Thursday, October 29, 2009

UUSC Values in responding to humanitarian crises

Fifth in a series about the October 2009 UUA Board Meeting. Today's guest post is by Nancy Bartlett, Trustee from the Mid-South District, who previously served on the board of the UU Service Committee. The presentation she refers to makes one of the best cases I have ever seen on why we should be giving to the UU Service Committee.

UUSC report as a demonstration of how we can live out our AR/AO/MC values in world

Our denomination‘s commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multi-culturalism (“AR/AO/MC”) permeates all of our work, from programs to policies to process observations at our meetings. This commitment became even more tangible on Saturday afternoon when we saw how strongly our partnerships with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee reflect our AR/AO/MC values. Atema Eclai, UUSC Director of Programs, and Martha Thompson, UUSC Rights in Humanitarian Crises Program Manager, presented an evaluation of our joint UUA-UUSC responses to humanitarian crises resulting from the 2004 tsunami in Asia and Africa, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2005 Pakistan and Kashmir India earthquake. While our members generously contributed to these efforts, 5.5 million dollars, the most striking result was the way the money was used. The focus was marginalized groups, i.e., groups who traditionally are left out of relief due to their race, class and gender. Our goal in working with these groups was to help them access aid in ways that empowered them and to support them in addressing the inequalities they face. Examples of such groups included Muslim widows in Sri Lanka, Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, Dalits in India, and people from the 9th ward in New Orleans.

UUSC’s programs use the Eye to Eye partnership model, which is founded on principles of equality. They form equitable relationships, listening to the people who need assistance and analyzing together what is working. This Eye to Eye partnership model, coupled with UUSC’s expertise in identifying marginalized groups and strategies for their empowerment, creates a unique niche for us in humanitarian crisis response. Disaster response requires immediate action and the report includes acknowledgement of the challenges we have faced and lessons learned, such as the need for consultants on the ground, better reporting systems, and improved communication with donors and constituents. Future joint UUA-UUSC disaster responses will require improved staff coordination structures and rapid communication about fund dispersal. For all the challenges, the work is real and the need is great, particularly for those groups who so often remain invisible to the television cameras and traditional aid organizations. By identifying and supporting these people, we cry out against racism and oppression and give substance to the values we profess.

Next post: Role of the District Trustee

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