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Charles Huschle.'s blog posts
On UUSC’s blog, a range of contributors — from staff members to participants on experiential learning trips — share their thoughts and reflections on UUSC’s work and related topics. The views expressed by individual contributors here do not necessarily reflect the views of UUSC.
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 5:45am.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti, April 28-May 5, 2012. In the post below, trip staffer Charles Huschle ruminates on the many qualities and skills that the trip participants are bringing to their work in Haiti — and what they are leaving behind. The UUSC-UUA Haiti Volunteer Program is made possible through the contributions of UUA and UUSC donors and a generous grant from the Veatch Program of the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y.
"What do you bring of your truest self to Haiti that you will offer this week to the group?"
We're having one of those evening group reflection and sharing sessions that characterizes JustWorks trips to Haiti, and on hearing the question, the doubtful and tired Charles winces. Do I really have to answer? Posed by one of the two ministers on this trip, the question evokes a range of thoughtful responses, and so my fatigue lessens. I experience a surge of gratitude for the diversity of people in our circle. I'm helping lead them through a week of learning and service at the Papaye Peasant Movement in central Haiti. As people share on this and the second question — "what are you leaving behind to be here?" — I'm struck again by the willingness of participants to give fully of themselves. One person openly admits, "I'm leaving behind some personal barriers that would stop me from sharing."
Several of us talk about the concrete things we are leaving behind, but most of these are rooted in the relationships we have, with ourselves and others, that are being experimented upon this week. We leave behind the ability to text a dear friend at any time of day (our cell phones don't work here); we leave behind habits that get us through a typical day (the soy latte, browsing Facebook, being with certain friends only and not others); we leave behind family (one mother has never been away for her kids for more than two days; another hasn't taken a "vacation" for more than a week in over nine years); we leave behind complexity: "Something gets really, really real in me when I'm down here," away from all the extra layers of life back home.
And what we bring is food for thought, too. We range in age from 27 to 72. We are 4 men and 10 women: married, single, straight, gay, African American, parent, grandparent, working, retired. Some have never been out of the United States; most have never been to the Global South (the term we use for what many people call "the developing world"). We bring bravery to try new things and a willingness to ask questions. We bring a deep appreciation of others, noting that we are not so different, in the end, from the people with whom we will work this week. We bring an ability to work in partnership with others. And we bring certain skills: "I'm a lover of uncertainty — and that's somewhat new for me — and I think that can be useful here." There's a saying down here that is repeated by one of our members: in Haiti, nothing works, but everything works out. As the electricity flickers and we prepare for bed, our group seems to have the faith that everything will work out this week.
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 6:24am.
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20–27. The following post was written by Charles Huschle, UUSC's senior associate for foundations and corporations and one of the UUSC staff members on the trip.
One of the newly constructed houses in the eco-village in Haiti
The eco-village has grown since UUSC was last here in May. Five houses near completion, and three more are being started. We are led by Mimine, our construction supervisor, to a huge pile of stones and the site of a new house. A foundation has been dug, and a few workers are mixing cement and laying stones. These are local workers as well as members of the displaced families who will be living here. In a couple of hours, the UUSC team — ranging in age from 16 to 28 (and the ageless UUSC staff) — has moved the stones either into the foundation or into piles ready to use for the next house. One of us trowels cement onto the growing walls. The heat is intense, and we all drink water and plenty of rehydration mixes to counter the sweat that is pouring off of us. It begins to rain and we return to the MPP compound for lunch.
After lunch we have been scheduled to attend a "popular education" session with a group of about 75 Haitians from all over the country who have come to MPP to receive training in community organizing. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, MPP's charismatic founder, begins with a short review of the principles of popular education as outlined by Paulo Freire. As an educator working in Brazil and Latin America in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Freire's intent was to teach illiterate people how to read and, in the process, help them become aware of oppression in their lives and then act against it. His method was extremely effective: he was able to alphabetize students in only 40 hours.
