The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has approved grants totaling $97,650 to eight self-help projects in the United States. The money is from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

Projects range from a farming cooperative in Louisiana to supporting a group of low-income residents in rural Alabama in their quest for improved education and economic empowerment through GED class preparation. Other projects include a women-owned cooperative comprised of low-income Somali Bantu immigrants seeking social-economic and literacy empowerment in Maine and a youth-run screen print and graphic design collective in Michigan.

National SDOP grants enable members and non-members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to form partnerships with oppressed and disadvantaged people so they can achieve self-sufficiency.

The projects and grants are: 

  • Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance of Lewiston/Auburn, Maine, $14,300 to assist this women’s group. The program is led by the women who connected to the Mutual Assistance Association. They set the programming agenda, which includes literacy programming, farming and basket-weaving. Leaders say these activities will help empower the young women with skills for employment and better education.
  • Damayan Cleaning Cooperative, New York, N.Y., $15,000 for this worker owned cooperative. The women in the cooperative are members of the Damayan Immigrant Workers Association who need to find regular employment where they feel safe, respected and part of the community. The women will control and benefit from the cooperative. Four of the 10 were trafficked in the past.
  • Wayside Outreach and Development Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., $4,000 to replace equipment and supplies lost and damaged during renovation and to provide training in arts and crafts and in sewing to seniors to improve their quality of life.
  • Equipping, encouraging & empowering workers in Vredenburgh, Ala., $14,450 to help underemployed and unemployed local residents prepare for the workforce through test preparation and GED classes. More than half of Vredenburgh residents live in poverty. The project will help group members improve their quality of life by being educated and learning how to seek and keep jobs.
  • VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative, New Orleans, La., $15,000 for this multi-ethnic farmer’s cooperative growing fresh vegetables to sell to the public as well as grocers in East New Orleans. The cooperative members share equally in the work, liability and distributions of profits. The grant will assist the cooperative by creating sustainable income for the members through sustainable agriculture.  Daniel Nguyen of the VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative said, “With funding from SDOP, VEGGI Farmers Cooperative will be able to continue our mission of providing jobs to community members through urban farming and increasing local healthy food access. The funds will also allow us to complete several projects on our site, including a processing facility and help us buy seeds to plan for the coming year.”
  • Families & Criminal Justice, Los Angeles, Calif., $14,900 for this peer to peer support group that works with women that are incarcerated or recently released to improve their health. These women received training in peer-to-peer relationship building and counseling techniques and began support groups for other women incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail and those recently released.
  • Radio Indigena (Indigenous Radio Station), Oxnard, Calif., $15,000 for this non-profit community radio station, which broadcasts in indigenous languages to serve the community in Ventura County. The group decides and works on topics for broadcasting, including indigenous music, cultural affairs, and social and political issues. Many members have been trained to operate the radio station and to be volunteer community DJ’s.
  • Stitching up Detroit, Mich., $5,000 in technical assistance for this group. The project is a youth-run screen print and graphic design collective and helps to provide a source of income to the students.

SDOP leadership made the grant decisions during its recent meeting in Charleston, S.C. Invited guests included SDOP partner South Carolina Sea Island Small Farmer Cooperative, which presented a token of appreciated to SDOP from the farmers. SDOP partnered with the group by awarding it a grant of more than $48,000 to assist with water supply for irrigation in 2007.

Additional guests included the host congregation pastor Charles Heyward from St. James Presbyterian Church; Charleston Atlantic presbyter the Rev. Donnie Woods and Compassion, Peace and Justice director Sarah Lisherness. The Rev. Edward Ducree and Brenda Nelson from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church led Bible study, which focused on how Emanuel congregation members are trying to heal from the shooting tragedy in which nine people were killed.

This year marks SDOP’s sixth and last year in its country focus on Belize. Since 2010 SDOP has awarded over $230,000 in grants to economically poor, oppressed or disadvantaged groups across Belize.