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Blog posts for 2010
Submitted by Martha Thompson on Mon, 07/12/2010 - 11:01am.
Members of the Trauma Resource Institute team train Haitians in body-based trauma-treatment methods.
On the six-month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti — today, July 12 — UUSC partners are remembering the dead and rededicating themselves to working for the living. UUSC partner the Trauma Resource Institute (TRI) is honoring the anniversary by beginning the second round of trauma training in the Central Plateau.
The TRI team is training 60 Haitian community workers in trauma-resiliency techniques that they can use to conduct workshops and train their communities to cope with the emotional impact of the earthquake. One of the trainees, Philomène, told us at the end of a training session, "After the earthquake my life just stopped, and today I am feeling that I started to live again."
Another trainee, Antonine, said, "Since January 12, I have been working at the clinic, caring for the injured, the kids, women in this neighborhood with no one to talk to [but] myself, who also was affected by the earthquake; the trauma session really helped me take care of myself, and I will be happy to use the techniques to help my families and neighbors. This session made me feel that I am not alone. Someone is thinking on behalf of us."
Recovery from the earthquake is still painfully slow, and the tent cities are inadequate protection against the rainy season. While street vendors have taken back to the streets — people are selling what they can to make a living — and some children are going to makeshift schools, piles of rubble still line the streets. Amidst the many difficulties, people need all the strength and hope they can get.
When UUSC first visited Haiti three weeks after the earthquake, although psychosocial support was not a traditional part of Haitian culture, everyone we met asked for it. "We have always seen it as a foreign idea," people said, "but we need it now." In response, UUSC teamed with the Trauma Resource Institute to begin a three-part training course for 60 community workers in the Central Plateau and Port-au-Prince. After this course is over in September, the team will select 20 of the 60 participants to be trainers of trainers, providing Haiti with a corps of people dedicated to building people's resiliency.
UUSC continues to fund practical support, temporary employment for the displaced, revolving-loan funds for market women, and care for children in the camps. Through it all, we need to continue to sustain the awe-inspiring hope and strength of the Haitian people as they continue to save themselves over and over.
Submitted by Lauralyn Smith on Fri, 07/09/2010 - 7:57am.
General Assembly is over, the July 4 holiday is past, and we are in the full swing of summer now. So, what is everyone reading over the summer months? This is often an informal time of year, a perfect opportunity to delve into something a little more deeply, when the to-do list is not quite as long. I hope you will share your recommended books with us by clicking on "Add new comment" below; together, we can share our resources and inspirations.
So far this summer, I have read Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott. This is a great personal memoir of the writer's recollection of inspiring and humbling experiences that test and strengthen her beliefs.
I bought several books in the exhibit hall at General Assembly and currently am reading Creating Congregations of Generous People, an Alban Institute publication by Michael Durall. This book is not new, but is a good review of stewardship program planning and implementation in the context of religious institutions.
I am also reading Be the Change: Poems, Prayers & Meditations for Peacemakers & Justice Seekers, by Stephen Shick. With a particularly worthwhile foreword by UUSC Interim President and CEO William F. Schulz, this is one of those books that I read the introduction of, and then flip through pages to read one meditation or another, somewhat leaving it up to chance. When I find remarkably meaningful pieces, I mark them for later reference.
My colleague Kate Wallace recommends Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Greg Mortenson, and Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Don't forget, you can support UUSC by ordering through Powell's online bookstore; any book purchased through our special Powell's Partner program link — not just the books on our Powell's bookshelf — benefits UUSC, with a percentage of the sale being donated back to us. Also, all UUSC members are entitled to a 10 percent discount for online orders with Beacon Press.
So, how about you — what are you reading over the summer? Please click on "Add new comment" below and share your inspirations and resources with us!
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 10:17am.
