Phil Bandy, Interim Director of the California-Nevada United Methodist Volunteers in Mission program, was part of a select UMVIM advance team which traveled to Haiti, May 9-18 to pave the way for other teams of volunteers.
The 11-member team, made up of UMVIM program coordinators from across the U.S., worked on the remains of the Methodist school in Mellier (a small village outside Port-au-Prince), living in tents pitched behind the school (except for the first and last days of the trip, in which team members had accommodations in the Methodist Guest House in Petionville, Haiti).
The team contributed some labor, but – most important, Bandy says – provided direct community support by hiring local people for every job imaginable. UMVIM already provides skilled cooks, interpreters, drivers, and construction foreman, but the team added helpers for the cook, a cook-in-training position, security and laundry teams, a work crew of 20 men, and even some children to weave mats for the team's tents!
"In all we hired 50 people," Bandy reports.
The new school will be a temporary wood frame structure straddling the surviving concrete slab of the church sanctuary.
School was in session during the team's visit, with classes meeting outside under a tarp, under a large cashew tree, and inside a big white tent donated by Unicef.
"After the slab was cleared and the rebar trimmed off flush, the slab was swarmed with dozens of kids playing games and dancing and laughing and singing," Bandy says.
He reports the team found the people of Haiti to be receptive, friendly, and loving.
The advance trip behind him, Bandy says his office now is forming a Cal-Nev team to go to Haiti September 1-11 (dates just confirmed by United Methodist Committee on Relief).
If you previously put your name on UMCOR's Haiti volunteers list, you are already on Phil’s list of team member candidates.
The Sept. 1-11 disaster response trip most likely will involve de-construction/ construction on one of several Methodist schools. The team will receive its actual assignment just prior to travel, but in addition, Bandy says, "Playing with the children and singing with the team at church, Sundays, is mandatory!"
The estimated cost for the trip is $1700. Bandy says, "Housing will be rustic, the weather will be hot, the food will be great – and the people will be fantastic!"