Self-Development of People partnerships in Argentina
By Margaret Mwale
Humberto Shikiya is the founding director of CREAS (the “Ecumenical Fund for Support to Small Projects” which focuses on strengthening and nourishing grassroots initiatives). CREAS was founded 11 years ago by a small group of Christians in Argentina seeking the best way to strengthen the capacity of the church in Latin America as well as church related organizations and grassroots organizations and to promote human dignity, justice and peace. The relationship between Self-Development of People (SDOP) and CREAS dates back to 2001.CREAS is one of five SDOP intermediary partners. Through intermediary partners SDOP engages in partnerships with communities in different parts of the world. Through block grants from SDOP, the partners provide funds to groups of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged communities in their areas using the SDOP criteria. SDOP has provided more than $290,000 to CREAS since 2001. Humberto resides in Buenos, Aires, Argentina.
How did CREAS become involved with the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People?
Through the Latin American Regional Group of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Coordenadoria Ecumenica de Servico (CESE) or Ecumenical Service Coordination. When CREAS was founded it created a small project fund for the purpose of supporting grassroots groups in poor sectors especially women and youth groups. It is and was important that the fund be ecumenical in nature when it was established in 2001. CREAS realizes SDOP has a clear mission in how it relates to poor people; I think it is important that SDOP supports empowerment of poor people. Therefore we have similar beliefs about the dignity of people and the development of poor communities. SDOP and CREAS have a common understanding of the situation of poor people and their hopes and potential, we both believe in poor people.
What has CREAS’ involvement been as a part of the ecumenical movement in Latin America with particular focus on its interaction with the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America?
CREAS works in various areas and is involved in the ecumenical movement through various activities in Latin America. It has also worked with the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America and the Latin American and Caribbean Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. CREAS also has cooperation relationships with ecumenical networks supported by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
What is the mission of CREAS and what is it trying to accomplish?
The mission of CREAS is to empower people especially poor people and to expand the capacity building (potential) of different churches and church related organizations, ecumenical groups and grassroots groups, to promote human rights, political, civil and economic as well as cultural, social and environmental rights.
What are some of the major issues facing Argentina that CREAS is dealing with?
Violence, an unemployment rate of 15%, it is 30% amongst the youth and a poor educational system.
Talk about the Community Promotion Center Cacique Pincen project in William Morris, Buenos Aires that was awarded a SDOP grant a few years ago.
This project came to exist because women (in a part of William Morris) were unemployed and they had an idea of a small project. They felt it was necessary to increase their income for their families and that the project initially would enable them to buy equipment for production of bags. They then wanted to increase the production capacity and needed money to buy additional equipment in order to increase production of the bags. The result was that incomes increased and the project provided employment for women. At first it was 6 women, 9 women are currently involved. The project has empowered women in their home and given them their self dignity and their children have been able to go to school.
Could you tell me about the Urban Agriculture at the City Borders Project?
The institutional and economic crisis from 2002 to 2004 in Argentina resulted in hunger being a big problem. Many people living in the city became involved in family agriculture. At the beginning this type of project was a survival project because people had to resolve the problem of hunger and produced the product in order to eat it. Over time this project became an economic project meant to produce and sell the product. So the people became small farmers and organized a network that advocated for public policy to promote better conditions for urban sustainable agriculture. The network consists of 150 small farmers in one district of Buenos Airies called La Matanza. The project received a grant from SDOP through CREAS. Although it was a small grant, it made big changes in people’s lives and has had a positive economic impact through this grassroots group in this poor district.
So far has CREAS’ experience with Self-Development of People been what CREAS anticipated and if so how?
The experience of CREAS with SDOP has been a good relationship of mutual growth and common learning. We have leant about each other in terms of our cultural contexts. We respect and love each other. The visits of people from SDOP are key. When the people from SDOP visit CREAS and visit the grassroots groups, we are commonly inspired. You (SDOP) get to experience the change the empowerment is bringing about in the lives of the women and youth groups.
What do you value most about the relationship between CREAS and SDOP?
Three important things—trust, transparency and fellowship. We value the trust that we are building in our partnership, the transparency we are giving each other and the fellowship we are experiencing. The most important value is the empowerment of poor people that is common between CREAS and SDOP and I think our inspiration is the love of God.
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. E-mail.