Volunteers cancel, Guatemala town struggles
Named after the Brazilian environmental activist, Chico Mendes, who lost his life protecting the rainforests, the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project was started in 1998, when the loss of forests and its consequences were evident to those living in Pachaj, Guatemala. This community is located near Quetzaltenango, in the Northwest Highlands of Guatemala. Jorge Armando Lopez Pocol, a respected forester, and his family established a nursery and organizes the village as well as international volunteers to plant seeds, grow seedlings, and protect trees. The average number of trees planted each year in the last five years is 15,000. Currently, Jorge Armando has 40,000 trees ready to be planted.
One of Jorge Armando’s main goals is to plant the pinabete tree on the mountainside near his community. The pinabete is the one tree where the rare Quetzal, national bird of Guatemala, will nest. Planting the pinabete thwarts mining companies from destroying the mountainsides and will ensure good water quality for the village.
See the Chico Mendes website: https://www.chicomendesguatemala.org
Because of the pandemic, nine volunteer groups scheduled to plant trees in Guatemala for The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project have canceled. This is devastating for a community that is living on the edge. The Project depends on volunteer groups to transfer seedlings and to plant young trees, which in turn helps support the reforesting of the mountainsides. In addition, income for the community is generated when volunteers pay to stay with families and take Spanish language classes. Without this income, the families and Spanish teachers will lack funds to feed their families.
From the three service-learning trips, many in our congregation have ties to the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project and have been supportive in past fundraisers. Our UU accreditation as a Green Sanctuary congregation was due in part from this partnership. In addition, we are knowledgeable about other groups who have traveled or were planning to travel there this spring and summer. We are also well connected to various environmental groups and will communicate the needs of this project to them.
The funds raised will go for seeds, fertilizer, tools, supplies, and staff salaries to maintain the young trees and protect the forests. Families who provide homestays and Spanish teachers will be compensated.
Contributions and support now will ensure the continuation and survival of the Chico Mendes Reforestation project. The welfare of these community members and the protection of fragile ecosystems in the Guatemala Highlands also depend on contributions to weather the current crisis caused by the pandemic. In the future groups will again take trips and plant trees with the villagers of Pachaj, hosted by Jorge Armando.
“When I was in Guatemala, I observed the Chico Mendes group grow healthy seedlings and plant trees where they had been cut down. Reforestation is an important job for humanity in terms of climate change.” -Dr. John Hartman, Plant Pathologist Emeritus, University of Kentucky
“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project not only provides clean air and water for the local people, but it also sends the message that sustainability is possible if everyone contributes. By donating to this cause, you will be improving the local people’s quality of life and showing the world how vital sustainability is for our well being”. -Justine Reschly, High School senior
“What most impressed me about the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Guatemala was the engagement and investment in youth. They didn’t just work on reforestation, but they educated, hired, and mentored youth to participate in their work. They understand the importance of youth education and involvement to bring change in future generations. “ -Meredith Gall, parent and participant
“The Chico Mendes Reforestation Project is as much a community and social justice effort as it is an environmental justice organization. Planting trees and protecting the environment is intimately related to protecting and providing for the local community. The connection with the local community both supports Chico Mendes and also provides a community stake in both the project and their environment. Our family’s connection with the community was good for us, them and, I firmly believe, the wider world.” -Dan Gall, parent and participant
Youth Captures: Our Life After Hurricane Michael (A Youth-led Photo Voice Project)
Hurricane Michael made landfall at 2 pm EDT on October 10, 2018 in Bay County, FL with top sustained winds of 155 mph; altering the lives of families profoundly to this day. One of the greatest challenges has been housing. Thousands of families have been displaced from their homes, leaving climate-induced trauma to children.
Bay District Schools has been reporting on this trauma, and continuously advocates for resources and support for their students. Five months after the hurricane, Bay Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt spoke before the State Board of Education about homelessness and the mental health struggles of Bay County Schools.
“More than 70 percent of the apartments in Panama City are uninhabitable. Before the storm, there were 738 homeless students in the district. Now, there are more than 4,800,” Husfelt shared, “[There have been 700] Community of Care referrals to mental health agencies. We’ve had 70 Baker Acts since we’ve reopened, 35 since Feb. 25th, 62 since Christmas Break.”
As school begins this Fall and almost a year after Hurricane Michael, the effects of the storm continue to linger. Families are still living in temporary or sub-standard housing, including: RVs, tents, sheds, cars, substandard trailers or houses, living with friends or families, FEMA trailers, hotels, motels, and weekly rentals with no lease.
