Haiti Parish Twinning Emphasizes Solidarity

Early on a recent Saturday morning, 30 committed, enthusiastic folks from 14 parishes and organizations across the archdiocese of Atlanta sipped coffee from a Haitian coffee cooperative and shared anecdotes about their various sister partnerships with parishes in Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, CRS, together with Catholic Charities Atlanta, offered a day-long seminar on the principles of solidarity-based partnership.

The range of experience in the room was vast, from those who had been twinning for thirty years, to those just thinking about starting up a partnership. This was my second workshop experience; the first preceded my third trip to Haiti. It was a complete paradigm shift for me. I went from wanting to do for, to wanting to be with, my brothers and sisters in Haiti.

The workshop emphasized global solidarity and other Catholic social justice teachings. We learned how to apply these principles concretely, not just theoretically. That requires an honest look at oneself. It is not a matter of an affluent parish giving to an impoverished parish. As one participant said, “we have to recognize our own poverty.” Then we can become the receiver as well as the giver, and our sister parishes have much to give.

The principle of solidarity that we were learning to continue to apply to our partnerships seemed to resonate with the workshop participants. We shared ideas, challenges, hopes, realities, and solutions. Many felt that they needed to rethink their twinning relationships. We felt invigorated and wanted to share what we had learned with our committee members to make our partnerships truly mutual. After all we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, but they are also ours.

Submitted by Anne Alexander, parishioner and member of Saint Brendan the Navigator Catholic parish twinning committee, Cuming, Georgia.

Read more on Haiti parish twinning here.

Even before the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Catholic Relief Services was well aware of the hundreds of U.S. parishes “twinned” with parishes in Haiti. Members of these parishes know the grace of a solidarity-based relationship forged through partnership. CRS recognizes twinned parishes for their commitment to Haiti and the ongoing support they convey through prayers, donations and exchanges with their sister parishes in Haiti. However, CRS has not been involved in the formation of parish twinning relationships and at this time does not have the resources to initiate new parish partnerships. For more information, please visit our Parish Solidarity site.

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One Response to “Haiti Parish Twinning Emphasizes Solidarity”

  1. jim de quattro Says:

    Twinning can help. But the risk of perpetuating dependency–rather than empowering people to control their own destiny–is an unfortunate legacy of the history of charitable activity in places such as Haiti.

    In other words, only Haitians can save Haiti.

    At my parish, St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring, Md., relationships of solidarity formed with Haitians in our twinning program led to parishioners creating an independent organization, Just Haiti. Just Haiti is encouraging sustainable economic development by empowering subsistence farmers in the region of SJB’s twinned Haitian parish, St. Pierre, in Baradères, Haiti.

    Just Haiti is a 501c3 public charity that uses a fair-trade-plus business model to help the farmers create and manage their own business rather than perpetuate dependency. Just Haiti imports coffee from Baradères, and roasts and sells it locally in the DC and Chicago areas, as well as online.

    Coffee is a high-value cash crop, and this coffee is shade grown, organic Arabica. Before 2008, the coffee farmers’ market was all local or subject to the low-price whims of speculators.

    Fair-trade-plus means growers receive the full fair-trade price for their green coffee beans. PLUS, the growers’ association receives ALL proceeds from sales. This kind of model can and is being applied in other communities in Haiti and elsewhere.

    You can purchase Kafe Lespwa (“coffee of hope”) at http://www.justhaiti.org/buycoffee.htm.

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