By Rev. Gesner Paul & Rev. Tom Vencuss
The Haiti Response Plan was established as a collaborative effort on the part of the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH), United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The goal was to direct volunteer teams to areas and communities affected by the earthquake and to address the priority needs as established by the EMH.
When the Haiti Response Plan formally comes to a close in October 2013, more than 450 teams, representing nearly 4000 volunteers, will have served as short-term missioners in Haiti. This is remarkable.
An original goal of the Haiti Response Plan was, over time, to transition to a more EMH-led program. This is underway. Beginning November 1, we will move into a second phase of our work together, through a structure we are calling the EMH-VIM Program.
Welcome to Carine Odilus
A Transition Team has completed interviews and selected Ms. Carine Odilus, who currently works as one of the HRP interpreters, to serve as the Assistant Team Coordinator. She will work alongside Ms. Jacqueline Putt, an American Individual Volunteer who will serve as the VIM Team Coordinator through May 2014. Jackie's background and training is in civil engineering and architecture, as well as project development and management. All program finances will eventually be consolidated through the EMH Finance Office.
Current staff members will begin transitioning out between July and the end of the year. It is our firm belief that the new staff and structure will continue to provide the same outstanding support and care for the VIM teams working in Haiti.
The mandate for the Haiti Response Plan was clear: to address the infrastructure needs of the church and church communities following the earthquake. While much of the emphasis was on repair and construction, HRP teams also engaged in many community activities such as vacation Bible school, English classes, health and hygiene workshops, and establishing school gardens.
Several more recent teams have focused on clean water projects, medical/dental teams, and sewing projects. Teams also performed many less formal acts of community building, cultural exchange, worship, and friendship. Perhaps most important, VIM teams were a part of the community in which they served.
Teams encouraged to think "outside the box"
As the EMH begins to develop its future list of priorities, and as the EMH-VIM Program continues to move through the transition process, we would encourage future teams to think "outside the box" to use the gifts and talents of their team members in creative ways, and to seek new ways to address the needs of the communities in which we serve.
The EMH-VIM Program will be developing three main project areas: continued repair and construction; ministry within local congregations; and ministry beyond the local church.
The first, Repair and Construction, is self-explanatory. There are still several projects from the original EMH Damage survey which need to be addressed as well as new construction projects. Teams requesting this type of work will be assigned a project site determined by the EMH.
Ministry within the Local Congregation might take the shape of a Vacation Bible School program; a vocational training program; seminars on nutrition, health and hygiene; pastoral exchanges, youth, or women's meetings.
A Ministry beyond the Local Church might include medical or dental clinics, first aid training, clean water projects, home repairs, agriculture, or a project like digging a well, which affects and serves an entire community.
Groups with long-standing ties to a particular community can continue to work in that community with the Circuit Superintendent and the EMH-VIM staff to develop their projects. For those without a particular focus, the EMH-VIM staff will assist you in developing your team project as well. In addition, teams can be multi-focused, working both on a physical as well as community-type project.
The bottom line is - there is no limit to what teams may be able to do.
Rev. Paul adds his apprecation
"I want to thank the many volunteers and the efforts of the UMVIM community in our recovery effort. But even after three years there is still much to do," wrote Reverend Gesner Paul, President of the Methodist Church of Haiti. "My words? Remember the vision received by Paul regarding the church at Macedonia (Acts 16:9). 'And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us.' And so I appeal to those who have already been, and those who have not, Come to Haiti and help us."