Living the Good News
By Cynthia White
Since 1970, the Self Development of People Committee (SDOP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been a partner in grass roots projects across the world that seeks to improve the lives of poor and under-served people. This ministry has flourished in times when economic development has often waned. Its mission has been, and continues to be, a God inspired work “toward the self development of economically poor, oppressed, and disadvantaged people, who own, control and benefit directly” from such projects. We celebrate and affirm the blessings of our shared ministry.
As situations in 1970 directed concerned people to launch the SDOP ministry, so situations in 2005 direct concerned people to examine the nature of that work and its methods. Declining funds available to the ministry require more imaginative and creative means of utilizing the funds. Spreading funds thinly across the world no longer seems effective or desirable. The time is right to become more focused and proactive in responding to the plight of economically challenged people.
It is our conviction that “we are challenged to live the Good News of Jesus Christ in community with people who are poor, oppressed and disadvantaged. We learn and grow through mutually sharing the meaning of the gospel and living it with these brothers and sisters” (from Gathering for God’s Future, adopted by the 215th General Assembly, p. 5). Our challenge is to “form relationships with people who are poor and learn from their communities and share resources in ways that truly make a difference and a witness” (Gathering…, p. 5).
- From the Mission Funding Strategy for the International Task Force, 2005
As we have lived into this strategy for the past five years our relationships with communities through intermediary partners have flourished. One such intermediary partnership is with the Development Promotion Group (DPG) in Chennai, India. In their report covering our partnership from the initial stage R. Bhakther Solomon, Executive Director of DPG, writes “by becoming members in self-help groups women have learned about saving, group work, and have been able to take small loans to meet their daily expenses. It is with the larger resources input received from Self-Development of People (SDOP) that they have been able to take up income generating opportunities that can secure their livelihoods in the future. Under the SDOP grant women have received money to set up small scale businesses relating to many fields like dairy, rearing milch animals, processing and marketing cashew nuts, production of thatch roofs and community milk cooperatives.” More than 500 families have benefited from SDOP’s investment of $150,000.00.
One such family is that of Mrs. Ramalakshmi. Mrs. Ramalakshmi is a member of the Maruthi Mahalir Sangam (MVKS) SHG along with 15 other women. Her husband is a daily wage laborer in local agricultural fields. They have two children who are studying in 8th and 10th standard. Mrs. Ramalakshmi obtained the loan from MVKS to purchase a healthy cow for rearing. She has earned Rs. 1750 per month as additional income through this enterprise. She sells the dung for additional income. She has spent the money on family medical expenses, school fees for the children and emergency expenses. Their socio-economic and health conditions have greatly improved.
This is just one of many examples of lives and families being changed because of SDOP’s conviction that “we are challenged to live the Good News of Jesus Christ in community with people who are poor, oppressed and disadvantaged.
Are you a member of a group of low-income persons working on issues of importance to you and your community, will working on these issues result in long-term positive change? Are you in need of financial assistance? Contact SDOP at (502) 569-5782 we would welcome talking with you and possibly hosting a community workshop in your area.
Cynthia White serves as coordinator for Self Development of People.
NOTE: We are not currently accepting applications from individual groups outside the United States. For more information, contact the SDOP staff.