2022: A year of impact and growth
With the world facing so many difficult challenges, we celebrate the power of everyday people to transform their lives and societies. 2022 was a year of life-changing impact and continued growth for our bottom-up social change movement. People in 243 communities in ten countries in Central America, Haiti, Africa, and Eastern Europe, are now organizing with Faith in Action International to have a say over the decisions that shape their lives.
Grassroots leaders are campaigning for land and water rights to solve the underlying conditions that cause poverty. Families are winning new schools, clinics, roads, housing, and titles to their land. Smallscale farmers are building cooperatives to increase their incomes, fight hunger at its roots, and adapt to drought and climate change.
Together, we’re building a global community working together to improve living conditions and make lasting changes in some of the most challenging places in the world. We’re spreading the good news that wherever we live, we’re sisters and brothers with a shared future.
As we grow in new countries and regions, we’re seeing how deep, long-term investment in leadership development in El Salvador, Haiti, and Rwanda has made it possible for people to transform their communities and countries.
Communities of Faith Organizing for Action (COFOA) has grown into a national movement. More than 140 leadership teams meet in communities in 11 of 14 Departments across El Salvador. COFOA leaders are negotiating with the national Housing Minister to win land titles worth $1 billion for 350,000 families defrauded by developers. In 2022, COFOA launched a campaign to channel tax revenue designated for local development into schools, roads, clean water, and other projects identified by residents in the most neglected communities. COFOA is also working to create El Salvador’s first unemployment compensation program.
As one example of the human impact of community organizing, Ismael Chacón, a COFOA leader from the community of San Francisco Morazán, led a successful campaign to bring a school to her community. Ismael said she was motivated to organize because her children had to travel three hours each way to receive a public education, which was “so difficult that it was causing my family to disintegrate.”
COFOA and its allies are on the frontlines of protecting El Salvador’s democracy, creating accountability between citizens and the increasingly authoritarian government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. During 2022, COFOA held large events at government buildings to press for action on land rights, school construction, and the transparent investment of tax dollars for community development. The organization generated dozens of news stories highlighting how local residents are organizing for a better, more democratic El Salvador.
The crisis facing Haiti did not stop the People’s Organization for the Development of Northeast Haiti (OPODNE) from expanding into 22 communities across Northeast Haiti and beginning a new effort in the North Department. In August 2022, 1,492 people voted in OPODNE elections to select presidents and board members for each of the 22 community organizations that make up OPODNE. More than 300 OPODNE leaders and a dozen mayors and clergy participated in an annual assembly in Terrier-Rouge.
After consulting with more than 4,000 small-scale farmers, OPODNE launched a campaign, LET’S PLANT NOW, SO WE CAN FEED OURSELVES TOMORROW, to restore the capacity of Haitians to feed themselves. Half of all Haitians face hunger because they rely on expensive food imports. OPODNE is organizing farmer cooperatives, creating seed and tool banks, and working to bring irrigation and agronomists to help farmers adapt to climate change. Through a Way Forward in Haiti, OPODNE and Faith in Action International have organized a strong diaspora voice for democracy and sustainable development in Haiti. In 2022, thousands of people participated in conference calls about U.S. policy toward Haiti, with top officials from the U.S. State Department and Members of Congress, and made their voices heard with the Biden Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Veteran grassroots leaders in Rwanda have been traveling to nearby villages to share what they have been able to achieve through faith-based organizing. After completing their new health clinic last year, grassroots leaders from Nyarbuye began constructing a new primary school and a road to connect the school to the clinic. Leaders in Nyange completed a water project that is an important step toward opening a roadside marketplace to create jobs and income for residents. In 2022, local organizing teams in Rwanda planted more than 5,000 trees to kick off an organization wide campaign to protect the country’s fragile environment. Faith and lay leaders from Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia, and South Africa traveled to Rwanda to learn about how people are mobilizing their resources to create change from the bottom up.
Growth in 2022
In 2022, at the invitation of religious leaders in Honduras, COFOA hired three local residents as community organizers and began grassroots organizing in 19 communities outside Tegucigalpa. After listening to hundreds of local residents, COFOA leaders in Honduras launched a campaign for a community hospital to serve their region.
In 2022, at the invitation of Catholic Bishop Domingo Buezo of the Solola-Chimaltenango Diocese, COFOA returned to Guatemala. COFOA staff provided training to more than sixty Catholic priests in faith-based community organizing, hired two local indigenous residents as organizers, and began organizing within a handful of communities in Solola.
In Slovakia, Faith in Action International helped the Center for Community Organizing launch a faith platform that brings together the major religious groups to advance justice and inter-religious cooperation in the city of Banská Bystrica. In 2022, the Faith Platform began a housing campaign alongside Roma community leaders to improve services for homeless people, repair public housing, and build affordable apartments.
