Since its founding 20 years ago, the Protestant Reformed Church of Guadeloupe has been working to address various social needs in the greater Guadeloupian and Caribbean society. In particular they have been involved in outreach and service to the island’s poor and marginalized by supporting families and individuals in need, helping provide resources for a local homeless shelter, working closely with the island’s protestant prison chaplaincy program and contributing monetarily to relief and development projects abroad.
As the parish’s involvement in this outreach and service work has been steadily increasing over the last few years, church members decided to “officialize” their work by creating a non-profit organization. After several meetings of prayerful brainstorming aimed at identifying the form and the goals of their work, the first General Assembly of the Protestant Reformed Churches Outreach and Service Organization “Men A Lèspwa” was held in March of 2010. In May, after completing the required paperwork, the organization was officially recognized by the government.
Men A Léspwa is a Creole saying which translates as “Hand of Hope”. It symbolizes both the hand that reaches out to help and support as well as the idea that hands working together can help spread hope and strength. The founders chose the words “Men A Lèspwa” in order to convey a living symbol of the Christian call to bring hope to the world, and the duty all Christians have to reach out towards people who are marginalized and suffering.
Currently Men A Lèspwa counts 20 volunteer members and has started working in both Guadeloupe and on the neighboring island of Saint Martin.
In the initial start-up phase Men A Lèspwa, in partnership with other local organizations, is concentrating on the following actions:
- Providing literacy training to women imprisoned at the Women’s Prison in Guadeloupe.
- Providing counselling and support for young male prisoners and parolees, and their families, in Guadeloupe and in Saint Martin.
- Providing legal advice to refugees in Guadeloupe who are seeking political asylum.
- Providing scholarships to cover school costs for Haitian children.
- Participating in and organizing various conferences and public debates aimed at raising awareness of different challenges facing Guadeloupian and Caribbean society.
Long term goals include the creation of a transitional home for young men recently released from prison and the organization of a solidarity work camp and exchange visit between Guadeloupe and another Caribbean island.
Given the socio-economic, political, and cultural turmoil that Guadeloupe in particular, and the Caribbean in general, is undergoing, the members of the Protestant Reformed Church hope that Men A Lèspwa can be an effective tool to help spread God’s message of faith, hope, love, solidarity and constructive action to the communities around them.
Tim Rose serves with The Protestant Reformed Church of Guadeloupe and Martinique.