For four years, UUSC has been working with the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas of Sipakapa, a Guatemalan group in San Marcos supporting indigenous people's rights as well as water quality and quantity in the face of the harmful effects of GoldCorp's gold and silver mining operations. In May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) responded to a petition from San Marcos communities by ruling that precautionary measures were necessary as the petition was further considered.
In the face of dried-up wells and community members' health problems, the IACHR ruling asked the Guatemalan government to suspend operations at GoldCorp's Marlin I mine, decontaminate water supplies, ensure access to clean water, and address community health issues. The Marlin I mine is impacting at least 18 communities of Maya people in Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacàn.
Molly Butler, a lawyer working with the Sipakapenses as a volunteer expert associated with UUSC, reported to UUSC that though Guatemala's President Colom was initially resistant to these recommendations, in late June he reversed his position and agreed to suspend mining at Marlin. No date has been declared for the closure, and some worry that legal wrangling and foot-dragging between the government and GoldCorp could stretch it out for months or years.
But while it's unclear when the suspension will take place, the IACHR's judgment is still significant both to this specific case and to supporting the human rights of indigenous people in general. UUSC celebrates this success for people advocating for the right to water, the right to a clean and safe environment, and the right to prior, complete, free, and informed consent in these matters.
In addition to working with the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas of Sipakapa on this issue, UUSC partners with the Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE) in San Marcos. COPAE, together with volunteer expert Rob Robinson and his team, coordinates community water-quality monitoring and assesses damages to houses from the mining operations.
Submitted by Daniel Karp. on Wed, 06/30/2010 - 10:53am.
If UUSC supporters and members understand one thing, it's that working against unjust power structures and securing social justice requires generous financial support.
Last week, several days before the June 30 deadline, the 2010 Annual Fund drive reached its goal of $450,000.
UUSC is enormously grateful for the compassion and vision of over 6,200 individual donors who made gifts through the mail, online, over the phone, and through their congregations.
Thanks to the commitment of some 2,000 individuals who gave $100 or more, UUSC fully met the generous matching-gift challenge from the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y. This means an additional $250,000 will flow to UUSC's human-rights and humanitarian work.
As a staff member in UUSC's Institutional Advancement Department, participating in this successful campaign was its own reward. I'm empowered by the example our members set by reaching into their pockets at a time of economic uncertainty, aligning their values with action, and reaffirming the dignity and inherent worth of all people.
And yet the real power of UUSC's Annual Fund campaign will be realized around the world, where our local partners face daily struggles against injustice. It will plant more than 150,000 new seedlings in Kenya's disappearing forestland. It will be found in the cassava, sweet potatoes, millet, and sorghum beans sowed by a generation of newly educated and self-sufficient community farmers who will feed their families and sell what's left at market in the coming months.
The Annual Fund is critical to each of UUSC's program areas, and I encourage you to visit our partner profiles to learn more about how UUSC honors the interdependent web that binds our generous supporters to those fighting for human rights anywhere injustice occurs.
Submitted by Lauralyn Smith on Wed, 06/30/2010 - 8:27am.
Miriam Cardona (left) of STITCH and UUSC’s Gretchen Alther (center) talk with a participant in the Women Organizing for Workers' Rights workshop.
Gay Ann Gustafson (left), faithful UUSC volunteer, receives a special pin from Lauralyn Smith (right) that recognizes her more than 25 dedicated years of membership.
UUSC’s Maxine Neil (far right) and Lauralyn Smith (second from right) welcome attendees to the President’s Reception.
At UUA General Assembly (GA) this year, I found myself inspired on a daily basis — by everything from UUSC's powerful workshops to the numerous interactions I had with members, volunteers, and constituents.
On Thursday, June 24, UUSC's Women Organizing for Workers' Rights workshop reached people's hearts as well as their heads. The presentation from Christine Milimu of the Rock Women Group and Miriam Cardona of STITCH gave a very deep sense of the strength of these women and the groups that each has organized. They both come from spiritual backgrounds and put their values into action with strength and with peace, empowering others in their respective communities.