This Photo Voice project is meant to help 10 teens in Bay County, Florida share their stories in their own voices, with their own pictures, and see the world through their eyes. It will be a close look into the reality that they and their families have to endure. With their photos, people will see the stories that aren’t usually covered by traditional media.
Initially, their photographs will be shared with the Bay County Community during a special event later this year, and subsequently with other coalitions and organizations via a pop-up exhibit.
The life journeys of our youth inform our future. Lived events shared in personal stories have the power to open hearts and minds, and inspire us to collective action. People can change their communities for the better, and understanding the lives of people in difficult circumstances better prepares us to work together to change conditions that affect their lives.
What is a Photo Voice Project?
Photo Voice is a process in which people – usually those with limited power due to poverty, language barriers, race, class, ethnicity, gender, culture, or other circumstances – use video and/or photo images to capture aspects of their environment and experiences and share them with others. The pictures can then be used, usually with captions composed by the photographers, to bring the realities of the photographers’ lives home to the public and policy makers and to spur change.
About The Exhibit:
The exhibit will consist of 10 stories, with 5 images associated with each. The images will be printed on canvas; and a QR code will enable visitors to scan the code and listen to the narratives in the teens’ voices. If the budget allows, there will be a printed booklet of the images and accompanying narratives.
Who are the Collaborating Partners?
Our partner in Bay County is well positioned to support youth: LEAD County Coalition of Bay County. LEAD is an acronym for Leadership, Empowerment, and Authentic Development.
The mission of LEAD Coalition of Bay County is to facilitate collaborative work toward increasing safety, building trust, and restoring neighborhoods in the City of Panama City and its surrounding areas. The LEAD Coalition of Bay County is a diverse, public-private partnership among a cross sector community organizations and agencies.
What are the Project Specifics?
Location: Project participants will meet weekly and at the LEAD Coalition’s Special Event unveiling the exhibit.
Timeline: September 2019 – November 2019
Point of Contact: The Project Manager will be a young adult affected by the Hurricane Michael housing crisis, and Ana Maria De La Rosa, Senior Grassroots Organizer for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee will facilitate the project.
What is the process for this Photo Voice project?
- Kickoff Meeting with UUSC facilitator
- Photography and Weekly Gatherings with the Project Manager
- Photo Selection and Narrative Polishing with UUSC facilitator
- Exhibit Preparation with all partners assisting
The Budget Narrative:
Dollars donated to this campaign will be used to print the photographs on canvas, and prepare them for display. Funds will also be used to prepare the exhibit itself, including preparing the QR codes to accompany the display and the recordings prepared by the students.
The cameras, stipend for the Project Manager from Bay County, and funding for the UUSC facilitator will be funded by UUSC.
LEAD Coalition will provide grant administration, event planning for the exhibit showcase, and coordination with the high school. The high school will provide the meeting space, and facilitate the identification of students to participate in the project.
Suggested Budget Spending:
Ana Maria De La Rosa Covered by UUSC
Project Manager Stipend Covered by UUSC
10 Cameras Covered by UUSC
Exhibit/QR Code Supplies $500
(To be covered by the UUJF Faithify Campaign)
50 Photos on Canvas $2,000
(To be covered by the UUJF Faithify Campaign)
Ana Maria De La Rosa Covered by UUSC
Grant Administration Covered by the LEAD Coalition
Exhibit/Gala Covered by the LEAD Coalition
“Building a Movement...
The “Building a Movement for a Green New Deal” conference is designed to spark conversation and action to bring about legislation which addresses the climate crisis and economic inequality. Hopefully after the 2020 election there will be an opportunity to enact powerful legislation which will move our country away from a carbon based systems and toward renewable energy while creating well paying jobs for all. This legislation can be found in House Resolution 109, known as “The Green New Deal”.
“Building a Movement for a Green New Deal” conference will provide the language and ideas for participants to build support for the Green New Deal and to bring this language back to their congregations and communities.
The conference begins September 15 at 11:15 a.m. after the Sunday service at All Souls Unitarian church in Washington D.C. Reverend Rob Keithan, the Justice minister at All Souls, will lead a program in grounding the efforts of “Building a Movement for a Green New Deal” in Unitarian Universalist values. This will be followed by a keynote panel discussion led by notable local Unitarian Universalist activists in the environmental movement. Following there will be a panel discussion of a coalition of UU organizations with UU’s Ministry for the Earth, UU’s for Social Justice and UU’s for a Just Economic Community discussing ways to work together toward a Green New Deal.
