Voices from Honduras, Board Member Pat Rogucki Reports on the Situation on the Ground

Grupo Ramon Amaya Amador

Members of the ESPERA group Ramon Amaya Amador in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Dora wife and business partner of Jose Denis Grupo Epifania

Dora, member of the Epifania ESPERA group in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

I arrived Sunday night feeling a deep emptiness, along with hunger from the long journey. In the three days that Eva [Mary's Pence ESPERA Promoter] and I met with the women and men in the ESPERA fund businesses in Tegucigalpa, and with friends from there and San Pedro Sula as well, we become filled with the trials and tribulations of our Honduran sisters and brothers. I have a burning desire to share what we have seen and heard on this visit. While these trials and tribulations have affected the success of the ESPERA fund for these once eager, content, and grateful participants, they remain committed to continuing forward and seeking success.

At breakfast, the television “woke us up” with the heart-breaking news of deported children getting off one of several buses. It was marked “Chiapas” and one little boy said that he had  parents in the US and not here. How was he going to continue to survive? The rest of the news continued with the stark themes of corruption, violence, and impunity.

As the day wore on, we became aware of how painfully true this was. The women told us about waiting in extremely long lines to buy smaller and cheaper beans. The price for a pound of the regular size is $1.50, about the same drastically high price as in El Salvador where the dollar is used. The Honduran exchange is roughly 21 Limpiras to the dollar. We were told that their money is becoming worth less and less. The cost of the basics for survival is very expensive. The women have to buy their fruits and vegetables at the big stores like Walmart and at the malls because it is safer there. The produce looks nice, but rots more quickly. If they go to the less expensive  local markets, they could face not only a knife, but a pistol. That is the price they pay for security! As all prices go up, so does the insecurity and violence. One man, who had felt very differently prior to last year´s election, said that the government is trying to suffocate the poor as the rich get more.

There is fear of boarding the buses and one was recently burned in their locality, the end of the line. Taxi drivers could be met with a pistol to the head requesting  a “tax” payment for protection. “We live stressed and anxious, ” said one mother of adolescents. As the children grow, life for them becomes more dangerous and to go out for social activities could be fatal. There is high unemployment and  students can study with great sacrifice to graduate, but then there is no work. The youth do not see a viable future and lose hope.

People know when you are at home and when you leave. There are “ears” here that inform. The three sources of violence include not only the gangs, but kidnappers who do so for ransom, and special groups called “cikarias” who are paid to kill people targeted by the narco-traffickers. We were told that congressional leaders are involved in this trade. Drugs enter the country from the north by water and continue  to Mexico and the US. The latter is the world´s largest consumer of illegal drugs. Central Americans tell me that they are the bridge for these drugs to reach the big Market. Another comment was that Honduras remains in violence, in  bloodshed and deaths, and the United States gets the dollars and the drugs. If they did not consume such a quantity of drugs, there would not be such bloodshed in Honduras.

Doris and Daughter, business partners Ramon Amaya Amador

Doris and her daughter are business partners in their card making business. They are members of the ESPERA group Ramon Amaya Amador

At night, from our bedroom window, Eva and I could see the huge statue of Christ on the opposite mountain, bathed in a pale pink light. It was a reminder to us of the deep faith of these people. They were grateful for the food they did have as those in the poorer south had even less. They expressed their trust in God as they were committed to continue in the daily struggle, facing lack of employment, growing insecurity and violence, drug and human trafficking, and corruption, etc.

Maria Soriano Grupo Epifania

Maria Soriano, member of the ESPERA group Epifania

Author´s notes.  In a map report from HOMELAND INTELLIGENCE  TODAY, nearly 3,000 minors coming from San Pedro Sula were apprehended at the US border from January 1st to May, 2014.  This was followed by nearly 1,000 coming from Tegucigalpa and Juticalpa, Honduras. For the second  year, San Pedro Sula has been the murder capital of the world in the country that shares the same title.

As we departed from Tegucigalpa, I counted eight US companies within a 2-block span, much more than there seem to be in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Thank you for reading and “listening.”

Pat Rogucki, Board Member

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Crossing Borders: My Journey to Global Feminsm

Grace Garvey-Hall spent her summer working with Mary’s Pence as the Communications Intern. She brought her excellent writing, design, social media, and Spanish skills to the work, as well as a deep passion for improving the lives of women. During her last week in the office, she shares with us her journey of developing this passion, and her experience as a part of the Mary’s Pence team. Thank you Grace for the capacity you brought to our work and the impact you’ve had on the lives of women. 

