What One Bequest Can Do!

A heartfelt—if posthumous—thank you to Johanna Vanden Berg! Because of her bequest to Mary’s Pence earlier this year, we were able to move forward with a long-held dream: to help the women involved in our ESPERA loan pools improve the financial and marketing skills necessary to ensure the success of their small businesses.

ESPERA Facilitator, Gilda, addresses a group of women from ASMUR, ESPERA Network

ESPERA Facilitator, Gilda, addresses a group of women from ASMUR, ESPERA Network

Our ESPERA lending pools have enabled hundreds of women in Central America and Mexico to start small businesses, many for the first time and, therefore, to increase their family income. For some this means a more nutritious family diet; for others, the ability of children to attend school.

But the loan money is only the first step. Few of these women have any business experience; some are illiterate; most are unfamiliar with budgeting or a business plan. Our dream as a Mary’s Pence board has been to provide the critical next step: education and technical support for sustaining and growing their businesses.

Our board voted unanimously to use Johanna’s entire bequest to jumpstart this effort by paying the salary, travel and other costs associated with a new ESPERA Business Facilitator position for the first year.

We are confident that we will be able to sustain this effort over time through increased grants from ESPERA partners and increased support from Mary’s Pence supporters who believe the ESPERA initiative is a life-changing opportunity for the over 900 women involved to date. I know I believe this!

And Johanna must have believed it, too! Unfortunately Mary’s Pence knew very little about Johanna until her bequest arrived and we saw the obituary published by a Flushing, Mich., funeral home. Of Johanna and her previously deceased husband the obit said:

Johanna and her husband, Bob

Johanna and her husband, Bob

Jo and Bob lived a frugal life, faithful to God, church, and their family, but not everyone knew of their great compassion for the poor and downtrodden. Only at the time of Jo’s death did others learn that she and Bob had been quietly supporting nearly 40 charities. They truly lived what they believed.

We are so grateful—and humbled—to be one of those organizations.

I hope that others will consider remembering Mary’s Pence in their

will or estate plan once they realize what a bequest like Johanna’s can mean to Mary’s Pence and the women we serve. For more information about making a legacy gift, contact Mary’s Pence by phone (651-788-9869) or email (inbox@maryspence.org).

—Karen  Hurley, member of the Mary’s Pence Board

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Carmen’s Goodbye

For the past few months Carmen has been working as the Communications and Development Intern at Mary’s Pence. Next week she will graduate from St. Catherine’s University with degrees in International Relations and French. Carmen’s passion and energy have been wonderful additions to the Mary’s Pence community. We are sad to see her go, but excited for her future!

 

My journey at Mary’s Pence is coming to an end and I am saddened that I have to part ways with this empowering organization. When I was hired in February as the Communication and Development intern, I was beyond ecstatic. I was filled with joy because Mary’s Pence had made a choice to invest in me so I could learn and acquire skills that I can utilize in the field of international relations, which is my major at St. Kate’s.

Prior to accepting my intern position at Mary’s Pence, I was applying for many internships because I wanted to be in an environment where I was being challenged to think critically, especially about women in developing nations.

Carmen poses in a necklace made for her jewelry and handbag collection, Cartik.

Carmen poses in a necklace made for her jewelry and handbag collection, Cartik.

Being part of the Mary’s Pence team has been the highlight of my senior year at St. Catherine’s University. Throughout my time at Mary’s pence, I’ve learned skills such as how to write a grant, how the structures of a non profit institution like Mary’s Pence function to change the lives of women across the Americas, and last but not least the strength and resiliency women from all different walks of life have. This I learned through Katherine Wojtan, the Executive Director of Mary’s Pence. I had a chance to sit down with Katherine when she came back from the ESPERA assembly in Suchitoto, El Salvador. She shared some highlights with me about the women in the ESPERA program and I was in awe about how strong these women were during times of trial and tribulation. Some of the stories she shared with me symbolized bravery and they were a reminder of my own mantra that the struggles in life are only temporary, and nothing is ever permanent.

In two weeks I will be graduating from St. Catherine’s University with a Bachelor of Art in International Relations and French.  My college education has been a journey that has made me the woman I am today. I’ve become bolder, more confident, and I’ve acquired critical thinking skills that I’ve been able to apply here at Mary’s Pence.