Partnering with UU’s for a Just Economic Community for the conference “Building a Movement for a Green New Deal” include: UU’s Ministry for the Earth, UU’s for Social Justice, All Souls Unitarian Church, UU Service Committee, UUA and Side with Love.
On September 16 after a light breakfast there will be presentations from experts and persons of influence speaking on the intersection of environmental and economic issues.
On September 17 at 8:30 am the conference participants will gather in the Capital Visitor’s Center to hear speakers, deliver letters to representative offices and speak with staff of the elected officials encouraging support for the Green New Deal.
Catalyze the UU Climate Justice Movement
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth is the primary fiscal sponsor of the Create Climate Justice initiative — deeply engaged in ongoing partnership with the Unitarian Universalist Association and UU organizations across the denomination to strengthen and grow UU Climate Justice ministries to the scale required in response to the existential crises of climate change.
This “Catalyze the Movement” fundraising campaign will support baseline operating expenses of UUMFE and the Create Climate Justice initiative (namely payroll for dedicated staff time) and scholarships for young UUs and UUs of the global majority to attend important retreats and convergences over the next 3 months.
More about the upcoming convergences that this campaign will support:
August 4-9th – the “Climate Justice: Extending our Reach” program at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center in Highlands, NC will be an imporant time for in-depth learning and relationship building for the UU climate justice movement. Funds donated to this campaign will support 3-5 UUs of color and young UUs to attend this program.
August 22-26th – the InterNātional Initiative for Transformative Collaboration grassroots gathering “For Generations to Come” will be an inter-cultural, inter-faith convergence for peoples of all Nations – friends, allies, & relatives in the Sacred Black Hills (Paha Sapa). This gathering is an effort manifesting through years of relationship building and collaboration between UUs, Indigenous frontline community members, and partners, based upon an invitation into partnership that emerged at the Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin Camp. This will be a transformative and invaluable experience; funds donated will support UU partnership and participation in this effort.
September 15-17 – a strong UU coalition is hosting a program in Washington, DC focused on the Green New Deal and its underlying goals of creating economic justice and climate justice. A Green New Deal would create a necessary pathway for a Just Transition to an ecological civilization
The event will include worship, workshops, a keynote speaker, and an advocacy day on Capitol Hill. Hosting coalition partners include UUs for Just Economic Community, UUs for Social Justice, UU Ministry for Earth, UU Service Committee, All Souls Church Unitarian – D.C., and the UUA. Funds raised will support UUs of color and young UUs to be part of this program. (Photo Credit – Grist – Amelia Bates)
This campaign is also the online-component to a fundraising and speaking tour that UU Ministry for Earth is currently embarking on throughout Oregon and Washington:
UUMFE will be speaking at seven congregations throughout Oregon and Washington, leading up to the 2019 General Assembly in Spokane, to inspire and fortify the UU Climate Justice Movement and elevate the voice of the 11-year-old UU plaintiff to the historic Juliana v US constitutional climate lawsuit, Levi Draheim. UUMFE Program Director Aly Tharp, and “valve turner” Board Member Leonard Higgins will also be featured speakers and facilitators throughout the tour.
Numerous tour stops will include eco art builds to create beautiful and inspiring art pieces for the Procession of the Species event that UUMFE will host at the Spokane Convention Center & Riverfront Park on Thursday, June 20th at 5:30 pm.
The tour stops are:
- June 6th, First Unitarian Church, Portland, OR, 6:30 – 9 pm (doors at 6 pm) – vegan potluck begins at 6:30 and presentation begins at 7:30 pm
- June 9th, UU Church in Eugene, OR, 10 am worship service, 11:30 am after-church potluck, 12-12:45 presentation, 12:45-3 pm art build with eco-muralist Esteban Camacho-Steffensen, multi-media artist Patti Warner, and UUMFE Program Director Aly Tharp.
- June 10th, UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR – 6:30 potluck and 7:30 presentation
- June 14th, Bellingham UU Fellowship, Bellingham, WA, 6:30 potluck and 7:30 presentation
- June 15th, East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellvue, WA, 11 am – 12:30 pm potluck and presentation, followed by a carpool/caravan to the Lummi Totem Pole Journey event in Seattle at 1 pm
- June 16th, University Unitarian Church, Seattle WA, 10 am worship service, 11:30-12:30 pm presentation
- June 16th, Woodinville UU Church, 3-4:30 eco-art build, 4:30 – 6 pm presentation, 6-7 pm potluck
Please help make this tremendous June fundraising effort a smashing success! Our planet and our hearts are calling for a strong, spiritually grounded transformative movement for Climate Justice. Only together and only with financial backing to manifest this vision can we make this happen. $10K is the baseline goal for this campaign — our stretch goal is $30K! Thank you for your support.
