Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:
One of the stories least reported has been the one about Haitians organising for themselves, particularly stories presented within a framework of feminist organising and movement building. This is one woman's story of how she, her family and the people in the various communities in which she works, came together collectively to care for each other's needs and how that struggle has become the foundation of a new movement of the poor for change in education and the material lives of women and men – a struggle for dignity. Their personal and collective humanitarian response was completely off the radar of NGOs, international institutions and the Haitian government. Even Save The Children, whose office is located right next to the school did nothing to help SOPUDEP. However ultimately this was an aside for Rea. What was important was that those who needed help of whatever kind, received it and beyond that the struggle for dignity and self-determination for the poor people of Haiti.
In addition to financial donations, SOPUDEP received a lot of medical supplies which were taken to the various mobile clinics which had been set up in camps and other locations. Though the number of recipients decreased over time, the food collection and distribution last for three months. At a point in time Rea realised this dependency created out of a crisis could not continue. They would forever be in a state of oppression and remain in the clutches of NGOs, beggars in their own land.
No one ever knew when money would arrive which meant any kind of systematic planning was impossible. It was like waiting for the tooth fairy to arrive and besides what humanitarian aid was being distributed was not reaching Rea's community. It was all too ad hoc to be sustainable.
The next money she received was a sum of $3000 and she began to think of another way. Instead of buying food but she would deposit the money in the bank and start a small micro-credit-saving programme. It took courage and was a huge risk because people were hungry but determined to create some degree of sustainability and stability, in a moment she made up her mind. A meeting was called and the idea put to the 21 women with whom she had been working over the past months and though there were doubts they trusted Rea. The Micro-Credit scheme "Fanm SOPUDEP AN AKSYON" [SOPUDEP Women in Action] begun with $3000 and 21 women.
I was surprised when I heard Rea had started a Micro-Credit scheme as there were so many negative reports on schemes which rather than enhance and empower women, ended up impoverishing them even more. So I was interested to find out more about the SOPUDEP scheme, whether it was working and why it worked and I will write about this later after meeting with the various women's group.
Rea's philosophy is that each individual has to take responsibility for themselves and the notion of something for free is neither healthy nor sustainable. Both the school and the women's project are framed within the idea of personal and collective responsibility. Education in Haiti must be available for all and everyone encouraged to attend and no one is turned away from SOPUDEP because they cannot pay. However everyone is asked to try to contribute something when they can, even if it is 5 gouds or helping in the school somehow [$1=40Gds appx]. The school operates two sessions – the main one in the morning and an afternoon session for those who have never attended schools both older children and adults.
Bolding is mine for emphasis.
Wow wow wow this is the positive flip-side to what I posted earlier about NGOs tearing up places like Haiti. This is amazing.
I listened to an interview a while ago on a KPFA show about this type of organizing that comes out of disasters, and how in dire situations people will cooperate & do things less hierarchically than under normal, day-to-day capitalism. And the point was, of course, that we need to get rid of the structures that create manmade disasters like this one, but also that when we are in a state outside of the realm of everyday life & power structures, we can build really powerful, cooperative things, so we need to find ways to harness that ability without being prompted by disasters.