The Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association

UUSC: A Proud History
By Susanne Skubik Intriligator
Sidebar to Valora Washington and the UUSC: A Lifetime of Service

January/February 2000

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Valora Washington takes charge of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) during this, its 60th year.  To mark the anniversary,  UUSC is celebrating these historical landmarks: 

On leave from the Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, church, the Rev. Waitsill Sharp and his wife, Martha, travel to Czechoslovakia to help refugees escape Nazi persecution.

Inspired both by the Sharps’ trip and by the success of the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee, the board of directors of the American Unitarian Association considers establishing a Unitarian Service Committee. At 1940’s May meeting, AUA members vote to create the new group, as a standing committee of the association.

Martha Sharp arranges for 29 children and 10 adults, refugees from Nazi-occupied countries, to set sail for the US. They escape internment under the Vichy French government, which later deports hundreds of thousands to Nazi death camps.

The Unitarian Service Committee offices in Lisbon, Marseilles, Geneva, and Paris provide refugee assistance, including medical care, clothing, and other services.

The Universalist Service Committee is established.

The Unitarian Service Committee sends medical missions to Poland and Czechoslovakia to help update medical practices, and the Universalist Service Committee sends food and clothing to the Netherlands.

Separating from the AUA, the Unitarian Service Committee becomes an independent organization.

The Universalist Service Committee runs volunteer service projects in US state hospitals.

The Unitarian Service Committee helps the Navajo Community Center of Gallup, New Mexico, to offer social services and education. It also helps establish a social work education program in South Korea.

With funding from the Unitarian Service Committee, the Columbia Heights Boys Club in Washington, DC, offers desegregated classes, social services, and recreational activities. USC also funds and supports an innovative teacher training program in Cambodia that focuses on teaching Cambodian, instead of European, history and culture.

In collaboration with the Unitarian Service Committee, a Nigerian economist founds a development project that results in new roads, a water system, housing, a grammar school, a hospital, a post office and 15 clinics.

The Universalist Service Committee provides flood relief in the Philippines. The Unitarian Service Committee aids a hospital in Peru and works for desegregation in Atlanta and in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Unitarian and Universalist Service Committees merge to form the UUSC.

UUSC offers maternal and child healthcare, as well as family planning, in Haiti, and it begins a community development project with the Passamaquoddy Indians in Princeton, Maine.

 The UUSC funds the start of a community health program in Togo. It supports the efforts of both the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and El Centro Chicano in Houston, Texas, which offer legal, educational, and community services.

UUSC helps Salvadoran clergy publish Justicia y Paz (Justice and Peace), a newsletter encouraging self-help and literacy among poor Salvadorans.

Two UUSC officials make a fact-finding tour to El Salvador and testify before the House International Relations Committee.

UUSC sponsors a congressional fact-finding mission to El Salvador.

UUSC organizes the first Central American Encuentro, a meeting of rural community organizers from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, who exchange information on economic, political, and social issues and create a regional support network.

The famine in Ethiopia spurs UUSC to appeal for emergency funds long before US television crews pick up the story. The group raises $250,000 for hunger relief in Africa.

UUSC begins sponsoring rural health clinics in Jinotega and Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

With UUSC help, the Olympic Garden Skills Training Center in Jamaica opens a medical clinic in an impoverished neighborhood.

UUSC launches Promise the Children, a 10-year advocacy effort. It trains UU activists to organize within their communities and to lobby legislators about the needs of children, especially poor children.

UUSC project partners from 10 countries on four continents gather in Senegal for a UUSC-sponsored Institute on Leadership Development and Sustainability for Grass-Roots Organizations.

After organizing 20 congressional delegations to El Salvador, UUSC celebrates the signing of peace accords that end the 10-year civil war. It also responds to the Los Angeles riots by establishing an Urban Emergency Fund.

Two UUSC leaders serve as election monitors for the referendum on Eritrean independence. The committee sponsors a citizens’ delegation to Central America to strengthen partners’ self-help projects. 

UUSC sponsors delegations to the Philippines to investigate the toxic contamination left by US military bases; it insists that the US government clean up the sites. UUSC also establishes Just Works, a program that supports community organizations with both technical training and the help of UU volunteers.

UUSC supports indigenous groups in Chiapas, Mexico, seeking civil and political justice, and it sends a delegation of opinion leaders there to investigate the human rights situation. It also funds grass-roots reconciliation initiatives in Rwanda and Burundi, and undertakes the Welfare and Human Rights Monitoring Project in Massachusetts to document human rights violations caused by welfare reform.

UUSC gets US Treasury Department license to give direct financial and technical assistance to Cuban partners, expands the Welfare and Human Rights Monitoring Project to five states, and begins a work camp program whereby UU volunteers help renovate buildings on an Indian reservation and learn to organize to improve conditions for Native Americans.

UUSC releases a national Welfare and Human Rights Monitoring Project report and a separate report for each state included in the project.

 In response to the crisis in Kosovo, UUSC distributes nearly $400,000 to partners in the region for general relief efforts and programs targeted at women and children refugees.

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