International Funded Partners
Since 1970, the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People has been a partner in grassroots projects around the world that seek to improve the lives of poor and underserved people. Our 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.
As situations in 1970 directed concerned people to launch the SDOP ministry, so situations in 2006 directed concerned people to re-examine the nature of that work and its methods. Spreading funds thinly across the world no longer seemed effective. In 2006 SDOP determined it was time to become more focused and proactive in responding to the plight of people living in poverty. From 2006 to 2010 the ministry established long-term, committed and focused relationships with community groups in the Dominican Republic; during that same time, partnerships were establish with intermediary partners in different parts of the world who work directly with communities of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people. Using the SDOP criteria, they established partnerships in their region. In 2010 SDOP moved its focused funding from the Dominican Republic to Belize. An intermediary partnership was established in the Dominican Republic with CE-Mujer to continue the work of SDOP. In 2013 SDOP established an intermediary partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda.
Panama and other partnerships in Guatemala and Nicaragua
The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) National Committee has been working in Panama since 2017. SDOP has established several partnerships with economically poor grassroots groups in these years.
Panama is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, its metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country’s 4 million people. It is a country of contrasts and inequalities.
Fifty percent of the population in Panama is poor. The economic inequality between urban and rural areas is extraordinary. There is a huge contrast between the richest and poorest people. The wealth of the country is not well distributed.
At the beginning of 2019 three community groups were approved for funding by SDOP: Craft Art and Beauty, Group of Women of Value, S.A., and the Panamanian Women Center (CEMP). After a year of these funding, the three groups have made a significant impact on the group member’s life, even when their work was affected by COVID 19.
The Craft Art and Beauty project let staff know that they were able to continue working from home during the pandemic, producing traditional clothing and accessories.
The group of Women of Value were affected because they were not able to do more events because people were scared to order food without seeing the food preparation. Their next goal was to acquire a Food Truck to take their services to their clients and that they can see the preparation of food. At the same time allow people to see the group members are responsible for managing the new health parameters required by the Ministry of Health to avoid the spread of covid-19, the regulatory use of surgical-type hairnets, masks and gloves as well as disposable aprons. The group submitted a request for additional funds to buy a Food truck to allow them continuing with their services. The International Task Force approved their request.
The Panamanian Women’s Center has pivoted their work to virtual platforms and requested technical assistance funds to do so. The Taskforce approved the request.
After a visit on August 2019 to The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA) in Guatemala, the International Task Force approved to start the partnership with the group in Guatemala. For this moment on CEDEPCA was the SDOP Intermediary partner in Guatemala, they will use SDOP criteria to fund projects in Guatemala. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CEDEPCA requested that $25,000 of their annual $32,500 grant be allocated to COVID-19 response. The Taskforce approved the request.
At the end of 2019 the International Task Force were able to award a grant for an Indigenous group in Darien, Panama, located in a remote indigenous community, Women Committee at Villa Nueva and Water Council. The funds were for the construction of a rural aqueduct. A 1500-gallon cement tank-container for water will be built and connections will be made from the tank on several supply routes, providing each house with a spigot. There are 52 houses and a school. It is needed so that each house has access to clean water for human consumption.
The indigenous group in Darien, reported that after many logistical difficulties due to the pandemic, they were able to withdraw the funds in order to continue the work to install a water system in their remote rural community which is only accessible by motorized canoe.
In 2020, the International Task Force started a partnership with a youth group in Colon, Panama, the Colonense International Performing Arts Foundation (FAECI). The project works with youth who are street artists (performing at stoplights, often homeless and at-risk Afro-Panamanian youth) to provide stability, training, mentorship, support for those who may be addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, and a source of revenue via paid engagements. To provide sustainability into the future, they plan to launch a small bakery and café to sell baked goods and ice cream locally, create crafts from recycled materials for sale to tourists, launch a line of printed t-shirts and other clothing, and start a mobile kiosk for sales at events and festivals.
Later, the International Task Force met via Zoom with the Interchurch Center for Theological and Social Studies (CIEETS), located in Managua Nicaragua. CIETS have started to function as SDOP intermediary partner in Nicaragua. They will use SDOP criteria to fund projects in Nicaragua.
A farmer group in Panama, the United Producers of Valle San Miguel, has been recently approved for funding. The project is to purchase supplies, equipment, and plots of land to increase production plantain and a variety of vegetables to increase food security for the people involved in the project, and to generate income to sustain production in the long-term.
A Women group that was visited by SDOP team in 2019, the Chilibre women’s training center, Gonzalillo Community Organization and Women’s Meeting Space that includes women’s groups from San Miguelito, December 24, and Calidonia, has recently submitted their project for consideration.
Other potential partners from Panama are working with SDOP to submit proposals, including other Indigenous group who are interested to install a water system in their remote village.
The partnership in Panama is benefiting underserved communities and supporting and sharing the empowerment of poor people in rural and urban areas in Panama.
In 2010, the International Task Force identified the country of focused engagement for the next six years as Belize, the northern most Central American nation—bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea.
Belize is a country of contrast. The initial tourist image quickly fades into a much more complex image dealing with issues of urban squalor and rural poverty. The rural poverty is especially prevalent in the southern part of the country. The two southern most districts are Stann Creek and Toledo. Our first visits to Belize have been educational and relationship building, particularly relating to Stann Creek and Toledo. These two districts are home to the indigenous cultures of the Mayan and Garifuna (descendants of Carib Indians and African slaves) people. This is a country rich in culture. The people are warm, friendly and confident in their ability to face life’s challenges, both old and new ones, together making a better world for themselves, their children, communities, and country.
Presbyterian Church of Rwanda
The Presbyterian Church of Rwanda has responded to the COVID-19 crisis. They have gotten creative with the ongoing closure of churches and are visiting parishioners via phone and WhatsApp; providing food relief and the means to raise livestock to community members; and assisting families whose houses and property have been destroyed in recent heavy rains.
Centro de Solidaridad Para el Desarrollo de la Mujer, Inc.(CE-MUJER)
CE-MUJER is committed to improving the quality of life for women and communities by assisting in their empowerment for gender equality through self-management, education, training in non-traditional technical skills, income generation, health and public politics with influence on both the national and local level.
In 2005 when Self-Development of People instituted ‘The Mission Funding Strategy for the International Task Force of the Self-Development of People’, a five year pilot program, the country identified for focused funding was the Dominican Republic. This segment of the strategy has proven to be an effective way of engaging in partnership with communities in a specific country. The pilot program has evolved into the “SDOP International Partnership Development Mission Strategy.” The partnerships established have been and continue to be about hope, dignity, empowerment, justice, and compassion.