In eighth grade when I decided to take Spanish for my foreign language requirement, I had only one thought in my mind: getting an easy A. Later that year I was feeling pretty proud of myself after having mastered the conjugation patterns for all three types of verbs in the present tense. Then Señora R. began to talk about all the other tenses we had yet to learn. Learning another language turned out to be a lot of work.

By the time I reached my junior year in high school, I was ready to quit. The easy A I had in mind when I began had long since become a distant dream. But then I was presented with an opportunity: a two-week service-learning trip to Perú in June 2010. I didn’t know much about Perú except that I wanted to go there. After having participated in a variety of mission trips in the United States with the Immanuel Lutheran Church youth group, two things were certain: 1) service was an important way for me to live my faith, and 2) getting to know people from other cultures, religions, and life paths was something I wanted to keep doing. The opportunity to pursue these passions was more than enough motivation to improve my Spanish significantly that year.

Three of my friends from a local high school in Lima who also served at San Lorenzo school.

Three of my friends from a local high school in Lima who also served at San Lorenzo school.

In Perú I and the other girls from my class stayed with a host family. For three days we volunteered with San Lorenzo school in the poorest district in Lima. We turned a makeshift hut into a library by stocking it with shelves and books and painting it bright teal and purple. The best part was knowing we had provided these kids with materials that would eventually help them help themselves. We’d handed them books and given them the chance to better their lives.

Painting the new library at San Lorenzo school in Lima, Perú

Painting the new library at San Lorenzo school in Lima, Perú

 

When I got back from my trip, one of the youth leaders at my church asked me “what did you learn about the U.S. while you were away?” He had me stumped.

I’d learned so much about the culture of Perú, and of course I’d naturally compared it with the United States: most people lived in apartments not houses, children lived with their parents well into their twenties, they put carrots in their spaghetti. And, of course, I’d confronted my own privilege. But to be honest, it wasn’t anything different than what I’d already learned from trips with my church. I was blessed and therefore had a responsibility to help, though what form that help would take wasn’t entirely clear yet.

But what had I learned about the U.S.? It’s a question I have reflected on often since, and a question I challenged myself to answer again when I travelled for a month to Quito, Ecuador in January 2013 as a college sophomore.

Photo taken at Cuy Cocha lake outside Quito, Ecuador

Photo taken at Cuy Cocha lake outside Quito, Ecuador

By this time, I had a year and a half of liberal arts education at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA under my belt. I thought I was pretty savvy because I’d traveled to South America before and I had the subjunctive tense basically mastered. I was ready.

Actually, I was totally unprepared. In Peru we’d spent so much time as a group that culture shock hadn’t been much of a concern. I had been able to more or less observe the culture without having to actually immerse myself in it. In Ecuador, I spent much of my time completely alone with my host family, on the bus, or walking to and from school.

It remains the only time I’ve entered a space and been the only person with white skin. But my experience, though amplified by my race, was really defined by being a woman. Ecuador is a machista society and as a woman I was often treated as less-than, weak, an easy target, in ways I had never experienced in the United States. I have never felt more powerless or afraid.

Immediately after returning to the United States, I felt relief. It was much safer to be a woman in the United States, more comfortable to be me, than it was in Ecuador. I was angry and I looked down on Ecuador and Perú because of how many of the people in their country treated women.

But the United States is not blameless.

My experience in Ecuador didn’t just open my eyes to the plight of women in Latin America. Though it took a while, I became more aware of the difficulties faced by many marginalized women in the United States. In the United States I personally was less affected, but that didn’t mean other women weren’t. I had never before considered before how it might feel for an immigrant, for example, to enter a public space and be treated differently simply for acting, dressing, speaking, being how they are. My experience had lasted a month. Most immigrants never get to go home. Second or third generation immigrants may live their entire lives feeling outcast from and objectified by the mainstream culture of the country they call home.

I learned that the United States is culpable. And the mistreatment of marginalized persons in my own country is neither different nor unrelated to the oppression of those in other countries.

Hiking outside of Granada, Spain with my roommate and our two best friends from Granada.

Hiking outside of Granada, Spain with my roommate and our two best friends from Granada.

A year and a half later, as I was finishing my semester abroad in Spain, these issues continued to weigh on my mind. I had a lot of knowledge and experience built up. And the question of my own responsibility was really nagging me. How was I going to utilize my experiences and skills to better women’s lives?

To me, Mary’s Pence is part one of that answer.

As a woman who has interacted with women from other countries and cultures, my feminism is a global feminism. It has to be. I’ve seen the way that women of all different nationalities, religions, and economic statuses, have suffered. And, thanks to Mary’s Pence, I’ve seen how they have overcome.