In Budapest, Faith in Action International is working with Lutheran Pastor Marta Bolba of Mandak House to support a new organization of public housing tenants organizing to improve conditions in their buildings and neighborhoods. In 2022, the tenants won new leadership of the company responsible for managing 152 public housing buildings and a new system for responding to repair needs.
South Africa And Namibia
Faith in Action organizers from Rwanda and the U.S. traveled to South Africa and Namibia in the spring of 2022 to meet with religious and community leaders and support training events with the Beloved Community Coalition, Methodist Church, and the Centre for Faith & Community at the University of Pretoria. Faith in Action provided resources to the Beloved Community Coalition, which is working in El Dorado Park and other South African townships to bring together social organizations and push for solutions to violence, unemployment, and housing needs facing the poorest communities in the country.
Father Innocent Rugaragu led training events for 150 village leaders in partnership with the Masai Transformation Project. Fr. Innocent is working with Masai leaders to adapt organizing practices to promote community self determination.
Rev. John Rutsindintwarane is working with Anglican and Lutheran religious leaders to begin training on faith-based organizing in Muleba Bukoba and Karagwe, Tanzania. In 2022, Faith in Action staff in Rwanda signed an MOU with the Anglican Church of Tanzania, Lweru Diocese, to begin a multi-faith community organizing process. The threat of new large-scale mining projects is one of the factors motivating faith leaders in Tanzania to pursue grassroots organizing.
Faith in Action International is working with the FAITH in Ghana Alliance to support grassroots organizing to address youth unemployment, clean water, illegal mining, health care, and education issues facing Ghana. Muslim, Catholic, Pentecostal, and Mainline Protestant religious leaders are working together to build multifaith organizing teams in communities across ten regions in Ghana. In August and November 2022, Faith in Action staff from Rwanda and the U.S. assisted with three day trainings for 100 religious and lay leaders from across Ghana.
Veteran community organizer Emma Paulino is leading an effort to explore interest in Mexico in faith-based community organizing.
Haiti North Department
In 2022, at the invitation of Cap-Haïtien Archbishop Launay Saturné and Baptist faith leaders, OPODNE hired a community organizer and launched a new organizing effort in Haiti’s North Department (population 1.1 million).
Human Rights and Democracy
Through the Root Causes Initiative, we’ve worked with the HOPE Border Institute and dozens of grassroots and faith-based organizations and religious leaders from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. to resolve the underlying conditions that cause poverty and migration from Central America. We’re pressing for tougher targeted sanctions on abusive and corrupt officials and oligarchs. In Spring 2022, we worked with 23 Guatemalan indigenous organizations, a dozen exiled Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutors and judges, and 1,100 U.S. religious leaders to press the U.S. State Department and Vice-President Harris to put human rights and rule of law as their top priority in meetings with the Government of Guatemala.
Changing U.S. Policy
In 2022, Faith in Action International expanded our efforts to change U.S. development and foreign policy toward the countries in which we support grassroots organizing.
Faith in Action International affiliates raise funds locally to support their organizing. In the U.S. and around the globe, we’re working to build a reliable base of individual donors who support existing and new grassroots organizations. In 2022, 300 people contributed over $400,000 to our end-of-year appeal. With a generous matching gift from John and Sue Sobrato, this was the largest amount we ever raised. This funding makes it possible for organizations to hire local residents as community organizers and grow their work into new communities and countries. That means people can decide what their own communities and countries need rather than depend on projects developed by others. We are deeply grateful to the hundreds of people whose gifts and solidarity make self-determination and lasting change possible.
International Learning Exchange
With support from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, we launched an initiative to promote learning between people organizing for change across the world. Nineteen people from seven countries participated in a May 2022 study trip to El Salvador to learn how COFOA had grown into a nationwide movement without losing its focus on grassroots leadership development. Each month, we gather organizers from the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Eastern Europe to share best practices for building community power. Future study trips and exchanges to the U.S. are planned for Rwanda, Haiti, and Eastern Europe.
In both Central America and Haiti, Faith in Action International has been a leading voice in pressing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to make good on its promise to follow the lead of local organizations and invest in locally-led development. Faith in Action and the Root Causes Initiative published an Assessment of the First Year of the Biden-Harris Root Causes Initiative to promote accountability over U.S. policy and support community-led development.
Faith in Action International generated more than 30 national and international media stories about community-led development and foreign policy that is responsive to local civil society.
Way Forward in Haiti
Through a Way Forward in Haiti, Faith in Action International has brought together leaders from Haitian diaspora communities and congregations, friends of Haiti, and Haitian civic leaders. We’ve met with top officials from the U.S. State Department and Congress to press for change in U.S. policy toward Haiti. We helped organize a large public event in Washington, DC, in October 2022 to urge the Biden Administration to allow Haitians to determine their own future by supporting civil society efforts toward a new transitional government.