Hurricane-battered Haiti ready for UMVIM teams in January

After Hurricane Mathew caused devastation in Haiti Oct. 4, the UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR) quickly responded with emergency supplies and other assistance to the Methodist Church in Haiti (L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti, or EMH)

Meanwhile, UM Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) has received requests to send work teams to help partners and friends in recovery areas. However, from the 2010 earthquake experience, said Una Jones, Global Ministries’ Mission Volunteers Director, “we realized the best way to approach team involvement would be to allow EMH and UMCOR to do their assessments first.”

Thus, UMCOR and Jones’ office have urged interested teams to be patient and delay going in. But that may be about to change.

Mission Volunteers (MV) staff and consultants went to Haiti recently to explore the EMH’s assessment and plans to receive UMVIM teams. After ongoing conversations with Haitian partners and further research, a strategic process is evolving with the goal to offer visiting work teams a “most productive experience.”

As result, the MV office invites UMVIM teams to start preparations now because the Methodist Church in Haiti will be ready to receive them starting in January 2017. Some recommendations, still being negotiated, will be important to follow:

  • Each team leader must have been to Haiti before. This is “extremely helpful because knowing and understanding the context is vital.”
  • Initially, teams should be small, 5 to 8 members each, giving EMH the capacity to host 3 to 4 teams at a time for now. And at least half the members of each team should have had some experience of Haiti.
  • Team funding recommendations should ensure collaboration with EMH workers:
    • Each team must raise $2,500 for project funds, an amount that is subject to the EMH’s 5% administrative fee.
    • Each team should raise an additional, matching $2,500 from donors, which will not be subject to administrative fees.
    • These collective project funds could also support the 2:1 ratio of U.S. and Haitian workers, so that visiting teams are working with, not for, their hosts. (For example, funding a team of five U.S. volunteers can also facilitate recruitment of 10 Haitian workers.)
    • Teams will be engaged with EMH projects and local communities, as they build relationships together.

EMH also sees an opportunity to rebuild its partnership with the UMVIM community.

The MV office, in collaboration with UMVIM jurisdictional offices, will be, for now, the key communication network for the wider UMVIM community. “We are pledging to support the initial process until EMH can take over the full communication,” said Jones.

Her office is seeking individuals or couples interested in being mission volunteers in Haiti for about 2 to 3 months at a time. Names and contact information of potential volunteers should be sent to the MV office at mv@umcmission.org.

More details and updates can be found on the NEJ UMVIM website. NEJ UMVIM Coordinator is the Rev. Tom Lank, who is based in Bryn Mawr. Contact him at coordinator@umvimnej.org or 919-428-0461. The Rev. Greg Ellis (gellis@epaumc.org) is UMVIM and UMCOR Coordinator for the Eastern PA Conference.

Also, the NEJ UMVIM sponsors an annual 3-day Training Academy combining the best knowledge, resources and preaching available to prepare individuals, churches and teams for Missions and Disaster Response.  The 2017 Academy will be held March 26-29 at Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Center in Cresco, PA.  Registration will begin soon.