According to Freire, liberation from oppression comes about first through awareness of one's economic, historic, and social situation. The next steps are critical thought followed by action. Liberation involves not only freedom from, for example, a police state, or hunger, or poverty, but also "freedom to create and construct, to wonder and venture" (from Pedagogy of the Oppressed). Awareness, critical thought, and action — what Freire termed "conscientizacao" (or "conscientization") — are reached through dialogue. In teaching a group of students — or, in the case of our afternoon at MPP, a group of peasant community organizers-in-training — the education becomes posing problems, with teachers and students investigating together the themes of their village and greater society. The dialect then becomes reflection-action, reflection-action. As Chavannes puts it, "When I recognize I can learn from somebody else, that person can also learn from me." The tools of popular education include songs, theatre, and reflection on images. These can be discussed and examined so that community concerns can be raised.
Like Freire, who pointed out that oppressed people can come to believe that it is their "fate" to be poor or incompetent or illiterate — and experience a sense of subordination to some master — Chavannes mentions that many Haitians live with a sense of fatalism. He gives the Haitian proverb: "Not all fingers are the same length," meaning that each person is born with certain characteristics that will never change. He cites other beliefs and sayings: "I'm poor because God made it this way" or "I'm sick because of the witch doctor put a spell on me" — expressions of the belief that people in poverty are controlled by other forces, not by other men or women. Chavannes says that popular education helps people open their eyes to reality. They see that Haiti is poor. Then they ask, why is Haiti poor? These reflections then lead to organizing and action.
Later, Chavannes' lead teacher, Fanfan, presents a series of images designed to make the group think of the divisions in their communities and the ways in which they are exploited. He shows a drawing of a big fish consuming a school of small fish. He asks us to think of ways in which big fish eat small fish in our own lives, and how that makes us feel. Then, he shows the small fish schooling together to chase off the big fish, illustrating how organizing can bind them together. "Divided, they are eaten. Together, they eat." The group sings a song, which has the effect of placing in our bodies the theme of the day: "We're in misery because we're divided." Division makes people enemies. When we ask what forms of division exist in rural Haiti today, the group gives several examples: land disputes, witchcraft, cockfighting, jealousy between men and women, politics, gambling, devil worshipping.
It was impressive and moving to see so many adults in one place, intent on bringing their best selves back to their communities. Chavannes and Fanfan were under no illusions that helping these people raise their voices would be easy. Fanfan concluded, "It's not easy to change a person's thinking. People think God put them in their misery, that it's their destiny, that not all fingers are the same size. We tell them it's not God who put them in this situation, it's people."
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Mon, 08/22/2011 - 1:39pm.
UUSC is excited to be partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Association on a joint volunteer trip to Haiti for youth and young adults, August 20–27. In the post below, Charles Huschle, UUSC's senior associate for foundations and corporations and one of the staff members on the trip, talks about his first few days in Port-au-Prince before heading up to the Central Plateau.
A view of the Haitian countryside, where post author Charles Huschle is traveling on a JustWorks trip with 11 youth and young adults.
This is my first trip to Haiti. I've now been in Port-au-Prince for two days. I have been in other Caribbean countries, but Haiti is nothing like any other Caribbean country; this I noticed in my first two hours here. There are no white people — who the Haitians call "blans" — wandering around in mini-mokes or rental cars. There are no blans walking in the streets. The roads are mostly unpaved, so far, and many are clogged with rubble or garbage. There are no "rules of the road," except "every man for himself."
At night, there are no streetlights. I can see why women, and men, would feel a sense of danger at night, and especially in the camps, with their narrow paths and crowded conditions. We lock all doors of the car, close the windows, are cautioned against taking pictures from the car: Haitians have felt for too long the inspection of outsiders — the condescension, the pity that comes from privilege? — and may resent it.
But upon arrival, I immediately felt a sense of pride and distinct culture in the Haitians in the airport. The language, first of all — there's a feeling that Kreyol is the only way to speak. It's a mark of a totally distinct culture, unique in the Caribbean. It feels good. I am slowly learning piece by piece. There is no sense of American culture, although the hotel TV room shows American shows. You can feel pride here, a culture totally distinct from the tourist-saturated cultures in the rest of the Caribbean.
Yet you can also feel how the country is trying to find itself and how it is stuck in survival mode. It's a country where people are becoming, but where the roadblocks are huge: the earthquake, the lack of infrastructure. I want to say: Where are the road graders and backhoes and bulldozers that can make these roads passable? How can that person on the street survive by selling her dozen limes and mangoes? Yet at the same time, in the crowded streets, people seem well fed and they clearly take care in how they dress. Of course, this is in stark contrast to the camps for internally displaced people. We drive past the huge camp at Champ de Mars — the equivalent of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. — and established poverty seems acute.
With Lionel, one of our partners in Port-au-Prince, there is a huge sense of hope. The man is driven to make Haiti a better place. Lionel is a businessman. During the Aristide years, he had owned and managed a factory employing over 1,000 people. Unfortunately, the factory burned to the ground. Lionel found other entrepreneurial pursuits; he owns a restaurant and is passionate about helping Haitians become entrepreneurs, businessmen and -women, and giving them the training to do so.
After the earthquake, he began constructing his vision of helping the next generation of Haitians. He started Camp Oasis, a haven for 40 girls who were orphaned by the earthquake and living in camps. The girls range in age from four to eighteen years old. Thanks to donations from UUSC constituents — including a gift of $11,400 from the UU Congregation in Summit, N.J., which was matched three times over by the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, N.Y., — Lionel was able to build strong wooden dormitories, bathrooms, and cooking facilities for the girls, as well as educate them and provide health care for them during the past nine months. Compared to life in the camps — where some girls were in danger of turning to prostitution to support themselves and where violence against women and girls is a constant danger — these girls are a world away. They seem happy and confident.
The girls are also happy this day to receive cards, with snowy scenes on them, from a UU congregation in Wisconsin — new pen pals. The girls spend time composing replies with colored pencils, crayons, and dictionaries. Wendy Flick, manager of UUSC's Haiti emergency response, will transport these replies back to the United States. This is a wonderful example of UUSC supporters providing tangible, concrete help in a crisis — help that will pave the way for a positive future for this next generation of Haitians.
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Tue, 04/19/2011 - 7:59am.
Cheska Barneveld (front, center), one of UUSC's runners in the Boston Marathon, with (left to right) Constance Kane, Charles Huschle, and Maxine Neil.
Yesterday's 115th Boston Marathon made history in two ways. Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won the race in the fastest marathon time ever recorded: two hours, three minutes, two seconds. And for the first time, three volunteers ran to represent UUSC, raising $4,810 so far to support UUSC's human-rights programs around the world.
Raghav Raghavacharya ran a blistering 3:34:07! Constance Kane, vice president and COO, and Maxine Neil, director of the Institutional Advancement Department, welcomed him at the finish line with profuse congratulations and thanks. Then he caught a cab to Logan because he has to be back at work today, at Google in Mountain View, California!
Missy Shea, of Salem, Mass., ran her fourth marathon in a time of 4:19:43. She was proud to be able to run for justice — and for her fourth child. Shea decided some years ago that she wanted to teach her children that nothing was impossible as long as you put your mind — and your body — into it. UUSC is proud to support Shea in showing the next generation that good things can come of good effort. And we're excited that she found us on Twitter after we started promoting the chance to run for UUSC in the Boston Marathon.
Cheska Barneveld, of Hoboken, N.J., ran her first Boston Marathon in 4:43:16. Barneveld has had a busy year, running for several charities in a New York half-marathon and other full marathons. She found UUSC on Facebook! And she met Constance Kane, Maxine Neil, and me at the finish line and expressed her joy at having run so well — as well as the intention to run again for UUSC in other road races.
Congratulations, runners — and thank you to all their supporters! The runners had a team goal of raising $10,000, so we still need to raise about $5,000 more to reach that goal. We have until May 5 to report our fundraising results, so please help these runners, and UUSC's annual fund, by making a gift today! It's easy to do at www.crowdrise.com/runforjustice.
