The National Committee on the Self-Development of People of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved grants for 13 self-help projects in the United States.

The $269,930 in grants comes from the PC(USA)’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

SDOP, funded primarily through the OGHS offering, enables members and non-members of the PC(USA) to establish partnerships with economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people in order to help them achieve sufficiency.

Grants were approved at a meeting of SDOP’s National Committee Jan. 22-23.

Projects funded cover a wide range: a group of women who have formed a cooperative that produces and markets mango-derived products, a capacity-building project in which immigrant workers learn leadership skills and a T-shirt cooperative that teaches job-procurement skills to a group of people with disabilities.

Groups awarded funds at the meeting:

  • Michigan People’s Action, Lansing, MI: $30,000 to assist a group of low-income workers and their supporters to organize and work on issues of wage theft, discrimination and unemployment benefits. Components include leadership development and training and community education and involvement.
  • Bushwick Housing Independence Project, Brooklyn, N.Y.: $30,000 for the preservation of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families in Bushwick and communities in north and central Brooklyn.
  • Olneyville Neighborhood Association, Providence, R.I.: $20,000 to assist an immigrant-run education and emergency response project to build and mobilize community power to confront abuses against the immigrant community and mitigate their effects.
  • One DC, Washington: $20,000 to enable One DC Right to Wellness program to promote holistic health and create healthy environments in the low-income communities of Washington.
  • The Visible Community, Lewiston, Maine: $20,000 to enable tenants who have organized to develop knowledge of tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
  • Centro Presente, Somerville, Mass.: $20,000 to assist a capacity-building and advocacy project in which immigrant workers have come together to learn their rights, support each other, organize to fight for and defend their rights and become vehicles for long-term societal change.
  • West Macon Angels, Macon, Ga.: $20,000 to assist a group of tenants of a local trailer park who have formed a transportation cooperative purchase a vehicle. Members of the co-op will be provided with transportation to work, shopping and medical services based on a fee scale.  
  • Bosque Santa Sabana Grande Workers Board, Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico: $20,000 to assist a group of women produce and market a selection of mango-derived products such as marmalade, mango paste and mango-flavored cakes.            
  • Determined Women with Disabilities, Lucedale, MS: $20,000 to assist a group of disabled women who have formed a cooperative to produce T-shirts.
  • Hoopa Native Service Crew, Hoopa Reservation, Calif.: $20,000 to enable this group of Native Americans living in poverty on the Hoopa reservation in northwestern California purchase a vehicle to transport crew members, camp gear and bedding to and from fires in northern California.
  • VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, Portland, Ore.: $20,000 to assist this group of day laborers hire an organizer to help them with issues of a safe work environment, fair wages, collecting wages from their employers and learning English and computer skills.
  • Butterfly Network/ Lupus Patients, Inglewood, Calif.: $10,000 to enable a group of recently diagnosed lupus patients and newer members of the Butterfly Network to participate in mental health counseling. The counseling will be provided by a licensed mental health clinician who will offer clinical group work and individualized support.
  • Somali Bantu Citizen Group, Beaverton, Ore.: $9,930 to three male and three female high school graduates who speak English and Somali Bantu to attend Portland Community College’s Medical Interpretation Program. The Somali Bantu community of more than 237 people has no direct translators for its distinctive language. The medical interpreters will also help with health education, welfare and legal issues.

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Guests invited to the meeting included Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion, Peace and Justice; the Rev. Jonas George, pastor of All Nations Presbyterian Church in North Miami Beach, Florida; and the Rev. Raymond Anglin, pastor of Ascension Peace Presbyterian Church in Lauderhill, Fla.

Also invited to the meeting were Luis and Mary Rengifo from the Empowerment Christian Community Corporation, Jordan Buckley from Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida and Nelly Rodriguez from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

CIW is a community-based worker organization in Florida that works for fair wages, an end to indentured servitude in the fields, better working and living conditions and stronger laws against those who violate workers’ rights. In 2007, SDOP awarded CIW more than $21,000 to assist with upgrading a multilingual radio station called “Consciousness Radio” or “Radio Conciencia.”

Mary Rodriguez shared how the radio station addresses issues that impact the immigrant community. Because these immigrants are mostly from Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico and speak little or no English, Radio Conciencia uses indigenous languages like Haitian Creole, Spanish, Zapoteco, Mixteco, Mam and Kanjobal. Radio Conciencia also performs the role of warning people of impending bad weather such as hurricanes.

As SDOP met, the tragic aftereffects of the earthquake in Haiti were being felt in Port au Prince and across the country.

The following is from Kristin Hamner, SDOP’s long-term mission volunteer in the Dominican Republic:

I have been along the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti serving in a town called Jimani. Jimani is the most direct route between Port au Prince and the Dominican Republic so it is the location where thousands of refugees have come to seek help and shelter in this time of disaster.

I originally went to Jimani with the intention of gathering information to be able to send out help, but I was immediately enveloped in the work there and stayed for several days doing everything from using my truck as an ambulance to working the pharmacy we had set up to translating and holding the hands of hurting patients. 

The needs are tremendous, and I have never experienced so much human suffering: People who spent days and some even more than a week trapped under buildings. People who had lost body parts and those who had lost all their families.

Here are a few of their stories:

A little 4-5-year-old boy lay in the back of an old pick-up-truck turned into an ambulance. He lay there all alone and crying. I went up and began to speak to him and rubbed his little arm to try to comfort him. He reached out and latched onto my hand. His little body was burning with fever and I pried away from his grip to get him some Tylenol. He screamed out in a desperate little voice and kept screaming until I returned. When he saw me he once again grabbed my hand and held on tight. We unloaded him from the truck and doctors unwrapped his bandaged right arm.  It was full of infection and gangrene had already set in. They immediately took him to surgery to remove his arm and save his life. This young boy had lost all six of his family members and now his arm as well. He held onto my hand searching for some hope and comfort in the midst of his physical and emotional pain.

Another older man who was at the hospital in a room on the second floor felt the earth tremble in one of the aftershocks a few days ago and he jumped off the second floor balcony and is now paralyzed.

The physical and emotional struggles of these victims of the earthquake are tremendous. I feel that sometimes the best I can offer is a hand to hold and a touch and a smile. 

Please pray for Haiti and her people!

“We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up. When we have an opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

Cynthia White, coordinator for SDOP, expressed a deep sorrow for the people of Haiti and an appreciation to Kristin for her help in this desperate and heart-wrenching situation. Two of the invited guests, the Revs. Anglin and George, ask for prayers as they both have family and friends in Haiti. The PC(USA) is providing assistance to the people of Haiti through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

To learn more about Self-Development of People contact the national office at 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396, or call toll-free: (888) 728-7228 x5782 (English); (888)728-7228 ext. 5790 (Spanish); or fax: (502) 569-8963.