Social Justice News

Cuba Service-Learning Program

Nine members of Portland First Unitarian church helped launch the Global Service Corps Cuba Buenos Vecinos “Good Neighbors” Service-Learning Program January 2 – 16. Included in the group were Cuba-UUPortland coordinators Henry Schwarz and Susan Rinker, along with Global Service Corps (GSC) Founders and Directors, Rick and Maxine Lathrop.  After a week of cultural and project orientation in Havana, the group travelled to Matanzas, the home of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria), Rumba and the University of Matanzas.  We were welcomed by the University of Matanzas Vice President and faculty of the university English department, and began work with department staff and senior students on the development of a curriculum to teach conversational English to Cuban university students.

This two-week pilot project’s goal was to further develop and test the GSC conversational English teaching approach that has been utilized in Cambodia and Thailand since 1995.  Our group was warmly welcomed by all Cubans we met and especially the University of Matanzas English department staff.  The timing for the launch of this program was very fortunate, since the Ministry of Education recently announced that all university students would need to be proficient in English before they could graduate. 

GSC is continuing to develop this program and has plans in the near future to add service-learning components focusing on sustainable agriculture and public health.  Service-learning trips are scheduled to begin each month of the year, ranging from two week introductory programs up to six month full immersion programs. GSC is pleased to be collaborating with Cuba-UUPortland by offering UU members and other service oriented participants this opportunity to play a vital part in improving understanding and relationships between the US and Cuban people.  The following recent announcement from Reverends Bill Sinkford and Kate Lore outlined this Expansion of First Unitarian Engagement with Cuba:

We would like to inform the First Unitarian community of some recent decisions by the Social Justice Council, the host organization of Cuba AyUUda. The Council has approved a new and expanded mission for our work to support Cuba-US improving relations and to more fully embody the Unitarian Universalist values of mutual understanding, appreciation of diversity, and service to one another.

Our Cuba activities are taking on a new look and will focus on facilitating and supporting cultural appreciation and US-Cuban friendships through music, service and travel. To represent this new focus, we are changing the name of this group from Cuba AyUUda to Cuba-UU Portland. Therefore, Cuba AyUUda is no longer associated with First Unitarian and is being decommissioned. As initial projects, we will support a new Cuban music academy in Havana and host the outstanding Solfa Cuban youth Choir to come to Portland. These projects are co-directed by Henry Schwarz and Susan Rinker, Chair and Vice Chair of Cuba-UUPortland, members of First Unitarian church.

In regard to travel, Cuba-UU Portland is now collaborating with Global Service Corps (GSC), a non-profit organization founded and directed by First Unitarian Portland members Rick and Maxine Lathrop. GSC has been providing international service-learning programs for 22 years in five countries and is now developing a service-learning program in Cuba. We expect this program to begin in early 2016. There will be several service-learning travel opportunities to choose from ranging from two weeks to three months. For students, academic credit will be possible. The mission of the GSC Cuba service-learning program is fully supported by 1st Unitarian Portland.

We will keep you informed about the Cuba-UU Portland music activities and the GSC service-learning travel opportunities as they develop. We have a new website currently under construction. It is live, though, so check it out! It includes more information about Global Service Corps     