After graduation, I plan on growing my business, Cartik, that I mentioned in my previous blog. Cartik is a brand that I started a year ago selling purses made from African Prints. My goal is to turn Cartik into a source of economic development for women and Artisans in my country Togo, Ghana, and other parts of the African continent.  I’ve seen the Mary’s Pence model for the ESPERA Program and I plan on utilizing some aspects of it in my business.

Models posing with Cartik items at a fashion show.

Models posing with Cartik items at a fashion show.

One thing I’ve learned about Mary’s Pence that I didn’t realize before was that Mary’s Pence supports other organization through their grant program. Prior to applying for my position, I had no idea about this. I was under the impression that Mary’s Pence’s main focus was the ESPERA program.  I think it is amazing that an organization led by women is able to positively impact the lives of so many women not only in our country but also around the globe.

I came into the Mary’s Pence environment open and eager to learn.  I will forever be grateful for this wonderful opportunity that was given to me by Mary’s Pence because in life, one must always be a learner who is willing to learn and acquire knowledge that will contributes to one’s intelligence and growth.

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Violence in the Northern Triangle

Sr. Pat Rogucki, Mary’s Pence Board Member, has been traveling in Central America for the past 26 years. She has seen firsthand the ongoing violence inflicted upon the people, land, and economies in Central America by past free trade agreements. Here she shares some of her stories, what gives her hope, and what concerns she still has.

Sr. Pat Rogucki visits the ESPERA Network in El Salvador.

Sr. Pat Rogucki visits the ESPERA Network in El Salvador.

Our Q’eqchi speaking sister parish in Guatemala told us about the negative impact of years of nickel mining in the local villages. Even before CAFTA, Canadian companies were looking for metals and minerals there. In the the past few years, the mining companies have become more aggressive, evicting these Q’eqchi communities from their lands, raping women, and killing men. There is presently a case in court to try a military officer for killing one of the villagers. A case going to trial is rare.

Bishop Ramazzini received death threats when he took the side of the indigenous against the gold mining companies in his former diocese of San Marcos. Now, he is working on similar issues in Huehuetenango.

In El Salvador, the Canadian Pacific Rim Company and U.S. subsidiaries have filed a lawsuit against this tiny nation, which is the size of Massachusetts. The Church, the people, and the government have been against the this company’s use of water-intensive cyanide ore processing in the basin of El Salvador’s largest river, the Rio Lempa.

This El Dorado Mine is located in the San Isidro region of the department of Cabanas. I have been there several times to hear the people of ADES explain the many negative envrionmental impacts of the mining efforts. Marcelo Rivera, a teacher, was the first to lose his life for this cause. He was kidnapped, tortured, and his body was found in an old well. Others were shot and killed.

The government finally voted for the company to suspend further mining efforts. Since the shareholders could not be paid, the company is suing El Salvador for millions in court. The laws of these trade agreements take precedence over a nation’s laws, even those that protect its environment.

A farming issue in El Salvador has been the use of genetically modified seeds. Monsanto owns the seeds, and farmers have to buy new ones for each planting season. If they should blow onto a neighboring farm, that owner can be sued. A small group of farmers began their own seed business. Last year, the U.S. was willing to give the Millennium funds to the government only if the farmers allowed foreign companies like Monsanto to have a stake in their business. Overwhelming support came from outside solidarity groups and that effort was defeated — a big victory for the small farming business!

Honduras is the poorest of the Central American countries. There are 21 Lempiras — the local currency — to the U.S. dollar. It is also the Murder Capital of the World. In the capital, Tegucigalpa, many big U.S. food corporations sell pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, and fried chicken. Other corporations include U.S. hotel chains and gas stations.

The women business owners in Tegucigalpa who participate in our ESPERA Program have told me about the dangers they face when they go to the local market to buy fruits or vegetables. They are often threatened with a pistol or a knife. For safety, they must go to Walmart or a mall for their produce. They said that it looks nice, but in a day or two it is rotten.

The violence in all of these countries is further fueled by the drug trade which is headed north to the “big market.” It may appear that these multinationals create some jobs at the local level, but huge amounts of money and resources go to the corporations, leaving the countries altogether. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, known as the Northern Triangle, suffer in a cycle of exploitation and violence while U.S. corporations reap the profits.

