“Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 29(1)
UNCA alumna and Oregon Law School graduate Amber Munger captivated Asheville after the Jan. 12 earthquake, when her plea-for-help ran on the front page of the Asheville Citizen-Times. Now, Munger has founded her own nonprofit, the Article 29 Organization, working with Haitian peasantry in Commune Anse Rouge, five hours north of Haiti’s capital.
“For me, human rights is about the significance of an individual in the community; about them feeling empowered, feeling like they belong; like their gifts are recognized in the service of others,” Munger explains.
The Article 29 Organization seeks to facilitate people from the United States, bringing them to Haiti and thereby creating both cultural and personal understandings. Munger says she’s hopeful Asheville will embrace this concept, coming to experience Haiti through her facilitation.
“When Americans look at Haiti, we say, ‘We wanna help! We wanna help!’” Munger says, “But until you realize what your own needs are, a lot of the ‘helping’ we do is really kind of superficial.”
Before effective service to others can occur, Munger argues, one must first understand their own needs and values as an individual within a community.
“Each of us has a gift,” she explains passionately. “In the United States, unlike in Haiti, there is so much suffering because we have so many gifts – like our personalities and our laughter, we are beautiful people with so much to offer, but our gifts aren’t valued because there is no dollar sign attached to them.”
Haiti is a place where people are more open to allowing these self-explorations to happen, she continues. Though riddled with economic poverty, Haiti has a lesson for the western world in eliminating what she calls “our spiritual poverty.”
“Once people come here and they start to understand more about themselves, then poor people stop looking like a pariah,” Munger says. “They stop looking like somebody who just needs to be helped, and we start to realize that we have something that needs to be nourished, too. We have a need and they have a need, then we can become partners.”
Article 29 Organization maintains ‘human rights’ are about choices, and allowing Haitians to make their own development decisions is a crucial part of international outreach.
“When you have choices, that’s when you rise above slavery. That’s when you become human,” Munger says.
Article 29 Organization is seeking support from the Asheville community for a number of projects, desired by the local Haitian peasantry, including a sustainable-built school, community toilets and infrastructure projects.
For information, e-mail Munger at email@example.com.