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.
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.
David Chavannes is a London based photographer and videographer, who in April 2012 visited Haiti to find out more about the cholera epidemic and get a better understanding of the country itself. While he was there he ended up interviewing and filming a few locally led organizations.
The following video is the result of David's one day visit with SOPUDEP.
Thank you David for your support!
Video footage of my trip to visit Rea Dol and SOPUDEP in November 2012. This video focuses on the growing solidarity within the grassroots community to make effective change for themselves.
Madam Rea walking to meet women from the FASA Micro-Credit program
I visited Haiti six months after the earthquake. It was a trip that left me feeling a bit uncertain of SOPUDEP's future. Only two years earlier in 2008 our foundation, The Sawatzky Family Foundation, had become SOPUDEP's main financial contributor, which had allowed them to not only keep their doors open, but for the first time since 2004, think about expanding their program of providing accessible education. The vibe in that time was that of a Haitian organization of potential and progress, however very humble it may have looked compared to the monolith NGO's, who's logo's were splashed across vehicles, t-shirts and backpacks at every turn. That vibe tuned to one of dissolution immediately following the earthquake. Was all the progress made prior to be for nothing? People were tired and angry and the situation of repairing not only the physical structures, but also all the broken social and political structures that existed prior, now seemed intensified and almost a bottomless pit of which there was no escape.
In January of 2011 I flew SOPUDEP Founder/Director Rea Dol out to Canada to do a small speaking tour from Toronto to Montreal that was organized by Canada Haiti Action Network in regard to the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. There were many great and eye opening moments about the two weeks I spent with her. One on one at my house after the days activities, Rea really took the time to expounded on the political and social situations revolving around Haiti as well as offering her philosophical views about these various subjects. One thing I heard every time was a genuine pride and love for her people and country. Her work is not just something that gives her a fuzzy feeling inside, it is an intense passion that I have never seen before.
A running theme in her vision about Haiti was a need to break down barriers. She doesn't simply see the elite of the country having negative views of the poor, but the poor having negative views of those poorer than themselves and so on. She understands that part of our human survival instinct is to identify ourselves with a group of people that are in a sense, winning over another, but knows that this defeats the purpose of our humanness.