For more information you can visit these sites:

www.rightsaction.org,

http://www.maryknollogc.org/article/el-salvador-struggles-continue-around-mining

http://ecoviva.org/farmer-cooperatives-not-monsanto-supply-el-salvador-with-seed/

 

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Baltimore Board Meeting & Reception with Asylee Women’s Enterprises

This past weekend in Baltimore, Mary’s Pence board and staff met for our spring board meeting. This is a group of intelligent and kind women who are passionate about Mary’s Pence work. Though each woman comes from different life experiences, we are grounded in the vision of a world where empowered women and their communities flourish in solidarity and justice.

It was a weekend full of intentional thought and conversation about Mary’s Pence work, and communion with each other. We were fortunate to start the weekend off with a donor gathering which we hosted with Mary’s Pence Grantee Asylee Women’s Enterprises (AWE). Molly Corbett, founder of AWE, let us know that it was because of the Mary’s Pence Grant she received that she was able to get other larger grants and launch the organization. This is a wonderful example of the work Mary’s Pence does to plant seeds for community change.

Other women participants shared about what AWE means to them. They explained the difficulty of transitioning their entire lives — learning new languages, new skills, meeting new people, and living in an unknown culture. The hardest part is doing it without the support system of a family. Yet, because of AWE the women no longer have to face these difficulties alone. AWE is their new family.

Watch this video to hear Molly Corbett tell this story in her own words.

Re-Making a Life: Molly Corbett at TedxBaltimoreWomen

Though we our small, our reach truly is global thanks to the Mary’s Pence community of board, grantees, and donors. Virginia, one supporter who came to the event in Baltimore, brought along this poem, which she had received from Mary’s Pence in it’s beginning. It is a wonderful reminder of the essence of Mary’s Pence work and of the power of the women who do it.

The universe yet incomplete
On the sixth day God created her
Woman

And God said to her
I shall give to you
A heart full of compassion
A spirit free to fly with the birds
A vessel to carry life into the world
Wisdom to know great truths
Courage to rise out of oppression
Strength to move mountains
Gentleness to kiss the earth
Passion to set the world on fire
Vision to respect the earth that bore you
A playful nature to dance with the children
Laughter to fill the valleys
Tears to wash the pain away
Hands for laboring and loving
Intuition to know the unknown
Desire to be that which you were created to be

And god said to her
Woman
I have created you in my image and likeness
And you are good

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Meet Grace Garvey-Hall, New Development and Communications Liaison at Mary’s Pence

I originally became involved hisp picwith Mary’s Pence last summer as the Communications Intern. I was struck by the uniqueness of a feminist and faith-based organization and the way Mary’s Pence stands on these two foundations to work with women to create lasting, systemic change in their communities. I was impressed with the way Mary’s Pence combats inequity and injustice across country and cultural borders.

After the summer, I made my final trip to Tacoma, Washington for my last semester at Pacific Lutheran University. At the end of the semester I presented capstones for both my majors, English-writing and Hispanic Studies. For my writing major I presented a lyric essay I wrote called “As Ordinary As it All Appears” that detailed my life growing up in Minnesota and my relationships with my mom and sister. For my Hispanic Studies capstone I presented a paper, in Spanish, in which I analyzed poems from Lori Carlson’s Cool Salsa and Red Hot Salsa–bilingual anthologies of poems about being young and latin@ in the United States. Now I am excited to be back with Mary’s Pence, continuing to tell the stories of the wonderful women we fund and work alongside.

During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to travel to Spain and Ecuador. Both experiences were wonderful opportunities to expand my comfort zone and immerse myself in another culture. It was during these travels that I began to reflect on what feminism means in a global context. I am excited to continue learning and working in solidarity with Mary’s Pence. In my spare-time I enjoying reading, singing in my church choir, and trying new recipes.

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ESPERA Assembly in Suchitoto, El Salvador

Mary’s Pence established the ESPERA program in 2008 as a way to create economic development and empower women by partnering with existing women’s networks in Central America, Mexico and Haiti and giving them the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. These networks are centered around what we call community lending pools – pools of money that the women, with the help of Mary’s Pence, use to disperse loans among themselves in order to create income generating projects such as agricultural production, or artisan crafts. The women use the money earned with these projects to pay back the loans with interest into the community lending pool, thereby creating a sustainably growing economy that equally benefits all members of their community.