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Tue, 03/22/2011 - 6:52am.
We're excited to announce that UUSC's Run for Justice has three dedicated runners warming up for the 115th Boston Marathon, to take place on April 18, 2011. One is a Salem, Mass., mom who is running her fourth marathon; another hails from India and has run marathons all over the world; and our third is a restaurant manager from New Jersey who has raised nearly $30,000 in past charitable marathon fundraising.
Melissa Shea, from Salem, Mass., started running 15 years ago with a goal to run a 5K. After a few months of training, she ran her first 5K, which gave her the confidence to set higher goals. Since then, she has completed three Boston Marathons, two half-marathons, and, as she says, "more road races than I can count!" Melissa has four children and made a promise to run a Boston Marathon for each one of them. Why? Melissa says, "Whether I am sky diving, running a marathon, climbing a mountain, or zip-lining, I hope that setting and achieving goals has taught my children that nothing is impossible." Support Melissa.
Raghav Raghavacharya, from Sunnyvale, Calif., will be running his fourth Boston Marathon this year. An accomplished runner, Raghav has run 35 marathons in 10 years, in places from Hollywood to Bollywood, Silicon Valley to Bangalore — and several cities across the United States. Along the way, he has trained and mentored several runners in the Bay area and India. Raghav couples his commitment to running with a passion for social causes, approaching each marathon with zeal and enthusiasm to help foster universal access to justice, education, and opportunity. He has raised thousands of dollars for medical research and for organizations serving children in India, and now turns his efforts to support UUSC's work for human rights and social justice. Support Raghav.
Cheska Barneveld lives and works in New Jersey. She started running in 2009 and hasn't stopped. "I found that through running I could give back by working with amazing charities to help others," she says. She has run two marathons and two half-marathons for organizations devoted to Down syndrome, cancer research, children in Peru, and Outward Bound — and in the process raised close to $30,000. On April 18, she's running for human rights. Support Cheska.
Support UUSC's runners today by donating at www.crowdrise.com/runforjustice!
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 6:24am.
Given the vibrant, eclectic character of UUSC's employees, a typical staff meeting here is anything but run-of-the-mill. Yesterday's was no exception, particularly because we were treated to a presentation by Patricia Jones, program manager for UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, on UUSC's Hope in Crops project in Kenya.
As part of UUSC's carbon offset project and our work to become a "green sanctuary," UUSC has partnered with the SoilFarm Multi-Culture Group in the Kakamega Rain Forest in Kenya. Connected to 10 local schools, the Hope in Crops project is an agro-forestry project that teaches schoolchildren to protect the environment, grow crops, and raise bees.
Patricia screened a short video in which one of the organizers, Chrisantus, described the work. Against the backdrop of a lush tropical scene, loud with the sounds of birds, insects, and the calls of forest creatures, Chrisantus spoke of the success of the project: 100,000 trees planted, hundreds of children in school learning to become environmental activists, and hundreds of families with their livelihoods restored. Chrisantus, a veteran human-rights defender and protector of the Kakamega Rain Forest, was truly inspirational.
Next week, UUSC is hosting an evening here in Cambridge with Patricia in which she will describe UUSC's work in Kenya and talk about our work here in Massachusetts for water rights. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. on October 28, at UUSC's main office, 689 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass., and is open to all. We hope you will join us!
» RSVP by e-mail now! Please include your name(s), town, and e-mail address. Thanks!
Submitted by Charles Huschle. on Fri, 03/26/2010 - 10:22am.