Through my role as the Communications Intern at Mary’s Pence, I interacted with so many of the inspirational women in the Mary’s Pence community. Through the process of creating the 2015 calendar and July/August E-News, I connected with all of our Mary’s Pence grantees and Gilda, our ESPERA coordinator, as they shared photos and stories of women who are passionately working for justice. Though the grantees individually focus on specific issues, and the ESPERA women all own and operate different businesses, together we are fighting for a common goal of women’s empowerment and equality. Every single day in the office the staff and volunteers discussed issues affecting women across the globe. Katherine would always ask: “ok, so what can we do?” It’s a question we can never stop asking.

The work we do really works because part of our strategy is making sure we hear the experiences of individual women. Understanding, respecting, and directly responding to these experiences makes our work more effective. It might seem surprising that as a Lutheran I’m working for a Catholic organization. But to me, it makes perfect sense. Only when we cross borders, seek out commonalities, ask questions and work together to find answers can we ensure peace and justice for all women. When one woman is stronger, we are all stronger.

Grace Garvey-Hall

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Shedding Light on Disappearances in Argentina

In Latin America, victims of human trafficking are often referred to as “desaparecidos” or “those who have disappeared.” Because centers of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are so difficult to uncover, victims seemingly vanish without a trace. Part of the reason this is possible is because human traffickers are often involved in other crimes such as money laundering or drug trafficking, so they have pre-existing networks that are practiced in evading law enforcement officials. But unlike drugs, human beings can be sold more than once, which only increases incentive. In economic terms, human trafficking is a low risk crime that generates enormous profit. This is why in addition to being one of the most undetected crimes, human trafficking is also one of the most common.

Mary’s Pence grantee Acciones Coordinadas Contra la Trata (Coordinated Actions Against Human Trafficking) or ACCT is an interdisciplinary team based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s formed by anthropologists, archaeologists, teachers, psychologists, lawyers, and other professionals who collaborate to battle human trafficking and increase the visibility of this crime. Their approach is unique in that it combines forensic anthropology, psychology, and education to tackle human trafficking from a variety of angles.

A group of police officers and forensic scientists examine evidence at a crime scene.

A group of police officers and forensic scientists examine evidence at a crime scene.

A forensic anthropologist examines evidence in the lab.

A forensic anthropologist examines evidence in the lab.

An ACCT educator speaks to girls at a local elementary school about how to prevent human trafficking.

An ACCT educator speaks to girls at a local elementary school about how to prevent human trafficking.

The ACCT forensic team works to identify potential human trafficking victims by comparing records of unidentified bodies in morgues and cemeteries with missing persons reports. Through DNA tests and finger print records, ACCT has helped solve cases of disappearances up to 20 years old. They have also started a database that collects data of alleged disappearances, unidentified bodies, and current and past human trafficking cases and other related crimes. According to Celeste Perosino, ACCT president, this data “will allow [ACCT] to establish public policies that can combat the phenomenon in a more direct way.”

In one case a young girl who Perosino refers to as P.A. was reported missing. She had disappeared from her house in the middle of the night. A missing persons agency in the area suspected her case was related to a larger trafficking or child sexual exploitation ring and contacted ACCT. By looking at news sources, other missing persons cases, and interviewing neighbors and relatives, the ACCT team was able to deduce that P.A. had been kidnapped by traffickers. They were even able to identify other potential trafficking cases in the area. But ACCT didn’t stop there.

When P.A. was taken, a psychologist with ACCT, who was experienced in trafficking cases, acted as a guide for her mother and sister. The psychologist accompanied them throughout the case providing space and opportunities to cope, understand, and start healing from the experience.

The psychologists who work with ACCT support family members and friends of victims or potential victims from the time they are reported missing. They also work to support those who suffered directly from human trafficking crimes. Through attentive listening, the creation of non-judgmental sharing spaces, and weekly meetings with the individuals, psychologists help former victims regain control of their lives and prevent re-victimization.

According to Perosino, in November 2013, P.A. “apareció” – she appeared. The use of this word liberates her from her prior status as a desaparecido, a label that usually connotes permanent loss. But it doesn’t accurately exemplify the role ACCT played. Were it not for investigation and action on the part of ACCT, P.A. would not have been found. She is now, with the help of ACCT lawyers, launching a case against the traffickers who took her and other minors in her area. And she and her family continue to work with the psychologist as they seek justice and begin to reconstruct their lives.

Despite this and many other similar success stories, ACCT was not satisfied. They are now implementing a third aspect to their work. ACCT preventative education focuses primarily on trafficking for sexual purposes in which 98% of victims are women and girls. As such, most of their preventative education is addressed toward young girls and women. ACCT educators go to classrooms and other educational settings to present about human trafficking and raise awareness. They especially emphasize developing communities where the girls can learn together and support each other in the hopes that young girls like P.A. will be less vulnerable to traffickers.