It has been almost 8 years since the ESPERA program was launched, and its success inspires us to continue our mission to support women’s economic autonomy.

In March, Katherine Wojtan, Executive Director of Mary’s Pence, traveled to Suchitoto, El Salvador to attend an assembly held by one of our ESPERA groups, Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto. She came back excited to share her experience with the Mary’s Pence community.

The women in ESPERA group Concertacion de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador discuss economic solidarity.

The women in ESPERA group Concertacion de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador discuss economic solidarity

There were about 120 women that attended this event; 80 of them were women from the Concertación, and the rest were from other ESPERA groups in Honduras and Nicaragua. This was the first time in in two years that all the members of the Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto were able to meet as a whole group. During the assembly, the women broke into small groups based on the kinds of business they run. Together they brainstormed ideas to improve their business and different ways to create economic solidarity. The women then presented their ideas to the entire assembly. Some of the women also brought items they sell to show the other ESPERA women.

Despite the successes of the ESPERA program, the women of the Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto continue to face obstacles that hinder the growth of their businesses and their local economy. Increasingly, the women have been enduring harassment from local gang groups who threaten the women in the network in order to get the money they earn from their businesses. The women described to Katherine how the gang members ask for “renta,” Spanish for rent or income. Essentially, the women must pay a fee stop gang harrassment. This is an unfortunate reality that Mary’s Pence is continuing to discuss and working with the ESPERA women to find solutions.

However, the women in Suchitoto continue to strive to collectively improve their communities’ economic conditions. Katherine said she was amazed at the energy of the women and their eagerness to attend the assembly and to continue to grow and improve their businesses. Katherine had the opportunity to talk to some of the women about their ideas for improving the ESPERA program in Suchitoto. The women explained that they wanted to learn how to better manage their businesses by learning bookkeeping and tracking their inventory.

In September, Auxiliadora Salgado, a local ESPERA coordinator, began teaching basic accounting topics to another group in El Salvador, Red de Mujeres Nicarahualt. The eagerness of the other women to also learn accounting demonstrates the importance of the ESPERA assemblies as ways to share information, brainstorm ideas, and generate enthusiasm for improvement across and among our groups.

Keep an eye out for the Spring Newsletter in your mailbox to read more about how Auxiliadora and her accounting class have improved ESPERA businesses.

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Grantee Spotlight: Focus on Haiti

Empowering women to make changes in their lives and communities is one of the core methods by which we accomplish our work at Mary’s Pence. We’ve seen that women’s empowerment is key to helping a society or community flourish. One way we carry out this work is through our Mary’s Pence Grant program. We support organizations like Focus on Haiti that are changing the lives of women through education, health care, and microfinance.

Focus on Haiti was founded by The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in 2011. The sisters wanted to collaborate with other religious communities in other cultures to address dire problems that affect women and children. To begin, they chose to work in a small town in Haiti called Gros Morne. Gros Morne was a focal point for the sisters because a significant number of the members in their community had at one point visited Haiti, and they always came back from their trips inspired to do acts of social justice.

The town of Gros Morne is a rural city that is in the north of Haiti. Like many rural areas in Haiti, there is no access to public water supply or sewage amenities, and electricity is scarce. Many of the inhabitants of the town of Gros Morne, especially women and children, live in abject poverty and do not have access to basic necessities like healthcare and adequate food. Life for the residents of Gros Morne became even more challenging in the aftermath of the earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010. The residents were faced with many ills, including homelessness.

In 2013, Focus on Haiti was awarded a Mary’s Pence Grant to fund their Purse Power and Kay Pov projects. Kay Pov is a place where people in the community can come to receive meals; it is also home to 23 elderly people in the community. Kay Pov is creole for “poorhouse,” however, the residents of Gros Morne decided to rename it Maison Bon Samaritan; this is French for “house of the good.” Focus on Haiti used a portion of the grant to renovate Maison Bon Samaritan; they built a keyhole garden yielding vegetables, and they were able to hire a full-time female nurse named Lillian to care for the health needs and concerns of members in the community. With Lillian as part of the Focus on Haiti staff, along with other staff members of Maison Bon Samaritan, the health of the 23 residents has improved; they now have access to medications and nutritious meals.