In Service,

Rev. Kate Lore, Minister of Social Justice

Rev. William Sinkford, Senior Minister


To learn more, visit the Cuba information table in Fuller Hall or go to


Human Rights Delegation to the Arizona Mexican Borderlands

Wall visitBy Wendy Rankin
We were shocked, we were saddened and we are compelled to tell others about the violation of human rights perpetrated by our government. The economic and political systems of the global north have systematically undermined the livelihoods and survival of the most vulnerable of our neighbors to the south. 
We were members of a human rights delegation to the border with Mexico last month through the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice coordinated with Tucson-based BorderLinks
Our delegation of eleven was led through five days of exposure to the unique and harrowing culture of the US/Mexican borderlands. 
Several of us in the UUSC local action group have supported Francisco Aguirre and his family who spent three months in sanctuary at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland last fall. We also participate in the activities of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice.
Through the delegation experience we learned the impact and role of labor history and policies such as NAFTA on the plight of many Mexican and Central American communities. At the border we saw firsthand the incredible militarization of that strip of land. There was the imposing wall, the six hundred border patrol staff in the Tucson sector, the vehicles, the drones, the lights, the cameras, and the sensors. We are apparently at war.  
We learned though our conversations with Frontera de Cristo and No More Deaths that the people crossing the border are classified as criminals.  Through the use of checkpoints even the desert is used as a “lethal” deterrent.  The very landscape is a weapon.  Desert backpack
Our government has criminalized migrants. We witnessed this as our group attended “Operation Streamline” in the Tucson Federal Courthouse where we observed fifty-five shackled individuals take plea bargains and be sentenced to between 30 and 180 days apiece to private corporate-run prisons before being deported. These private corporations contract with our government who simultaneously pays for the border patrol agents who assure that there are people to imprison.
Miriam and women of DouglaPrieta farmWe witnessed some amazing resistance to the dehumanization of the border. We went to an organization in Agua Prieta where women who were formerly involved in the miserable maquiladora factories, are growing permaculture gardens, learning to feed their children healthy foods and gaining leadership skills. We met Shura Wallin, a retired Californian who goes out into the desert with the Green Valley Samaritans to provide water and support to the men, women and children who daily cross over into the harsh Sonoran desert. In Arivaca we heard about the desert clinic and support systems coordinated by No More Deaths. And in Tucson we met Rosa and her supporters at Southside Presbyterian who has persevered in sanctuary there for over fifteen months.
You can become involved. Take action. Join the UUSC Action Group; attend an Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice meeting and find ways to support our immigrant sisters and brothers. Come talk to those of us who participated in the journey: Wendy Rankin, Kim Duncan, Helena Lee, Linda Craig, Harriet Denison, Roxanne Malter, Maxine Fookson, and Ann Zawaski Come for a presentation by one of the humanitarian aid workers of No More Deaths on November 30, 6:30 PM at First Unitarian.
                                                                     Wall visit long view


The Lummi Nation's 2015 Totem Pole Journey | "Our Shared responsibilities"

Each year for the past two years, tribal members, led by Master Carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers, have carved and transported totem poles thousands of miles to raise public awareness and strengthen opposition to the export of fossil fuels from the west coast of the United States and Canada. Working in close association with other tribal governments, environmental organizations and the Unitarian Universalist Association, these efforts have helped shape the public debate and understanding of what is at risk with the proposed fossil fuel exports.  These journeys have reached millions of people through the mainstream and social media.
The 2015 journey (August 21-August 31) comes at a defining moment in our collective effort to defeat these fossil fuel export proposals.  The Corps of Engineers will likely decide in mid-to-late August whether or not it will agree with the Lummi Nation and deny all permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project.  Meanwhile, the project proponents are engaged in a public relations campaign to sway public opinion married to efforts to influence the Corps through elected officials in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and  Washington, D.C.  The 2015 journey will play an important role uniting opposition to the fossil fuel export projects, empower the general public with information, send a strong and united message to agencies and elected officials, and strengthen local, regional, and national networks and alliances.
The Lummi will  be stopping in major urban areas (Spokane and Portland) and are planning for events at tribal centers in British Columbia, Bellingham, Seattle Area (Tulalip), Longview, Celilo Falls, Yakama, and Blackfeet -- there to stand in solidarity with the Blackfeet in their opposition to accelerated hydrological fracking and oil leasing in the northern range of the Rocky Mountains. The journey is scheduled to end in the territory of the Northern Cheyenne whose sacred lands would be devastated by the proposed coal mine. 
On August 24, these Lummi tribal leaders will make a stop at Portland's Holladay Park en route to Celilo Falls.  Not only can you come down to the park to bear witness to this sacred journey, you can help their campaign by donating to the Unitarian Universalist Faithfy account set up on their behalf. No amount is too small. For more information, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, Lummi Nation.


More Articles...