SOPUDEP (Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Pétion-Ville) is a Haitian founded and run grassroots social organization located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It provides free accessible education to adults and children, and supports women's rights and economic empowerment for the poor. SOPUDEP is determined to use the power of education to improve life for the poorest members of the community, creating pride and hope for a better future.
by Ryan Sawatzky, Head Director,
The Sawatzky Family Foundation
At times it is easy to generalize the work of SOPUDEP School as that of just an education program for Haiti’s impoverished children. This is a very important aspect of their work, and their efforts in this area do show this in spades, as many of SOPUDEP’s Students have rank in the top percentile of the National Exam scores fort years. But to make the school what it is as a socially progressive institution, the layers of ideology and methodology running in the background are deep and varied.
Good intentions and hard work does not make a successful community program. SOPUDEP’s success comes from an understanding of class structures; social, economic and political issues; the underpinnings of history; and an intuitive sense to find ways to better the community in these areas. It is from under this microscope that SOPUDEP structures its programs.
SOPUDEP may also serve as an example to us in the international community stuck in the “long-term development” vs. “immediate needs” debate. For SOPUDEP, it isn’t one or the other, but rather, like their education model, a more holistic approach to social development. They strive to balance programs of long-term development to ones that service the day-to-day needs of their students and the community.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 7, 2013
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — ALMOST four years after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Darline St. Luc, 13, is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are still homeless. She and her family get by in a leaky, rat-infested shack made out of old USAID grain sacks, and she says that she sometimes goes days without eating.
On the Ground
It has been months since Darline had a bite of meat, and she says she doesn’t quite remember what an egg tastes like. Her dad died this year, and she had to drop out of school in September because she couldn’t afford the $200 needed for a school uniform, shoes, books and supplies.
Today (Nov 30, 2013) eight university students who have received scholarships held a meeting with SOPUDEP staff and Rea Dol, to form a student committee. The committee's will meet once a month to compile relevant updates from the scholarship clubs twenty-five student members. In this way, it will provide regular updates to their sponsors and is a system to keep each-other accountable.
However, the committee is already be losing a member. Ernest Peterson began his studies in computer science last year. His final exam caught the attention of a University in Venezuela, who awarded him with a 5 year scholarship. He made his announcement today at the meeting to the great excitement from his peers. We wish Ernest all the best on his adventure!
We also look forward to the committee's first update, which should be expected in the next week.
Here is the Scholarship Club Committee
1- Hindy Louinel-------------President
2- Gamorina Jeanty---------Vice president
3- Sauvelyne Louis Jean----Secretary
4- Sophia Jean---------------Treasury
5- Michela Gestime----------Treasury Assistant
6- Tamara Joseph------------Spokeswomen
7- Chistiano Gilot------------Delegate
8- Ernest Peterson-----------Advisor
9- Billy Bataille---------------Advisor
The proverb, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", refers to the fact that incessant labour with no leisure time makes a person boring. I would argue that it could go on to say that a person in indefinite laborious motion has their physical, mental and spiritual gears worn down, making creativity and joy a near impossibility. Decisive and critical thought is halted with the onslaught of physical and psychological stress. Maybe not stress due to the basics of natural survival, but with the threat of ones extinction. Stress, which is the release of adrenaline, was meant as a short term fight or flight mechanism to protect ourselves from natural dangers and predators, but in todays culture, these stress factors are becoming chronic due to instability in family and communal bonds and economies which pitch and yaw almost nonsensically.
However for us and our children in the first world, extracurricular physical and creative activities dot our daily lives and serve to be a distraction and a stress release. Not only do hobbies such as ceramics, soccer, cooking, book clubs, language, pick up hockey, day camps and so on, provide reprieve from our realities, but serve to connect community and to expand our skill base and our world just a little bit more.
The rat race that is our lives can be a burden factor to say the least, but Haitis stresses, economic or otherwise - at least primarily for the sons and daughters of Africa - have been dire for the past five hundred and some odd years. Even when the slave uprising procured Haiti's place in history as the first independent black republic, national and imperial powers have consistently thwarted the people of Haiti's ability to find their own way and thrive.
It's hard to believe that it has been just about four years since Rea started the process to purchase land and build the new SOPUDEP School. It has been a huge struggle for Rea and her team, but the fruits of their labour and our support are starting to produce a tangible product. On March 27, they poured the first level roof (which will be the second level floor) for their first five classrooms. This is a huge accomplishment for SOPUDEP and it means that the site is now functional and will be put to use in the very near future.
This also means that SOPUDEP has a new found sense of security they never had before. Their current school building, which will be referred to as the "old school" from now on, is under lease. This lease was procured for ten years in 2002 from the former mayor of Pétion-Ville, Sulley Guerrier, who now works for SOPUDEP largely on a volunteer basis. In fact, he engineered the new school. During their stay at this leased building, they have often been threatened with eviction from people claiming to own the building (which proved to be lies) and even political figures, such as Pétion-Ville's last mayor. She wanted to sell the building off instead of see it continue to be a beacon of community health and pride. It was because of the outcry of SOPUDEP's friends, local and international, that they were able to stay. That lease ended in 2012 and now the insecurity is greater than ever as SOPUDEP renews month by month. Even in the past couple weeks, new government officials have started coming around asking questions about the building and casting an ominous presence at the school. Their time at the old school is fleeting.