L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti Plans for the Future
By Melissa Hinnen *
June 29, 2010—In the midst of recovery following the January 12 earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, staff from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) met with more than 25 leaders of the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH) to strategize long-term development in the Caribbean nation. The three-day workshop focused on a new future for Haiti was attended by circuit superintendents, lay members, and other church leadership from EMH’s nine circuits as well as representatives from The General Board of Global Ministries, United Church of Canada, and The Methodist Church of Great Britain.
According to UMCOR consultant Rev. Jim Gulley, who co-facilitated the meeting with Brother Edzair Paul who heads the EMH education program, EMH leaders had already identified the areas of health, education, microenterprise, and agriculture as priorities. “The goal of the workshop was to begin thinking about a bottom-up approach,” said Gulley. “Moving forward, we asked, what does a development program look like from the perspective of the Haitian people? What resources already exist in Haitian communities that will help make the changes sustainable? How do we work together to encourage local ownership in development projects?"
In November 2009, Government of Haiti authorized The Competitivity Group to evaluate the situation in Haiti and help engage Haitian leadership in breaking cycles of poverty. Gregory Brandt, of The Competitivity Group, presented the assessment drafted in 2009 before the earthquake and explained that the information had to be digested in a way that took into account new realities created by the earthquake. He encouraged the workshop participants to approach the crisis as an opportunity to seek long-term solutions that build capacity and create a cycle of prosperity in communities.
UMCOR’s top executive, Cynthia Harvey, addressed the group saying, “The reality is that it is very difficult to think about long-term development when people have lost everything. UMCOR is committed to addressing those needs and to being here long after everyone else leaves, and that means working with you to build that capacity and create a new future for Haiti.”
Beginning and ending with devotions each day, the group broke into four work groups, with each exploring one of the priority areas.
Discussing the impact of literacy on local communities, teacher training was identified as a key strategy. Training teachers will be important to meet the goal of reducing illiteracy rates. Other needs—for supplies, updated curricula, and programs aimed at continuing education for adults and young adults once they become literate —were also identified.
Training was raised as an agriculture issue as well. The agriculture group said farmers need a better understanding of agronomy, access to seeds and tools, and the means to irrigate their land during the dry season. The agriculture discussions touched on microenterprise and health care because food is grown not only to sell in the market but also to fight malnutrition.
The microenterprise group emphasized the importance of microcredit and reported that micro credit is a particularly effective means for addressing gender inequality and alleviating the impact of poverty when women are the beneficiaries. The group identified as priorities the need to expand EMH’s existing microcredit program, create a single uniform program, and extend the repayment period.
The community health group identified as goals the need to strengthen clinics to be self-sufficient while expanding their reach into communities. They discussed incorporating health ministries into congregations, training community health workers, and utilizing mobile clinics.
The final morning of the workshop, a development board was named to prepare an implementation plan. Participants expected that a six-month timeframe will suffice to prepare the plan, hire staff, and begin addressing the priorities identified.
Rev. Gesner Paul, the head of EMH, closed the workshop saying, “Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but we must plan for tomorrow. We will sow the seeds and water them, and expect them to bear fruit. One day you will come back and see big change and know that you were a part of it.”
How to Help
UMCOR is partnering with the people of Haiti for years to come. Gifts to support UMCOR's work can be made online by visiting www.umcorhaiti.org. For gifts by mail, please make checks payable to UMCOR and mail to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Please indicate Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325 on the memo line of your check. One hundred percent of gifts made to this advance will help the people of Haiti.
*Hinnen is the director of communications for UMCOR