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The Papaye Peasant Movement's Call for Community
August 22, 2011
The logo of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) at their training center in Haiti's Central Plateau.
The UUSC-UUA JustWorks trip to Haiti for youth and young adults has just begun! As one of the UUSC staff people on our most recent trip to Haiti, I'm really excited for this group of young people to be introduced to our partner the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). They will be learning directly from them and lending some muscle power to an eco-village project, which will provide homes and sustainable livelihoods for 40 families displaced from Port-au-Prince by the earthquake.
Founded by Chavannes Jean-Baptiste in 1973, MPP is a national grassroots movement that trains and empowers small farmers to improve their lives and support their livelihoods. Our week in the Central Plateau in May left me deeply inspired — by the sights, smells, and sounds of the countryside; by the thoughtful engagement of the trip participants; and by the people and work of MPP.
The MPP logo is a good place to start to understand the organization's roots and aspirations. At the center of the logo is a drum that represents traditional Haitian culture. MPP is dedicated to preserving the food, dancing, song, and history that make the Haitian people unique. Development and change that disregards the richness of Haitian culture is not progress.
The hand tools on either side of the drum — a machete, a pick-axe, and a hoe — symbolize the peasants and their agricultural way of life, most specifically a traditional form of agriculture that uses organic, non-mechanized methods. MPP rejects the practices of industrial agriculture — and its many problems — found elsewhere in the world. On the May trip to Haiti, our muscles became familiar with these tools, whether we were using pick-axes to dig ditches for the eco-village foundations or machetes to prepare tires for the Road to Life gardens. From rainwater collection to organic farming techniques, MPP uses environmentally sustainable methods to lessen their impact on the earth and to ensure their self-reliance. Something like 90 percent of what we ate at MPP was grown, raised, produced, and prepared right at MPP (some of my favorites were the MPP peanut butter, mango jam, and fresh beets).
The palm tree at the pinnacle of the MPP logo represents liberty — the freedom of the Haitian people to live their lives as they wish, the right to self-determination. This palm tree grows out of the foundation of Haitian culture. For MPP, freedom does not mean turning their back on their culture and history.
And finally, the part of the logo I most love — the conch shell, which represents a sounding call for solidarity, the gathering of community. As an organization based on cooperative structures, MPP relies on strong community relationships. In May, Chavannes told us about the first MPP meetings in 1973: "The first subject we spoke about was love. We reflected: What is love? What is friendship?" He even composed a song that spoke to the vision of community they wanted to cultivate. We witnessed myriad ways that the people of MPP foster strong ties, from their organization as collectives and the local radio station they run in the Central Plateau all the way down to a dance party that celebrated the graduation of a training class.
The 11 youth and young adults that have embarked on a UUSC-UUA service-learning trip will become part of that community for the week they're there and beyond. They will be a living embodiment of UUSC's eye-to-eye partnership model — as they listen to their work-site instructions, as they haul rocks and build foundations, and as they create connections with MPP members. To read about their experience, keep an eye on our JustWorks blog and the UUA's Faith Without Borders blog as they begin their adventure!
UPDATE: For current opportunities to take part in a service-learning trip to Haiti, visit the UU College of Social Justice website.