At the UUSC President's Reception on Saturday, I was again stirred when all in attendance joined in a candlelight vigil following the presentation by our staff and partners, sending hope for everyone in Haiti in the midst of recovery from January's earthquake. Some people were so inspired they made significant donations toward our work in Haiti; one woman, visibly moved, came up to me and said, "This is a crucial mission, and I must make my gift now"; we processed her Haiti donation — her response to what she felt was a personal call to action — right then and there.
Outside of UUSC's own events at GA, many encouraging developments took place. The UU delegates adopted the Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking after a lengthy process and several thoughtful iterations. The democratic process that shaped the statement helped make it a very cohesive and meaningful document. Following discussion and debate, it was adopted by the largest majority I recall seeing at a General Assembly; out of over 1,000 delegates casting votes, there were only two or three votes against — a powerful affirmation of this statement of conscience.
Following the vote, an implementation workshop was held to discuss next steps, outline resources, and hear from UUSC and other associate organizations. UUSC is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UU principles, particularly the principle of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
UUSC employs its eye-to-eye partnership model to build authentic and sustainable solutions, which address issues that can be barriers to peace — as in our work in northern Uganda, where people returning home to their villages are not only rebuilding homes but also connection and community. Our environmental justice work for the human right to water has shared in success in Ecuador, where a new constitution enshrining the right to water for all people was adopted. In pursuit of economic justice, UUSC advances fair wages and workers' rights. And our work to promote civil liberties and end torture was specifically mentioned in the Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking; the Building Bridges workshops serve as an excellent congregational venue for peacemaking work.
UUSC can be a resource to congregations acting on the Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking with its congregational and experiential programs. Experiential learning provides opportunities for work, witness, and advocacy for peace and justice in the world. The Volunteer Network exists to connect congregations and individuals to UUSC's human-rights work by linking people with a local representative to help raise awareness, facilitate membership, and build support as well as implement programs such as Guest at Your Table and Justice Sunday. Working collaboratively, we can achieve great strides in this important work. Comprehensive information and resources are available on the UU Peacemakers website.
Looking forward, the delegates voted to hold the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, Ariz., using it as a "Justice GA." The UUA moderator made a powerful statement during her report, affirming the will of the delegates to the planning committee. They called on the planning committee to create a different GA, limiting plenary to essential business and striving to make GA 2012 an opportunity for advocacy and witness that will be as inclusive and safe as possible. They hope to work with local organizations, including Puente Arizona and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. With UUSC, I look forward to supporting efforts for informal workers and others who are impacted by Arizona's immigration legislation.
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Wed, 06/30/2010 - 6:45am.
On behalf of the First Parish in Bedford, Mass., Rev. John Gibbons accepted the 2010 O. Eugene Pickett Award on Saturday, June 26, at UUA General Assembly in Minneapolis, Minn. Each year, the award honors a congregation that has made an outstanding contribution to the growth of Unitarian Universalism.
Gibbons, who serves as senior minister on the First Parish's ministerial team — and also serves as chair of UUSC's Board of Trustees — reflected on the award, telling UUSC, "To receive the award is obviously an honor, but it also encourages us to reach out, stretch, and be creatively dissatisfied with the status quo. I hope it also will stir us to greater engagement with UUSC."
During the announcement of the Pickett Award at General Assembly, First Parish was recognized by presenter Harlan Limpert, the UUA's vice president of ministries and congregational support, as "a vital presence in their community, and within Unitarian Universalism as a whole." The congregation, founded in 1729, was also lauded "a leading voice for social justice in their community." Noting their efforts to coordinate memorial services for soldiers killed in Iraq, reach out to returning veterans and their families, and host public-policy forums on a variety of topics, Limpert celebrated the First Church's guiding theme of "the Church has left the building!"
The UUA's selection for the Pickett Award is based on a number of factors, including honor society status, statistical growth in members, and expressed commitment to growth through recruitment, outreach, and other activities that foster Unitarian Universalism. Everyone here at UUSC extends their congratulations to the First Parish church!
