From 1791 to 1804, the African slaves of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) revolted against the mightiest imperial powers of the time, declaring their independence as the first western black republic. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for this act of rebellion and showing us that there is no power to great to truly snuff out our dignity and spirit of humanity. Sadly, those old imperial powers, and those new, have rarely shown respect for Haiti’s sovereignty. “There’s gold in them thar hills”, to put it glibly. Our colonial past is one of taking from others what is not ours to take. This has proven to be a tough habit to squelch.
Haiti need to realize their ancestors dream of a free and independent nation. This can only happen if we release the reigns of control and put them in the drivers seat. In a country such as Haiti, where there are over 10,000 foreign charities and NGO’s operating withing it’s boarders, seeing local Haitian grassroots organizations taking action to empower their fellow citizens is special and should be nurtured.
SOPUDEP and other Haitian grassroots organizations are a prime example of the capability for Haitian’s to make their own way; to educate, to work, to deliver justice, to preserve their proud culture, and to heal. It is up to us however, to show our support and solidarity, and at this moment in time, to provide the means to make their work more effective. There is an end goal with supporting Haitian grassroots social initiatives; not just a never ending money pit of “charity”. The majority of Haitian’s will be the first to say that they don’t want handouts, but a chance to create a nation and a history that is theirs and theirs alone.
And for this Haitian social organization, SOPUDEP’s funding needs are great and varied. This includes the building of a new school, putting more and more women into their own business through their micro-credit program, a food program that feeds over 700 people five days a week (currently funded by Feed Them With Music), and seeing that children to poor to attend Haiti’s traditional tuition based schools can acquire a quality education; including those children who’s home is on the street. Providing free and accessible education has been SOPUDEP’s main priority since the opening of their first K-12 school in 2002.
The importance of free education to a child in Haiti is sometimes hard for us to understand, as for most of us, free education is the norm. SOPUDEP is able to do away with mandatory tuitions for its students by putting its international support toward paying it’s dedicated all Haitian teaching staff.
The Sawatzky Family Foundation’s funding efforts are focused on ensuring that SOPUDEP can continue to educate as many children as they can take in free of charge by paying SOPUDEP’s 48 staff. In 2010, enrollment was 560 students and the 2011 school year saw it jump up close to 640 students, with hundreds of other children in the community waiting for a spot.
While SOPUDEP’s K-12 school is a main priority for the Sawatzky Family Foundation, funding now includes the staff salaries for two other grassroots community schools; MOJUB and Les Petits Amis De SOPUDEP. A new program for the 2011 year is providing post secondary scholarship funds for SOPUDEP’s top students. This year, two students have been provided the necessary tuition to attend college. Marie is studying nursing and Sauvlyne, education science.
The Sawatzky Family Foundation also provides funds for basic school supplies and textbooks, SOPUDEP’s efforts in earthquake relief and the work they do in camps, their micro-credit program, their collaborative work they do with other grassroots organizations and the many other costs associated for this Haitian grassroots social organization to work for the betterment of their fellow citizens.
We have made it to the Christmas break, but the rest of the year still lies ahead. Your donations are essential to sustaining and improving SOPUDEP’s education and economic programs. Please join us in supporting this Haitian organizations wonderful work!
Of course, we express our deepest gratitude to those that have already shown us that they believe in SOPUDEP’s vision for a better Haiti. However, SOPUDEP is but one group in this fight, and we recognize those other Haitian and Non-Haitian organizations that are on the same path of resistance against those powers that would rather see Haiti benefit a privileged few. We should find joy in helping Haitian’s in their struggle for a free and just society because we recognize that their humanity is also our own.
Thank-you and Happy Holidays
The Sawatzky Family Foundation