Self-Development of People in New York
By Oscar Heyward
I became involved with Self-Development of People in the late eighties. At the time I was a consultant with a group that had applied for a SDOP grant and when SDOP conducted a site visit with the group, I attended it. At the conclusion of the meeting the chair of the local Self-Development of People Committee asked me if I would like to consider serving on the National SDOP Committee. After thinking about it I agreed to accept a nomination and was approved by the General Assembly Council Nominating Committee. I served for two three year terms with my last year being 1995. My current term came about when a minister who is very active within the Synod of the Northeast called and asked me whether I would consider serving on the Self-Development of People Committee. When the request was made I thought it was for the local SDOP Committee but he immediately stated that it was for the National SDOP Committee. I accepted and started my second tour with SDOP in July of 2008.
To the person unfamiliar with the ministry of SDOP, this is a ministry that gives grants to groups to provide help to themselves. It is not a ministry to do for others but rather one in which the recipient group is the owner of the project, makes the decisions for the project and receives direct benefits from the project.
Serving on the National Committee gives me an opportunity to meet individuals from various backgrounds and parts of the country. Also by serving on the National Committee, I get an opportunity to read and learn about the other types of projects being submitted for funding to the three remaining regional Task Forces and by doing so determine what the concerns of others in the other parts of the country are. Being a member of the Northeast Task Force has given me the opportunity to travel to various parts of the Northeastern United States, to observe the areas where the applications are coming from and to meet the group’s decision makers when I conduct a site visit with the group. The team work of the Task Force members is very congenial and competitive.
The SDOP project that has especially touched me was the Philadelphia Security Project in which the group challenged the management of contractors of government contracts to provide better pay, benefits and working conditions. I was impressed with how those in attendance during a site visit were very expressive in discussing the goal they plan to attain. Every member in attendance had devoted a lot of off time to picket the locations that were in question. In a word dedication. Subsequent to being granted $20,000.00, the group accomplished many of the things that they wanted such as paid vacation and sick leave, competitive pay and better working conditions. Beyond that they are always ready to tell how SDOP was instrumental in helping them accomplish their goals.
Serving on a SDOP National Committee involves commitment and team work. Also this is a committee whose work does not end at Task Force and national meetings; it involves a commitment of around 30-40 days per year.
Serving on the Self-Development of People National Committee has impacted me in many ways. The most significant way is being able to work with other committee members on various sub committees of the National Committee. Being on those subcommittees has given me the opportunity to use skills that will make the national organization function better especially while serving on the newly formed finance committee. The National Committee has also given me a better understanding of how to do mission work and help those who are less fortunate than me.
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.
Oscar Heyward is the Chairperson for the Northeast Task Force for the National Self-Development of People Committee. He also serves on the Finance Committee, the Personnel Committee and the Vision and Strategy Phase II Committee. Oscar is an Elder at Dunton Presbyterian Church in South Ozone Park, N.Y. He resides in Howard Beach, NY.