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Young Adult Volunteer learning how SDOP lifts up minority voices

Mission work can be vital when we shift power back into the hands of people

by Juliet Owuor, Mission Crossroads | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The SDOP Northeast task force at First Presbyterian Church of New Haven in Connecticut. (contributed photo)

As a Young Adult Volunteer serving in New York City with a placement in the Self-Development of People ministry, my work is composed of program outreach, grant application workshops and site visits for grassroots organizations seeking funding.

My YAV year is providing me with an experience I would not have had anywhere else. I had viewed mission work as something Christians do as an extension of neocolonialism. Rightfully so, I was uncomfortable with the word “missions” because it reminded me of exploitation and the silencing of marginalized voices.

Because of my placement, I now know that mission work does not always impose and can be vital in our communities when we shift power back into the hands of the people. Working with SDOP has opened my eyes to a missing sector in philanthropy: financial support for minority-led projects. The reality is most grants cater to established businesses or nonprofit organizations while overlooking the needs of minority-led grassroots efforts. This means that even though marginalized groups have ideas that can save their community, oftentimes they are forced to accept help from temporary resources.

Juliet Owuor

By helping grassroots organizations file for SDOP grants, I have been able to see firsthand just how important it is that applicants use their own voices. My favorite experience so far is a Connecticut trip I recently took with the SDOP Northeast task force. On the third day, we were invited to visit the Afro-Caribbean Culture Center in Waterbury. This cultural center provides the only visible safe space for the intersection of Black and Caribbean people in the community. They created a system for themselves that truly understands the needs of their own people. This solidified the true purpose of the Self-Development of People.

I am blessed to have been chosen to learn from the great individuals at my placement. I cannot wait to see what the rest of my YAV year brings.

Juliet Owuor is a Young Adult Volunteer serving in New York City.

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