Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Death of Josseline

Sixth in a set of posts about the October UUA Board meeting

Like many UUs around the country, I am reading The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan, a reporter from the Tucson area who has done border reporting in Arizona for the last decade. The Board's January meeting will be in Phoenix, with many of us coming early to Tucson to meet with some of the groups that Regan mentions in her book, including the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, which adopted the group No More Deaths (No Más Muertes) as a ministry in 2008.

I certainly knew there were deaths connected to the attempt to reach the United States, but not until I read this book did the magnitude hit me: in just the Tucson sector, 262 miles of border, nearly 600,000 are apprehended each year, over 200 found dead (emphasis on "found"). And one of the lines from the book haunts me: how far would you go to feed your children?

Many of those who cross (or attempt to) are not aware of how dangerous it is -- a walk of "just a day" described by the coyote (people smuggler) turns into 3 or 4, people from places like the Guatemala highlands unused to 110+ degree heat. If they cannot keep up, they can be left behind to not endanger the rest of the group, with hopes that they will be found by the Border Patrol in 90,000 square miles of rugged terrain . But many of them are aware of the danger, and try multiple times.

I break from the book to check on the work I am having done on my house, appreciative of any chance to practice my Spanish. One of the men walks right out of the book.

Roberto tells me his first language is K'iche', a Mayan dialect. He is from Sololá, near the houses I worked on several years ago with Habitat for Humanity, near Lago Atitlán. He has been here two years, and crossed the desert with his sister. Es muy peligroso - it is very dangerous - pero gracias a Diós estamos aquí - but thanks to God we are here. The rest of his family is in Sololá, including his wife and two children. According to the Guatemala representative for UNICEF, half the children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished - in indigenous areas, like Sololá, chronic malnutrition of children under 5 can reach 80%.

How far would you go to feed your children?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Regionalization Question

Fifth in a series of posts about the October 2010 UUA Board Meeting

Friday morning (all of it) was labeled as a "Report on the Districts (Terasa Cooley) and future direction on regionalization". Terasa had no "report" but rather opened up the space for a wide-ranging discussion on current and future regionalization issues. As reported here before, there are two very different aspects of "regionalization", governance and service delivery, though they tend to be conflated in districts (like my own, the Pacific Central District) where the governance boards are heavily involved in both.

Terasa and Peter addressed the service delivery side. From Peter's perspective "it is hard to underestimate the problems co-employment caused… we are really tripping up over that arrangement… [we are using] a one room school house model." Teresa gave the example of Mountain Desert, which has 4 staff members, and 54 congregations spread across roughly a million square miles, compared to more compact districts. Are we serving the Mountain Desert congregations in a way that does not discriminate because of their location? Sara Lammert gave the example of program consultant Tandy Rogers from the Pacific Northwest District serving as the interim director for the Youth and Young Adult office. Tandy is co-employed -- though the right thing to do, sorting out the financial and other implications is not simple.

This coming weekend the District Presidents' Association will be meeting to address the governance side. Three UUA board members (plus the board liaison and moderator) have been invited to join. As one of those UUA board members, I am also attending to discuss the linkage done recently by the UUA board, and invite the DPA to collaborate with us on whatever linkage we do next.

These are not easy issues. I do not think the same structure used for service delivery is necessarily the right structure for governance, could suggest eliminating co-employment as one of the steps in decoupling them.

The UUA Board does not have a grand governance plan for districts which both protects and damns us. The district boards need to determine their own fates. But thinking about governance takes me back to linkage -- what would our member congregations and other accountability groups answer to classic linkage questions like the following?
  1. What do you see as the role of the district board?
  2. If districts did not exist today, for what reason(s) would we create them?
  3. If this were 2020, and we were looking back over the past ten years, what would you like to be able to say is different within our congregations because the district was here?