Five years ago, Self-Development of People, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), realized it would need to change its international strategy if it wanted to continue being effective in its mission of providing a hand up — not a hand out.

In the face of decreasing funds and increasing poverty, SDOP decided the most effective way of working would be to identify intermediary partners around the world and then commit to focus funding in one region.

SDOP chose the Dominican Republic as its focus — it began working there in 2007.

And at its May meeting, SDOP’s National Committee traveled to that country to celebrate the work accomplished.

At a celebration of the completion of a water system, chairwoman Virginia Toliver cut the ribbon for the project, which brings drinkable water to more than 4,200 residents of Batey Palmarejo.

While in the Dominican Republic, SDOP visited other partner sites:

  • The Women’s Federation Marcelina de los Santos, where nine women are gainfully employed in a block-making factory. Twenty other women in the community make and sell cheese and bakery items. 

Said coordinator Genoveva Castillo, “When we first met we had to travel long distances to mainly domestic jobs, we left our children and families for long periods of times for low-paying jobs. We knew given the chance we could make our cheese factory and bakery work. We took turns staying and making items to sell, we took turns going to different locations to sell our items. Thanks to your help we have a fully operational kitchen, not just a slab of concrete as before and all that we make we sell. We are now taking care of ourselves and our families without having to leave our community. We no longer feel powerless.” 


  • The Women’s Development Federation of Guerra has a fully operational bakery with stores in Guerra carrying their products. The group has a fully stocked warehouse that supplies community stores with staples such as rice, oils, and flour. The women make and sell bricks to developers and contractors in different parts of the country. Thanks to the fruits of their labor they have been able to open a fully staffed nursery and preschool. 

Coordinator Altagracia Mosquea writes, “The three projects funded by SDOP have had a positive impact on the group members because the women have increased their income, the work quality is much better, the sales have increased, and more women have jobs. The community is receiving better services. The bakery has also generated other jobs because we are buying raw materials like milk, coconut, and firewood. Thank you for your confidence in us. As women we are more respected in the community and our voices are listened to.”

  • In the Dominican Republic, women traditionally do not make or upholster furniture, but the women of AMUTEC do. They have a showroom displaying mahogany bedroom sets, designed and upholstered living room sets, unique window dressings, tapestries and other large wood crafted items. 

Four years ago the women were in a dilapidated warehouse with a roof that leaked in the rain. They constantly worried about being robbed because their building did not have proper security. Thanks to their partnership with SDOP, they now have a second floor and a roof that does not leak. They have secure windows and doors. They now feel safe. Their furniture and crafts are selling and they are providing technical assistance to women in other parts of the country developing similar enterprises. Over 700 people are benefiting from this project.

“The SDOP support has been very important to us; this partnership is a blessing from God. We are thankful for your love and be sure that the women of AMUTEC are willing to collaborate with SDOP anytime.,” AMUTEC stated.

Pilar, a member of AMUTEC, made wooden crosses for members rotating off the General Assembly Mission Council.

  • In Azua rice farmers are thankful for assistance from the Japanese Embassy and SDOP because they now have their own rice processing facility and are able to sell their own products, feed their families and have seeds for the next year’s crop. 

“The producers participated in preparation, seedtime, and harvest. They were involved in all of these activities. To have the mill installed we hired other people from the community with more expertise. We are thankful for your support,” said Manuel Tejeda, a member of the project.

With good news also come roadblocks and some disappointment. For example, at an SDOP-partnered water system, resident noticed a foul odor coming from the well. Although the residents are using the water for washing clothes and bathing, they are not using it for cooking and drinking. To correct the problem, the underground source of water is being tested to determine the source of the odor. The residents of this community should have full use of the water in the next several months.

Since 2007, SDOP has partnered with 16 Dominican communities for a total of $539,602.

In 2009, SDOP named Belize as the new country of focus.