Jackie Okanga, UUSC's on-the-ground representative in Uganda, and UUSC Senior Associate for Major Gifts Charles Huschle
Since 2007, UUSC has been working in northern Uganda to help thousands of Acholi people resettle their villages after more than 20 years of brutal war between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government. This month, UUSC has been hosting Jackie Okanga, our on-the-ground representative in Uganda, for her first visit to the United States. During her U.S. visit, Jackie has been traveling and speaking to people throughout New England and elsewhere, sharing the challenges and successes of helping people return to their homes after years of living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
A smile in a rainstorm: my week with Jackie begins
Jackie arrived March 13 in New York in a gusty, wild rainstorm, and I met her waving a UUSC banner. She had a huge smile on her face, and it was a joy to see her. We drove through flooded streets to Manhattan, where Martha Thompson, manager for UUSC's Rights in Humanitarian Crises Program had just given our Uganda presentation at the All Souls congregation.
Sunday morning was Jackie's first presentation, at the UU Church in Summit, N.J., a congregation that has embraced UUSC's Oxen Project and led the way in raising funds. After the presentation, one extraordinary man came up to me and said, "I'm so glad Jackie was here to explain your project. I want to buy a whole ox," and wrote a check for $500, the current actual cost of one ox in Uganda. The congregation raised over $6,000 for UUSC work in Uganda, using a unique four-week approach that culminated in Jackie's visit, which seemed to turn the hearts of many in the congregation to give even more.
I gave people my business card and told them not to worry about my title — Senior Associate for Major Gifts — since sometimes people can become wary about being asked for money. One young woman joked, "No, it's different. You're kind of like Santa Claus."
To ask is to give: listening shapes everything we do
In my job, I meet a lot of different people and I start by thanking them for being donors to UUSC. No donors, no UUSC. And, for me, it's all about giving back to our donors. When the young woman called me Santa Claus, I thought, "Yes. That's exactly it. I'm here to give to our supporters," paradoxical though it may seem.
Part of giving is listening; I listen to donors' needs, their interests, and their feedback on UUSC — I want to serve our donors in the best, most dignified ways possible. Listening is the UUSC way.
What does it mean to listen? As Jackie tells us, in the case of Uganda, as in all UUSC projects, listening means getting to understand the people and respecting their culture; it also means helping people learn to ask questions. UUSC calls this an "eye-to-eye"partnership, in which we recognize individuals as full of the capacity to take charge or their own lives, rather than vulnerable victims who need to be taken care of.
When Jackie began to work with UUSC in 2008, she met with villagers in IDP camps and developed their trust over time. Not only did she ask them to think about what they needed, materially, to begin life again at home, she asked them, "What is important to you about going home?"
The resulting discussions and community dialogues led to action and decision making by the Acholi. They performed traditional burial and cleansing ceremonies. Family members and communities that had been ripped apart by the atrocities of the war reconciled. Young people built houses for the elderly and wounded, and in return, youth received dancing costumes and books, essential for their cultural expression and education. People developed and implemented solutions for planting and harvesting. A sense of community developed. The act of building something brings people together — an essential component of returning home. "Change begins in people's hearts," is a quote much heard at UUSC. And, "When people's hearts change, their feet follow."
Since Jackie's work began, 14 villages (6,000 people) have been resettled, and much healing has taken place. As people have reintegrated into their villages, they said to Jackie, "We are so glad you listened to us. That is the one thing that makes you different from other NGOs."
How UUSC embodies UU principles in action
In Summit, N.J., Jackie told these stories. She told these stories over and over — to congregations in Devon, Pa., and Bethesda, Md. In Washington, D.C., we briefed State Department officials from the office of Melanne Veveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, and aides from the offices of Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator John Kerry. We also hosted a lunch for other nongovernmental organizations interested in our work at the offices of the Enough Project. After this whirlwind of meetings and presentations, Jackie took a well-deserved day off, spending Thursday sightseeing with friends.
Since coming to UUSC in November, almost daily I have been impressed, inspired, and humbled by the generosity of our supporters, without whom there would be no UUSC. This generosity clearly demonstrates a belief in the first UU principle, to affirm the worth and dignity of every human being. And from all the connections we made this week, I also saw other UU principles in action: a sense of commitment to world community and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Thank you to everyone we met this week and to everyone who helped in small ways and large in our travels.