Submitted by Shari Yeaton on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:12pm.
Lauralyn Smith, UUSC's senior associate for member development, displays our "3 for 1 for Haiti" button.
I'm at UUA General Assembly, meeting people of all ages here at UUSC's booth — people who are curious and excited about advancing human rights. Yesterday, I was watching a kid, maybe 10 years old, who was looking at some of our printed material, including our little card that has the "3 for 1 for Haiti" button attached to it.
Our "3 for 1 for Haiti" campaign is this: thanks to a special challenge grant from the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., every dollar donated to support the UUSC-UUA Joint Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund — up to $166,000 — is matched by $3!
So, this kid came over to the cash register, handed me a dollar, and then dug through all of his pockets and came up with another 99 cents. He said he wanted to make a donation to Haiti. I threw in another penny to make it an even $2. I then gave him three buttons and told him one was for him and the other two were for his friends — that he could go find two of his friends, give them a button, and tell them about the Haiti fund and that they can have extra buttons to spread the word as well if they come and make a donation.
About an hour later, he came over with a friend, who handed me a dollar. I gave that friend two more buttons and told him that he had to find two friends, and so on. We want people to have an easy way to engage friends and family in talking about the situation in Haiti and supporting UUSC's work with partners there. These kids are already taking action, spreading the word, and making a difference!
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 6:54am.
It's UUA General Assembly (GA) time, and UUSC is excited to be on hand in Minneapolis, Minn., for this year's festivities! With an array of offerings — from fair-trade goodies at the booth to a set of illuminating workshops — we're ready to meet everyone at GA and talk human rights.
UUSC's booth all stocked up and ready for business — human-rights info, fair-trade goodies, newly designed chalice jewelry, recycled shopping bags, and more!
After a few canceled flights and luggage mishaps, a dedicated UUSC contingent has set up shop at booth 418, which we're sharing again this year with our partner Equal Exchange. In addition to information on the work UUSC is doing every day to advance human rights throughout the world, we're featuring some new merchandise: updated flaming chalice pendant jewelry and recycled poly shopping bags with the slogan "Plant Justice, Harvest Peace" (union-made in the United States!), which are already a hit. Following GA, these new items will be made available in our online shop.
You can also pick up a copy of Susan Subak's new book Rescue & Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis at the booth. If you want to learn more about UUSC's rich history of working with refugees fleeing the Nazis during World War II, not only will Subak be signing books at the booth 6:00–7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, she'll also be discussing it in detail with Interim President and CEO Bill Schulz in a workshop Thursday. There will even be a preview of the rough cut of the PBS film Journey to Freedom.
Thursday, UUSC will also be joining with representatives from our grassroots partners to talk about workers' rights. In the interactive workshop Women Organizing for Workers' Rights, Ariel Jacobson, Christine Milimu, and Erin Kliewer will discuss innovative models for organizing "informal economy" workers in service of reducing child labor, advancing economic justice, and fueling social change in communities around the world.
Our Equal Exchange partners and booth cohabitants (for the fourth year in a row!): Esther, Phil, and Molly (left to right).
Our final workshop on Friday, International Humanitarian Crises: A UU Response to Haiti, will highlight UUSC's multifaceted response to the devastating Haiti earthquake and the essential work our partners are doing there. We'll also be talking about our emerging Haiti Volunteer Program and other ways people can get involved. Speakers include Martha Thompson, Nichole Cirillo, Agathe Jean Baptiste, Franklin Delambert, and Michele David.
We're spreading the word about Haiti with our new "3 for 1 for Haiti" campaign. Under a special challenge grant from the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., every dollar donated to support the UUSC-UUA Joint Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, up to $166,000, will be matched by $3! Donors at GA will receive a recognition pin, plus 2 pins to share with friends and family when they talk about how they're helping make a difference on the ground in Haiti. Plus, the idea of "3 for 1" really symbolizes our triple approach: working with partners on the ground, reaching out to members and supporters, and advocating for policy change.
