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Christian Love in Action - in Haiti: United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

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Organizing to Respond

Haiti Response Plan Staff – contact us at haitivolunteers@yahoo.com

New staff, December, 2011

Mario Fils-Aime, Haiti Finance Administrator

Continuing Staff, Haiti & the US

Rev. Tom Vencuss, Haiti UMVIM Project Coordinator
Sarah A. Sandsted, Assistant Haiti Site/Team Coordinator
Oge Celin, Project Site Liaison
Susan J. Meister, US-based Communications & Calendaring Coordinator

Continuing Staff at GBGM, New York

Una Jones, Assistant General Secretary, Mission Volunteers & Conference Relations
Giuseppina Avitia, Program Associate, Mission Relationships
Glendora Dazle, Administrative Assistant for Mission Volunteers

Former Staff

Rev. Mike Willis, Volunteer Management Coordinator
Bethany Guy, Assistant Volunteer Management Coordinator
Deanna Hawkins, Finance/Hospitality Coordinator
John A. Alcorn, Haiti Financial & Hospitality Coordinator

Based in Haiti: Methodist Guest House, Petionville (Port-au-Prince)

Rev. Tom VencussRev. Tom Vencuss
Haiti UMVIM Project Coordinator

Tom joined the Haiti Response Plan team on Nov. 1, 2010. He assumed the responsibilities of Volunteer Management Coordinator, succeeding Rev. Mike Willis, who served as the head of the Haiti office from April through October.

Tom has overall responsibility for the Haiti Response Plan in Haiti. He interfaces with the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH) and other partners to identify and equip priority project sites. Tom assigns project sites to teams and facilitates their work in Haiti. In addition, he works with local Haitian labor on project sites and manage the staff of drivers, cooks and interpreters. Tom also works closely with the US-based Communications & Calendaring Coordinator to schedule and facilitate UMVIM teams and provide material for the Plan web site.

Tom has been a United Methodist pastor for 30 years. He and his wife Wendy Vencuss have served the Wethersfield (CT) UMC for the past 15 years, placing a high emphasis on local and international mission. They have served on UMVIM teams in Haiti more than twenty times and coordinate the New York Annual Conference Task Force on Haiti (now called Mountains of Hope for Haiti). They were present during the January 2010 earthquake and have been back on teams several times since then. Tom has also served as the NYAC Disaster Response Coordinator and is an Emergency Medical Technician.

Tom has his undergraduate degree from Queens College, his M.Div. from Drew University, and a D. Min. from Hartford Seminary. He and Wendy have two sons, Doug and Matt.

"United Methodists were present before, during, and after the earthquake," Tom remarked."We have made a pledge to work with the Methodist Church of Haiti, the local communities, and the people of Haiti to bring continued hope, help and healing in the midst of this disaster in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ."

Sarah A. SandstedSarah A. Sandsted
Assistant Haiti Site/Team Coordinator

Sarah will join the Haiti Response Plan team in May, 2011, to serve as the Assistant Haiti Site/Team Coordinator. She will assume many of the responsibilities and job functions of Bethany Guy, Assistant Volunteer Management Coordinator.

Sarah will work closely with Haiti UMVIM Project Coordinator, Tom Vencuss, to provide administrative and logistical assistance for the continuation and enhancement of the UMVIM program in Haiti. This will include site monitoring and selection, deployment of UMVIM teams, assignment of support staff for teams (cooks, drivers, interpreters), and communications coordination with the US-based Communications & Calendaring Coordinator.

Sarah has been serving in mission in Haiti since 2006, traveling to Banique with Lansing UMC (Upper NY Conference). In 2009, she served in Les Cayes teaching English with the American University of the Caribbean. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY, and is fluent in French and Haitian Creole. Sarah most recently was on the Executive Support Team with Share Our Strength, Washington DC, a nonprofit devoted to ending childhood hunger in America.

"Haiti is a place that has captured my soul and continues to make me a better person and a better servant of God," Sarah explained."Returning to Haiti full-time will give me the opportunity to continue to grow in my faith and I will gain so much love, joy and knowledge from the Haitians I will help serve."

Mario Fils-AimeMario Fils-Aime
Haiti Finance Administrator

Mario joined the Haiti Response Plan team in December, 2011, to serve as the Haiti Finance Administrator, taking over the financial responsibilities from John Alcorn.  In his role, Mario will work with Susan Meister to receive and process project funds from UMVIM teams, disburse funds for project sites, and gather receipts and other documentation as projects are completed.

Mario was born in Port-au-Prince and immigrated to the US in 1988. He holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Massachusetts and a Master of Accounting from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale).  Mario currently resides in Florida and is a member of Christ Fellowship Church.

"The skills and experience that I have acquired over the years in accounting have provided me with a good understanding of business operations and will enable me to assist UMVIM and the Haiti Response Plan in meeting their objectives," Mario explained.