Specifically with funds from Mary’s Pence, ACCT was able to publish its first educational manual entitled “Creando Cambios” – “Creating Change: Educating to Prevent Human Trafficking.” The manual reflects the innovation of ACCT while addressing common questions from classroom visits. It guides readers through a combination of philosophical discussions and practical applications of policy and prevention. There are two technical chapters that detail ACCT’s work with forensic anthropology as well as an investigation of money laundering by human traffickers. But there are also chapters that reflect on freedom, dignity, and human rights.

The manual works to explain characteristics of human trafficking both globally and more specifically in Argentina. This new education resource allows ACCT to focus more on prevention and awareness so that eventually nobody will have to endure what P.A. or her family did.

Though the work ACCT does is local, through the education handbook funded by Mary’s Pence, they are bringing awareness to a global crime that affects girls and women in every country in the world. Each community member who collaborates with ACCT makes the invisible crime of human trafficking visible, and makes the desaparecidos appear.

Perosino says that “To deny human trafficking is to deny the exploitation suffered by thousands of girls, adolescents, and women.”

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“A Nun on the Bus” Inspires Us to Stand with the “Least of These”

by Mary’s Pence board member, Katie Lacz

It would appear to be a complicated time to navigate what it means to be a religious sister – to be told that you are part of a dying breed, on the one hand; and yet alive enough to pose a threat to Catholicism with your “radical feminist” tendencies, on the other. For Sr. Simone Campbell, though, what it means to be a religious sister is clear, if not always easy: “We walk with people in everyday life and try to live the Gospel in that context,” she writes in her memoir, A Nun on the Bus. “This living reality gives us hearts of compassion for the struggle of our world. We strive to be faithful to Jesus’ call to love everyone.” (p. 109)

A Nun on the Bus is a vibrant history of the walk – or, in this case, bus ride – in which Campbell and her fellow sisters sought to bring the message of the Gospel to the U.S. debate on poverty and inequality in the context of the budget vote of 2012. It is a quick-moving, passionate witness of Campbell’s experiences of a woman, and a religious community, caught in an extraordinary confluence of circumstances that led to the famous bus ride; even more so, it is a reflective examination of the work of the Holy Spirit hovering over the surface of those chaotic waters.

The book is part memoir, briefly touching on Campbell’s upbringing as a Colorado transplant to California, the nudges that guided her towards religious life, and her years bringing her passion for law, policy and advocacy into play with her calling as vowed religious.  It is part insider’s view, taking the reader behind the scenes of some of the decisive moments that led to the “Nuns on the Bus” tour, Campbell’s subsequent fame, and the moving stories of the people the sisters met along the way. But the book is at its best when Campbell explores the challenge of bringing together the strands of Catholicism that have felt so divided in the U.S. in recent years, and urges both sides to a higher understanding: “I am convinced by faith that we must strive for policies that include the 100 percent and involve the 100 percent in their formulation,” she writes. Even as she jokes that she might be the “stomach acid” in the Body of Christ, she does so with an awareness that even the people she finds most annoying and frustrating are necessary members, to be loved and worked with and journeyed alongside.

For people for whom words like “progressive” and “Catholic” are not a contradiction – people like supporters of Mary’s Pence – it is encouraging to see a thoughtful defense of the Gospel call to stand with the “least of these,” and to read the journey of a woman who is walking the walk, stumbles and all. Campbell begins and ends her book with the ancient cry, “Come, Holy Spirit!”, and her book gives a glimpse at the many small ways that the face of the earth is being renewed by the efforts of ordinary people.

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Understanding the Roots of the Current Unaccompanied Minor Humanitarian Crisis

Like many of you, we have been following the growing humanitarian crisis on the border between Mexico and the United States as tens of thousands of children cross the border without a parent or guardian, ending up alone or with other siblings in deportation centers. The violence and poverty that are driving these children North affect the women involved in ESPERA and their families. They are sharing with us stories of increased insecurity.

Today we mail out our annual summer reading list. When we asked board member, Pat Rogucki to share with us a book review for the blog, she gave us a list of books to help us better understand the situation in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, books that help us understand why we now face this humanitarian crisis. We thank Pat for her insights into the situation and her recommendations for us to grow in understanding. We ask you to join us in praying for peace and equality. And join us in renewed motivation in our Mary’s Pence work that seeks to change the economic landscape in the region so that women and their families don’t have to face this situation any longer.

