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Haiti Volunteer in Mission teams delayed

 
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6:00 P.M. EST December 16, 2010 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

United Methodist volunteer Kathy Ahmad (right) visits with Franckenson Renevil during a break from painting a home next to the Methodist Children’s Home orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in November. UMNS photos by Mike Dubose.
United Methodist volunteer Kathy Ahmad (right) visits with Franckenson Renevil during a break from painting a home next to the Methodist Children’s Home orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in November. UMNS photos by Mike Dubose.
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Plans for 12 United Methodist volunteer teams scheduled to travel to Haiti in January as part of the denomination’s earthquake response have been canceled.

The decision by United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, announced Dec. 14, was made in light of recent experience in Haiti surrounding the response to the presidential election.

“Team safety and welfare is our first priority,” said the Rev. Tom Vencuss, the volunteer management coordinator based in Haiti, “and regrettably the events of the last week have led us to the decision that it would not be safe to have these UMVIM teams present in Haiti around the presidential run off (election), scheduled for Jan. 16, 2011.”

Protests erupted after the runoff election was announced between Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady of Haiti, and Jude Celestin, the candidate backed by current President Rene Preval.

No member of the five Volunteers in Mission teams present in Haiti on Dec. 8 and the following days was ever in imminent danger, Vencuss reported.

However, the staff at the Methodist Guest House could not reach teams at the field sites of Petit-Goâve and Mellier for several days, and teams could not be sent to work sites nearby because of road closures. Flight cancellations meant the teams had to stay beyond their expected departure dates, causing significant additional expenses as well as some anxiety, he said.

United Methodist Volunteer in Mission team members Terry Temple (left background) and John Thomas (right background) help lead a game for children outside the Methodist Church in Furcy, Haiti, in November.
United Methodist Volunteer in Mission team members Terry Temple (left background) and John Thomas (right background) help lead a game for children outside the Methodist Church in Furcy, Haiti, in November.
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“The December teams were very accommodating,” Vencuss added. “The team leaders were great, and the Haitian and American staff at the Methodist Guest House went above and beyond in caring for the many guests.”

In consultation with the Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, Volunteers in Mission leaders and Una Jones, the executive in charge of mission volunteers for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, decided to reschedule 12 teams who were to travel to Haiti in January. The cancelled teams represent 10 conferences, all five of the denomination’s U.S. jurisdictions and 110 volunteers in mission.

Other January and February teams also were notified directly about the situation. Additional schedule changes are possible during those months because of the presidential election and inauguration.

Teams affected by the turmoil in Haiti in early December were from the Kansas East, West Ohio, New England, Western Pennsylvania and South Georgia conferences. In addition, a team from the Baltimore-Washington Conference, scheduled for Dec. 9-17, was not able to get to Haiti due to repeated flight cancellations and decided to reschedule.

Since the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission has been working with the Methodist Church of Haiti through its Haiti Response Plan to host volunteer teams to address the humanitarian needs and the Haitian church’s priority projects. The Haiti Response Plan is funded by a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

More information is available at www.umvimhaiti.org.

*Meister is the U.S.-based calendaring coordinator for Haiti teams for the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

News media contact: Linda Bloom (646) 369-3759 newsdesk@umcom.org.

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