Over the past 45 years, The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People has reached out to communities around the world, helping them become self-sustainable. Whether it was providing access to clean water in El Salvador or supporting those impacted by the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone, SDOP and its network of partners and volunteers have made an impact on people and their livelihood.
CREAS is an ecumenical fund created in Argentina to strengthen the capacity of the church in Latin America as well as church related and grassroots organizations. Its purpose is to promote human dignity, justice and peace. Since 2001, SDOP has contributed more than $290,000 through CREAS to assist oppressed and disadvantaged communities. Violence, high unemployment and a weak education system have impacted thousands living in the region.
“The partnership between CREAS and SDOP has been one of mutual growth and common learning. We have learned about each other in terms of our cultural context and respect and love for each other,” said Humberto Shikiya, CREAS’ founding director. “What I value the most from our partnership is trust, transparency and fellowship. The most important value is the empowerment of oppressed people and our inspiration is the love of God.”
Cecilia Moran has served with international and domestic SDOP task forces. She recalls visiting the Dominican Republic to see the impact of SDOP-funded projects.
“We would travel two or three hours to visit with groups including many women-led revolving loan fund cooperatives,” said Moran. “They told us that 99 percent of their loans were always paid back. They ran a tight ship, were well organized and knew what they were doing to maintain their cooperative.”
Through the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering, SDOP, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Presbyterian Hunger Program have assisted Sierra Leone and Liberia as they continue the road to recovery after last year’s Ebola outbreak. The West Africa Initiative grew out of a collaboration in 2007 following years of civil war in the region. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) also joined the effort.
One of the West Africa Initiative’s goals is to improve food security and the economic status of communities by helping them become self-sustainable. As the Ebola crisis continued and the two countries’ economies took major hits, communities provided for residents through self-reliant food production.
“With heavy hearts we watched the Ebola crisis consume the region,” said Cynthia White, coordinator of the SDOP ministry. “In the midst of our sadness, we saw our partners maintain hope as they were able to feed their families and maintain a degree of economic sufficiency.”
Both Moran and White agree the international communities they serve recognize the importance of working together. Not only has SDOP been a part of communities receiving a new sense of hope, says White, but the efforts impact churches as well.
“It transforms churches, when they reach out to people around the corner from them that are dealing with deplorable housing, where residents can’t afford to heat their homes or pay for basic necessities,” she said. “Through these projects, the churches have had new opportunities to work with neighborhoods in their area in need.”
Since 1970, SDOP has awarded more than $100 million to communities in 67 countries. An estimated 5,600 projects have received grant support from SDOP.
For more information on SDOP, go to the Self-Development of People web page. You can also support projects by giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing.