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Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People to hold national meeting in Belize

 

SDOP to assume intermediary role moving forward

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Members with the Sandy Beach Women’s Cooperative Society Limited and the Department of Cooperative and Agriculture in Belize, along with SDOP International Task Force members. (Photo by Edmond Williams)

LOUISVILLE – Belize has been described as a country of contrast. The Central American nation is bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea. To the tourist, it is a beautiful vacation getaway with sandy beaches, abundant marine life and various cultural attractions. But members of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) have found much more beyond this tourist image.

In 2010, the committee’s International Task Force identified Belize as a country of focused engagement. It found a small nation battling urban squalor and rural poverty, especially in the southern part of the country. It’s ethnically diverse population includes the Garifuna population, descendants of Caribbean Indians and African slaves. There is also a large proportion of immigrants, shifting its once predominantly Creole population to one in which mestizos (a mix of Mayan and Spanish ancestry) makes up half of the country’s inhabitants.

Over the years, SDOP has provided more than $260,000 to help community groups get started. The goal has been to help specific organizations become self-sufficient, providing families and the communities with new sources of income and economic base.

Lisa Leverette, chair of the international committee, has served as a volunteer with SDOP for eight years. She is among committee members and staff making a return trip to Belize next week, saying it’s the most important work she’s done.

“Mission work is about sending the good news, blessings and resources outward. Vision means sending,” Leverette said. “In terms of SDOP spreading the biblical message and mandate, it’s so important to be able to go to places in the world that are constantly in struggle. It also means making an impact in a way that resonates with the people on the ground.”

SDOP will spend five days holding its national committee meeting and visiting with various partner organizations to gauge progress.

“From SDOP’s perspective, our design is uniquely situated to do mission work around the world by listening to and responding to what the problems are and allowing people to come up with their own solutions,” said Leverette. “We’re able to work in a different way internationally and being aware of cultural competencies is necessary.”

Lisa Leverette (right), International Task Force Chairperson, with Maribel Santos, member of a funded group ‘Trio Farmers in Development Pre-Cooperative.’ (Photo by Teresa Bidart)

Leverette says SDOP’s Belize commitment, demonstrates the value of doing community and development work and could serve as a model for how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) provides ministry support at home and abroad.

Susan Dobkins has a passion for international work and has been on SDOP’s national committee for a year. This will be her first visit to Belize.

“SDOP has been in country for six years now and has developed deep relationships with grassroots organizations on the ground as well as the government itself,” she said. “Having that level of relationship is really important because it gives us the grass top as well as a grassroots view of available resources.”

Although she’s only been on the committee a short time, Dobkins’ relationship with SDOP goes back 20 years, when she helped secure grant funding for a farmers’ group in Oregon.

“There’s just no substitute for seeing some of these projects and programs firsthand and hearing from people who have carried them out,” said Dobkins. “It’s a joy to see the impact on their communities and families. There’s no substitute for that.”

The Rev. Alonzo Johnson, SDOP coordinator, says after six years, the ministry will be moving toward an intermediary role in Belize.

“This wrap-up visit is about demonstrating how the gifts of support to One Great Hour of Sharing, coupled with the ability to build strong partners, can really spur change from the bottom up,” he said. “We will be able to see how financial investment, along with a series of workshops and a strong government partner can make a difference. There’s development happening here.”

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Click here for more information about SDOP’s work in Belize.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of people is able to make a difference because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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