Climate Impact & Environmental Inequity: Toward Justice for All
This assembly will promote dialogue among Environmental Justice Leaders, and with people of faith and conscience in order to foster relationships, catalyze collaborative efforts, and increase civic engagement.
We would like to provide scholarships to community leaders, who are fighting to get their neighbors organized to protect health and safety on the frontlines of climate change in the state of Florida; where existing inequities in infrastructure investment and disaster response compound chronic environmental health challenges posed by proximity to traffic and industrial waste in low income communities of color. After last year’s Assembly, FL-iCAN! decided to return to Parramore this year, to provide tours during the Assembly, to take up climate equity, and to involve leaders from Florida Environmental Justice communities on the frontlines of Climate Change in the design of the 2019 Assembly.
UUJF and the other affiliates of FL-iCAN! value the participation of the EJ leaders in the design of the assembly. The EJ Leaders have completed a survey regarding what programming would be meaningful for them. Lawanna Gelzer, the community leader from Parramore who will be coordinating the tours, has been serving on the Steering Committee Circle this year, and participating in program design. Programming will include: story and best practice sharing, tours of the Parramore neighborhood, communication skill-building, and time for praise and celebration of what’s been accomplished.
Here are some of the environmental justice leaders we would like to provide scholarships so they can attend:
Eric Bason is a resident of Shorecrest, Miami, which sits on some of the lowest lying land in Miami. He participated as a community leader in a UUJF Rising Together project in 2017 that addressed tidal flooding, and the public health effects of climate change in his neighborhood. He is currently providing leadership for his community in the Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative to increase resilience and hurricane preparedness, and to advocate for infrastructure upgrades.
Lawanna Gelzer is the founder of the Community Empowerment Project in Parramore, Orlando, a historically black community surrounded by highways, with two Superfund sites that have released volatile organic compounds and petroleum by products into the environment. Orlando has also created an Economic Opportunity Zone that is also a Brownfield area. This provides incentives for remediation of the toxins, and requires redevelopment after remediation. The Brownfield policy has fueled aggressive gentrification and displacement, and provides no funding for residents to test for toxins on their property. Lawanna’s non-profit, The Community Empowerment Project, educates residents about the environmental toxins, has advocated for a community health disparities study, and opened dialogue with the city about moving the dumpster storage site away from homes, where residents complain of rodents.
Crystal Johnson is the founder of Community Forum Foundation, Inc., a non-profit in Dunbar, Ft. Myers that supports programs that help children and families living in underserved areas, and empowers the community through education and collective collaborations. In addition to their work on improving communication between parents and schools; promoting dialogue among the faith community, the police and the community; and promoting wellness, the Foundation is taking on hurricane preparedness to address the inequities in disaster response experienced after Hurricane Irma.
Janice Lucas is a civic leader in Panama City in Bay County, which is still in a critical phase of recovery from Hurricane Michael. In her position as After School Program Director of the LEAD Coalition of Bay County, Janice has seen the effects of Hurricane Michael on her community, and especially on families with children. She is currently working with a church to create a micro enterprise loan fund to offer startup business loans that have training or education as a requirement.
Kina Green-Phillips lives in South Bay, Florida, where she has started Her Queendom Ministry to teach girls and women about how to protect their health and the health of their families. A big part of that is learning the truth about the “black snow”: ash that falls from the sky when the sugar companies burn the fields. Kirin is providing leadership for her community in a Sierra Club effort to get Green Harvesting rather than sugar cane burning due to its effects on the health of residents and their quality of life.
Here is the portion of the Assembly Budget devoted to Scholarships for Environmental Justice Leaders:
Environmental Justice Expenses
|Van for Parramore Tours|
|Scholarships (EJ Community Guests: 8 Traveling Guests/Spokespersons + 17 Parramore residents)||25||$60||$1,500|
|Guest/Spokespersons||Quantity||Attendees||Tax & Surcharge||Unit Cost||Line Item Total||Category Total|
|Food not covered by Assembly fee||4||8||$1||$15||$480.90|
|Total EJ Expenses||$3,799|