The second portion of the Mary’s Pence Grant went towards establishing the Purse Power project, an initiative Focus on Haiti created to educate woman on financial literacy and business. They started with 50 women in the program and have since then expanded to bringing more women into this amazing project. Sister Dale Jarvis, one of the members of Focus on Haiti, reaffirms the goal of the Purse Power with this quote “the purpose of the Purse Power project is to develop a woman’s program that provides women with education and to initiate microfinance projects that will empower woman economically.” Like Mary’s Pence, this organization believes that women are the backbone of family and community.

Since Focus on Haiti was established in 2011, they have also developed many projects that change the livelihood of women and children. For example, for the past three years, they have been supporting the agro-forestry program in the region by providing a salary for an agronomist and his assistant. Through the agro-forestry program, the people of Gros Morne have received education concerning the importance of this work and have planted over 100,000 trees. The agronomist and his assistant also supervise the training for local Haitians in goat husbandry and a community hen project. Both of these projects have provided Gros Morne with sustainable land and food sources. Investing in the local agro-forestry business has also been another form of economic development for women to lift themselves out of poverty.

With the same tenacity and passion that Sister Dale Jarvis and the rest of The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas used to start Focus on Haiti, they are now expanding its work. The sisters are actively searching for a woman that will serve as a liaison for the organization in Haiti; they are seeking a female liaison that speaks French, English, and Creole. She will be a point of contact between members of Focus on Haiti in the US and the town of Gros-Morne. Sister Dale Jarvis says “we are looking for a woman to fulfill this position because we believe that will have more of an impact, by sustained, direct contact with the community”

Focus on Haiti is changing the lives of women in Gros Morne one woman and one child at a time.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track Approval: Oppose the Damage Done by Free Trade Agreements

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a massive free trade agreement among the countries around the Pacific Rim. Countries currently involved in the negotiations are: the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Eventually, the TPP could include all nations along the Pacific Rim. Discussions about the TPP, a cornerstone of President Obama’s trade policy, were initiated in 2005. In his last State of the Union he expressed his desire to achieve approval of the agreement in the coming months. Although the TPP is labeled a “trade agreement” only 5 of the 29 chapters deal with traditional trade issues. It is a wide-sweeping agreement with potential to impact our federal, state, and even local policies.

 What is Fast Track Approval?

Congress traditionally has authority over trade deals. However, fast track gives this authority to the President, thereby allowing him to sign a trade deal, after which the deal goes before Congress for a yes/no vote with limited debate and no amendments. Fast track was created in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, and has only been used 16 times in the history of our nation, often to approve controversial trade agreements, including NAFTA.

 Why Does Mary’s Pence Oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have a history of harming people already suffering from economic injustice. Agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA have led to the off-shoring of jobs for citizens of the United States, while also undercutting profits of local farmers in Mexico and Central America with the import of cheap foods. This contributed to an increase in use of sweatshop labor and the increase in migration, as individuals felt forced to leave their homes to provide for their families. While trade agreements may improve labor standards and the quality of life for people around the world, those who have analyzed leaked parts of the TPP say that it replicates many of the provisions that allowed previous free trade agreements to wreak havoc on good paying, stable jobs around the world. Thus, we are worried that the TPP will replicate the policies of previous FTAs and have a huge impact due to the expansive size of the agreement. In short, the TPP could drastically increase economic injustices both at home and abroad – economic injustices that the women we partner with are already struggling with. Other concerns include the possibility diminishing banking, environmental, and health regulations that protect individuals.

We are concerned that such a massive trade agreement, with the potential to impact so many women’s lives across the Americas, is being negotiated in secret and with little oversight through the fast track process. Allowing fast track approval means that the agreement will not be properly debated according to our country’s democratic principles. We echo the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment when they state in their letter to Congress that allowing fast track approval for the TPP: “privileges the views of powerful global corporations in defining the terms of trade agreements, while excluding voices of those adversely impacted. This impedes progress towards a more just world.”

Who Else Opposes the TPP and How Can I Help?

Organizations that we trust, and many that we partner with, are mobilizing against the TPP, including Network – a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Sisters of Charity of New York, Franciscan Action Network, and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. You can see the full list of members of the Interfaith Working Group here.