We love the opportunity that GA gives us to connect face-to-face with so many of our supporters and talk about the human-rights issues that we're all so passionate about. So we hope to see you there — and if you're not there, stay tuned for more reports!
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Wed, 06/23/2010 - 10:25am.
This week, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) is heralding its continuous call for an end to torture everywhere and honoring torture survivors during the 13th annual Torture Survivors Week in Washington, D.C.
Kicked off with a three-day human-rights training that started Monday, the week's activities bring survivors of torture together with human-rights and faith-based activists dedicated to ending torture. The human-rights training, led by Patrick Rice, a survivor of torture from Argentina and former secretary general of the Family Members of the Disappeared in Latin America, focused on using the United Nations Convention against Torture; workshops covered a range of topics, including how to draft complaints and present a case to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture. Participants will also be meeting with Senate staff throughout the week.
- Visit UUSC's YouTube channel to view excerpts from "Breaking the Silence," a film produced by TASSC
- Read our web page "Torture and Human Rights: A Guide"
- Learn more about Torture Awareness Month at National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)
- Purchase the book "Truth, Torture and the American Way" by Jennifer Harbury at discount
On Friday, June 25, a panel discussion entitled "Accountability Now — Ending Torture Forever" will take place, featuring David Cole from Georgetown University Law Center, Sister Dianna Ortiz from Pax Christi USA, Sondra Crosby from the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, and former interrogator Matthew Alexander.
The week will culminate with an annual 12-hour vigil in Lafayette Park on Saturday, June 26. This vigil — which will feature voices of survivors, messages of solidarity, and remembrances of victims — commemorates the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
As Kofi Annan once said, "This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable. It is long overdue that a day be dedicated to remembering and supporting the many victims and survivors of torture around the world."
TASSC makes that remembrance and support a reality every day in their work. Bringing the injustices perpetrated throughout the world out into the open, TASSC is growing a movement to end torture wherever it occurs and to hold governments accountable.
Check out the schedule of TASSC events for second half of Torture Survivors Week — and join in! We'd love to hear about your experiences if you make it to any of the events.
Submitted by Jessica Atcheson on Mon, 06/14/2010 - 2:54pm.
"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
On the wall of my cubicle, I have the following quote posted:
"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
—Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, Australia, 1970s
To me, this is what UUSC's eye-to-eye partnership model is all about — solidarity. And I was struck by this in May during visits from two of our partners: Agathe Jean Baptiste, our representative in Haiti, and Imam Mohamed Magid, who has trained imams in Sudan on women's rights. It's exciting to learn how those partnerships — and the thread of solidarity that ties them together — play out in the real, on-the-ground work that UUSC engages in and supports.
In Haiti, it means that we are working with several groups that put a premium on listening to what marginalized survivors of the devastating earthquake need, whether it's body-based trauma treatment or support for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the countryside. As Jean Baptiste emphasized in her visit with us, "UUSC is working with local grassroots organizations that hear what people need and don't go with their own agenda."
Imam Mohamed Magid
And in Sudan, Imam Magid worked with 30 local imams in a groundbreaking training that covers the theological basis for women's rights. Using Islamic texts to empower women and support women's equality, the training taps into the religious community for solutions to violence against women. This strategy offers respect for local religious tradition and holds more weight in Sudan than working with, for example, government agencies. There, imams have prominent influence and intimate connection with the community — they're viewed as more neutral than politicians and government; they spend time in the Darfur IDP camps for births, deaths, marriages; and they have people's trust.
As Imam Magid puts it, "Humanity is one family. Protecting human rights is an obligation of every human being. Every woman that we save, every life that we protect, it is worth it."
We stand with the people of Haiti, with the people of Sudan, with all the people of our human family who are working to challenge oppression and to protect the rights of every individual. Who's with us?