"I am very excited about this mission opportunity," he continued. "I hope this experience will allow me to help spread the Gospel, to grow spiritually, and to acquire great relationships."

Oge CelinOge Celin
Project Site Liaison

Oge Celin joined the Haiti Response Team in May 2011 as Project Site Liaison. He has worked at the Methodist Guest House in Petionville for more than ten years as a driver and translator. In his new role, Celin will be responsible to coordinate between site bosses/engineers and the Guest House staff to ensure that sites are prepared to receive UMVIM teams.

Oge is excited about his new role."When the volunteers come here, it’s good for the Haitian people," he said."I want to make sure they have a good week. I hope that God blesses them so that they may continue to come and help us. There is a lot of work to do – I know that God can make it happen!"

Oge is married to Josianne and has a 6 year old daughter, Laura.

Based in US: Office in Illinois Great Rivers Conference

Susan MeisterSusan J. Meister
US-based Communications &Calendaring Coordinator

Meanwhile, back in the US, Susan is ready to read and respond to emails and calls from team leaders ready to bring teams to Haiti. She is responsible for maintaining the master calendar of UMVIM teams, receiving and processing project funds, and for designing and maintaining the Haiti Response Plan web site, newsletter and other communications.

For information or to schedule a team, email Susan at haitivolunteers@yahoo.com

Susan is a member of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. For the past 10 years, she worked in missions and communications for the IGRC and UMCOR. In a recent assignment, she reported on assistance by Gulf Coast Conferences to survivors of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. Susan is married to Rev. Peter J. Wehrly, a pastor in the IGRC, and is mom to five surviving children and four granddaughters.

"It is a huge thrill to be in touch with so many people from all over the world who want to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti," Susan said."The Haiti Response Plan has already proven to be successful in matching the desire of our UMVIM teams to help and the pressing needs in Haiti."

Continuing Staff at GBGM, New York

Una Jones, Assistant General Secretary, Mission Volunteers & Conference Relations ujones@gbgm-umc.org
Giuseppina Avitia, Program Associate, Mission Relationships gavitia@gbgm-umc.org
Glendora Dazle, Administrative Assistant for Mission Volunteers gdazle@gbgm-umc.org

Former Staff

Rev. Mike WillisRev. Mike Willis
Volunteer Management Coordinator
Mike served as the first Volunteer Management Coordinator for the Haiti Response Plan office at the Methodist Guest House. He was responsible for the establishment of the office and the procedures for project selection and assignment. His energy and dedication were evident in a successful six month pilot program, which resulted in a full three year commitment through the Mission Volunteers unit of GBGM and funding by UMCOR.

Mike returned to his appointment at Vestal UMC, New York, in November 2010. He serves there with his wife, Rev. Mary Ricketts. He anticipates having continued involvement with the Haiti Response Plan and Haiti Partnership, the missional outreach of the Upper New York Conference.

Bethany GuyBethany Guy
Assistant Volunteer Management Coordinator

Bethany Guy served  in Haiti from May 2010 to May 2011. She initially was assigned to work as an intern on behalf of the Church of the Resurrection (Kansas East Conference) on a two month assignment. When that time was complete, she found herself as Mike Willis'"right hand person" and then continued in the Assistant Volunteer Management Coordinator position.

Bethany is a 2010 graduate of Park University, summa cum laude, with a degree in Communications Arts – Broadcasting. She will travel to Europe this summer and enter Divinity School in the Fall of 2011.

Deanna HawkinsDeanna Hawkins
Finance/Hospitality Coordinator

Deanna Hawkins joined the Response Plan team from her home in Prior Lake, Minnesota and her home church of Holy Trinity UMC. As the Finance/Hospitality Coordinator, she was primarily responsible to manage team project and matching funds, and to assist with the details of UMVIM team deployment, especially team orientation and support.

During her six-month assignment from November, 2010 to May, 2011, Deanna brought her considerable skills in accounting, finance and project management to the Haiti Response Plan, and systematized accounting and tracking procedures.  She played a key role in the ongoing work with the Haiti Relief Committee, especially in relationships with the leadership of the Methodist Church of Haiti.

Deanna will return to her home in Minnesota and plans to be involved in local and international mission work in the future.

John A. AlcornJohn A. Alcorn
Haiti Financial & Hospitality Coordinator

John served with the Haiti Response Plan team as the Haiti Financial & Hospitality Coordinator from May – November 2011, following Deanna Hawkins..

John worked closely with Tom Vencuss, Haiti UMVIM Project Coordinator, and Sarah Sandsted, Assistant Haiti Site Team Coordinator, to manage and track volunteer and matching funds used for priority projects. In addition, he assisted with UMVIM team orientation, team logistics and debriefing.

As he bid goodbye to his colleagues in Haiti and the US to return to his home in Colorado, John wrote,"Thank you for the support and memories. I have enjoyed meeting the Haitian people and seeing parts of this beautiful country and look forward to returning." John has already booked an UMVIM team for June 2012.