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TMC Seminar (Online): “Side By Side: Towards a Spirituality of Accompaniment” with Jennie Weiss Block, OP
Dr. Jennie Weiss Block, OP is a Dominican laywoman and a practical theologian. She has served as chief advisor to Dr. Paul Farmer since 2009 and was his chief of staff in his role as United Nations Deputy Special Envoy under President Bill Clinton. In her current role as chief advisor, she provides strategic guidance in policy analysis and development, humanitarian disaster management, disability rights, foreign aid effectiveness, poverty reduction and global health equity, and serves as liaison with international NGOs, foundations and philanthropists. In 2012, she established and now directs Dr. Farmer’s Aid Delivery Support Initiative (ADSI) in New York where she focuses on policy and advocacy to improve international aid effectiveness aimed at improving life for the billion poorest people in the world. Her projects include advocating for the implementation of an “accompaniment model” in aid delivery which redirects resource allocation to local governments and the poor, and tracking data on aid delivery and resulting outcomes.
Working closely with Dr. Farmer, Dr. Block assisted in the relief and recovery efforts in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, including the founding of Zanmi Beni, a residential home for displaced and orphaned children. She oversaw the publication of two of Dr. Farmer’s most recent books: Haiti After the Earthquake (in which she authored a chapter), and To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation. She is the co-editor of In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez. Her book, published in 2018 in Liturgical Press’ People of God series entitled Paul Farmer: Servant to the Poor was the recipient of a Catholic Press Association Award. Her most recent book, For the Salvation of Souls: Preaching in the Dominican Tradition was December of 2021.
Dr. Block was a consultant to disability and not-for-profit organizations for twenty years specializing in organizational development and project management, advocacy, strategic planning, policy development, board governance, and grant writing. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, she was actively involved in the deinstitutionalization and community inclusion movements, and is the author of Project Neighborhood, a publication on community living for people with disabilities. Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, she worked with the Florida Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to develop and implement a comprehensive, statewide disaster preparedness training program for people with disabilities, service providers, and policy makers. Dr. Block was the founding director of the Center for Dominican Studies at Barry University, and served as a consultant to the Provincial of the Southern Dominican Province overseeing a financial and fundraising reorganization of the Province. In 2005, she led the Province disaster relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, she has served as Senior Advisor to the President of Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dr. Block has a MBA, an M.A. in Theology, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Barry University. She is the author of Copious Hosting: A Theology of Access for People with Disabilities that is widely considered to be a seminal text in the development of a theology of disability. She has lectured widely on a variety of topics including disability, spirituality, lay formation, Christian hospitality, social justice, and Dominican life. Dr. Block lives in Miami and New York. She has three fine children and four adorable grandchildren.