great debt to Mike and are so grateful for his service."

Volunteer Scheduling

Volunteer teams from across the connection, representing all five Jurisdictions, have already served or registered to travel to Haiti. Teams interested in information about UMVIM trips to Haiti are urged to review the information on the Haiti Response Plan web site, www.umvimhaiti.org . The web site also includes volunteer reflections, the status of the fifteen projects underway as of October 1, a link to the Project newsletter, and more.

Haiti UMVIM teams consist of no more than ten members, who travel to Haiti for seven to nine days. The team leader must have Haiti experience and UMVIM team leader training. Team leaders work with the US-based Calendaring Coordinator to schedule their trips and to process project funds. The staff in Haiti assigns projects about six weeks before the team travels to Haiti, and manages logistics, materials, interpreter and driver scheduling, and project management. All projects are prioritized and managed in close cooperation with Rev. Gesner Paul, President of the EMH, and church leaders.

The Haiti Response Plan has set goals of 220 UMVIM teams in 2011, 200 teams in 2012 and 175 teams in 2013. Nearly 150 teams are already on the calendar for 2011 and there are two teams scheduled for 2012. In addition to the per team contribution to priority projects of $7000, it is estimated that each team members contributes about $1000 to the local economy.

The Haiti Response Project has also assisted with scheduling teams from the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas (MCCA), the United Church of Canada, and the Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

Teams interested in exploring volunteering in Haiti should contact Meister at haitivolunteers@yahoo.com.

Three Year Proposal Continues Long History

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. Prior to the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the UMVIM network was placing approximately 100 teams per year. In addition to the Haiti Response Plan, many UMVIM teams continue to serve in many areas of the country.

Details of the just completed pilot project came into focus during a spring 2010 visit by three Jurisdictional UMVIM coordinators to Haiti. As a result of those meetings and ongoing close collaboration between the Haiti office of the Response Plan and the EMH, schools, clinics and multi-use facilities have been placed on the priority list for reconstruction.

"This is a Haitian driven mission," emphasizes Willis. "The current program looks at the big picture. We can maintain project continuity, respond to changing conditions, and shift priorities based on EMH requests."

Susan Meister is the US-based Calendaring Coordinator for the Haiti Response Project and is also responsible for the web site, newsletter and other communications for the Project.


 
 
 

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Date posted: Nov 02, 2010