Self-Development of People in Belize
By Margaret Mwale
Selma Jackson is a member of the International Task Force for the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People National Committee (2010 to present). Here, Selma shares on her introduction to SDOP and experiences during her recent visit to Belize with other members of the International Task Force earlier this year. Selma also serves as Chairperson of the Community Relations Committee, a Standing Committee of the Self-Development of People National Committee. Selma resides in Brooklyn, New York.
How did you become involved with Self-Development of People and why did you decide to become a part of the National SDOP Committee?
In April 2007 I was invited to attend a community workshop (information session on Self-Development of People) in Brooklyn, New York. I listened to Cynthia White explain the work of SDOP and was reminded of similar work I had done in the 1970s when I worked as a Street Banker with Chemical Bank. In that role, I was responsible for identifying community organizations that needed financial or technical assistance to make their programs viable. Some of the program issues I dealt with in particular focused on health and childcare. I found the Self-Development of People stories exciting and immediately thought I'd like to do this again. Following the workshop, I asked my Pastor if he would write a recommendation letter to accompany my application to serve on the Self-Development of People National Committee.
What would you say to the person that may ask why SDOP is engaged in international partnerships when there are a lot of people in the United States that are poor, oppressed or disadvantaged?
We are charged to assist poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people wherever they may be. The SDOP ministry works both in and outside the United States and I applaud SDOP for having the vision to address oppression globally.
For the person unfamiliar with the ministry of SDOP outside the US, share one thing from your perspective that you think is important and you wish that person to know.
I want them to know that Self-Development of People as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministry is concerned about all people and you do not have to be Presbyterian to be in partnership with SDOP. Another unique aspect of the SDOP ministry is each group identifies its own improvements, we provide support to realize the goal.
What does serving on the International Task Force mean to you?
It gives me a sense of humbleness to go and see people and to be able to give a helping hand that will make such a huge difference to them. Sometimes in the United States we take things for granted, things that may not mean a lot to us in the United States make a significant impact in the lives of other people. For example, our work in the Dominican Republic bringing water to communities and serving over 8,000 residents.
Is there something in particular about the trip to Belize that especially touched you and why?
I was touched by the graciousness and determination in the efforts that different organizations were making to improve their lives. The one that really got me was the Sandy Beach women who are working to bring a hotel back to life that was originally opened in 1960. The energy, fortitude and determination to bring the hotel back to life after two fires is an inspiration. They have two cabanas (a cabana is a cabin/hut) that they rent and they cater from the dining room using the income to further the development of the hotel. It took me back to my business fire in 1996 and I understood the determination in that moment.
What advice would you have for someone interested in serving on the International Task Force?
You have got to be energetic! Serving on the International Task Force is hard work because you are traveling in rural communities. One must be open to cultural differences both on our National committee as well as when we visit community organizations, being ever mindful that we all want to be treated with respect. Most of all listen to learn.
What do you think someone interested in serving on the SDOP National Committee (and not necessarily on the International Task Force) needs to know?
It requires a commitment of time and talent. The description says there are approximately 20 days of travel per year, which includes National Committee, Regional Task Force and Standing Committee. There is also the possibility of being on the International Committee, or one of the Standing Committees (for example, Community Relations or Church-wide Relations Committee), and each task force assigns members to do site visits in their regions. Even though serving on SDOP is a big commitment, the plus side is the joy one receives from serving the many disadvantaged communities and knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people the world over!
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.
Margaret Mwale is associate for community relations with 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.