If you’re concerned about the TPP you can learn more by reading about the TPP on the following websites: Public Citizen, Network, Citizens Trade Campaign , and the Cross-border Network Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Information for this article was gathered from these websites). You can also find events, actions, petitions to sign, and talking points on FlushTheTPP.org, CitizensTrade.org, and TPPXBorder.org. Sr. Simone Campbell of Network predicts that the TPP will be a hotly debated issue between March and September of this year, with the President calling for fast track approval any day. Your action is needed now!

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Celebrating International Women’s Day with Mary’s Pence

Tere, an associate of the metal working cooperative, Yolitzli, displays the patterns used to make handicrafts for sale.

Tere, an associate of the metal working cooperative, Yolitzli, displays the patterns used to make handicrafts for sale.

The global theme for International Women’s Day 2015 is “Make It Happen!” And this is exactly what the women of ESPERA and Mary’s Pence Grants are doing. Everyday they make their businesses happen, they make improving their lives happen, and they make working for justice in their communities happen.

In our International Women’s Day letter we shared the story of one particular group of women who “Make It Happen.”

ESPERA participants in Cuentepec, Mexico meet to discusses the challenges and successes of owning and growing their business.

ESPERA participants in Cuentepec, Mexico meet to discusses the challenges and successes of owning and growing their business.

The women of the Red de Mujeres Morelenses have a diversity of businesses – some grow agricultural products, others have small stores sellng food or clothes, while others produce and sell handmade crafts or health products.

The women shared with us that they participate in ESPERA and work hard to improve their businesses, because they believe in building small, independent economic initiatives, which offer them sustainable alternatives to many of the unjust, low-wage, long hour options around them. The women of the Red de Mujeres Morelenses, along with all the women we partner with embody this International Women’s Day theme!

You know who also “Makes It Happen?” You!

Wendy, with her son, stands proudly in her store where she sells hand painted crafts.

Wendy, with her son, stands proudly in her store where she sells hand painted crafts.

Your support ensures that the women we partner with have the resources they need to make the changes they want in their lives and their communities. Thank you!

We invite you to donate today – in honor of International Women’s Day, of the women who “make it happen” in your life, in honor of the women of ESPERA and Mary’s Pence Grants, and in honor of all the women around the world who build justice. Your support ensures that the women we partner with can continue to “Make It Happen!”

Thank you again!

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Meet Carmen – Mary’s Pence New Communications and Outreach Intern

10906160_10200116586514516_4859741636333633618_nIn February, Carmen Attikossie joined the Mary’s Pence team as our new Communications and Outreach Intern. She brings a passion for empowerment, experience in social enterprise, and loads of great energy and ideas! Welcome, Carmen!

My name is Carmen Attikossie; I am a senior at St. Catherine University studying International Relations with a minor in French. I am the Communication and Outreach Intern for Mary’s Pence. I came across the work that Mary’s Pence does through the St. Kate’s Career Development office. I did a little bit of research on the organization and I was really touched by the work they do with women in various parts of the Americas. As an International Relations major, my courses are filled with research and discussions around Economic Development and empowering women globally. With such a background I was easily drawn to apply for the Communication and Outreach Intern position.

In my spare time, I like to travel and learn about different cultures and people. Last year I studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa. While I was there I would volunteer at an organization called Future Leaders. Future Leaders teaches children the basic foundations of education for free. During my stay with Future Leaders I taught science to 5th and 6th graders. I also helped developed a Micro-Finance initiative for women in the region. This Micro-Finance initiative included teaching women how to make everyday products like soap that they can sale to earn an income. In addition to that, the women were also learning how to grow vegetables that they can also sell.

I also have a business that I started about a year ago selling accessories made out of African Prints. The name of my business is Cartik. While I was studying abroad in Ghana, I would travel to Togo, which is right next to Ghana, and also my birth country. While I was in Togo I would help my aunt pick out a variety of Vibrant African Prints for her business, she inspired me to start Cartik by sketching some ideas for purses. By the end of my trip in Ghana and Togo, I came back to the US with 30 purses and jewelry that I sold out within 2 months. By the Grace of God I have increased my inventory from 30 to 200 purses.

I am really excited to begin this journey with Mary’s Pence because I am eager to learn everything this organization has to teach me about the work they do, and I am more than happy to contribute in anyway that I can.

 

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