Warm greetings from sunny Central America where I arrived on June 16th. Prior to my departure, it was widely known that thousands of youngsters were crossing the U.S. border. The daily newspapers here have front page photos and stories of this crisis.

In the last seven months, 47, 000 unaccompanied (minus a parent) children have crossed the U. S. border. The vast majority are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, referred to as  the “Triangle of the North” by the press ( See laprensagrafica.com on Sunday, June 15, 2014). The people refer to it the “Triangle of Death.”

You are invited to read one or more of the following books to learn the root causes of this perilous undertaking. Why the have immigrants been coming and why the children now?

Guatemala:
Through a Glass Darkely: U.S. Holocaust in Central America, by Thomas Melville, Orbis Books. This is a riveting biography of Maryknoll Father Ron  Hennessey, an Iowan farm boy who fought in the Korean War and learns the horrific truth of U.S. intervention  in Guatemala via massacre after massacre among the indigenous with whom he worked. The 600 pages cover the 36 years of Guatemala’s civil war and Ron’s inspiring struggle. He had tried to do what we are still trying to do – get the truth out to U.S. citizens. It is worth the read and you might want to do it slowly.

The Art of Political Assassination: The Murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi by Francisco Goldman who is Guatemalan and Jewish. He is a novelist and this book about truth, reads like a novel.

Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala by Daniel Wilkinson, Houghton Mifflin Company.

El Salvador:
Gangsters Without Borders (an ethnogrophy of a Salvadoran Street Gang) by T. W. Ward, an anthropology professor in Southern California. This book chronicles the birth of the infamous Salvadoran gang, MS 13 in southeast Los Angeles. Immigration officials deported members for criminal behavior and then somewhat predicatably violence of war morphed into the unpredictable gang violence that people here try to cope with everyday.
The June homicide rate here was 10 a day when I arrived. It is now 12 and a local taxi driver told me that all murders are not reported.

Women in War by Joselyn Viterna, a Harvard Professor, covers the unspeakable suffering during El Salvador’s civil war and how women in various roles adjusted to life afterward. I am reading this now with great interest.

Honduras:
Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazaro is the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy to find his mother in  the U. S. The author retraces Enrique´s story by traveling on top of trains, hitchhiking, and taking buses, etc. The author was interviewed on National Public Radio´s On Point in early June regarding the wave of youngsters crossing the border.

To Be a Revolutionary, an autobiography by  Padre J. Guadalupe Carney, a North American priest who is missing in Honduras. It is his deeply spiritual struggle  and “love affair” with Honduras and its people in which he comes to grips with the U.S. role in that country. He is inspired to work with the Honduran People at all costs. Harper and Row Publications, San Francisco.

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We Want to Hear From You! And Other Enhancements to Development and Communications in our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan

Over the past month, we’ve been sharing with you Mary’s Pence Fiscal Year 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. You’ve read our refreshed mission and vision and learned about the various ways we are strengthening our ESPERA and Grants programs. It is because of support and input from our donors, board, volunteers, and grantees that we can infuse this new energy into investing in women and working for a world where empowered women live in justice and solidarity.

SummerBookListPhotoAn important part of our work is outreach and conversation with you, our supporters.  In our strategic plan we’ll continue many of our outreach methods – letters during Advent and International Women’s Day, the Summer Reading List, our newsletters, our eNews, and our Facebook postings. Some pieces we’ll be improving – we’ll be making our website compatible with mobile devices, increasing our use of social media, growing our outreach to parishes and faith communities, and finding conferences to attend to reach new and diverse audiences. We also hope to connect with you, our donors, on a personal level when possible – to hear from you individually, about why the work of Mary’s Pence matters to you.

We always love to hear from our supporters about how you’d like to be connected. If you haven’t yet, sign up for our eNews, like us on Facebook, watch our YouTube videos, and check out our website. Tell us what you want to hear about from Mary’s Pence – what postings do you like or what would you like to see more of? We are always available to talk about our work and answer any questions. We do this work together, and together we can share our story of women’s empowerment and solidarity to an even wider audience.

Interested in learning more about the plan for Mary’s Pence in the next five years? Go to our blog for all four posts detailing our 2014-2019 strategic plan.

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Building Networks of Solidarity and Support through Mary’s Pence Grants: Grants Program to Include Focus on Relationship-building in 2014-2019 Strategic Plan

Mary's Pence Grantee, Sacred Valley Project, supports girls who are attending school in the Cusco region of Peru. Their support ensures girls stay in school and receive the education they deserve

Mary’s Pence Grantee, Sacred Valley Project, supports girls who are attending school in the Cusco region of Peru. Their support ensures girls stay in school and receive the education they deserve.

Mary’s Pence Grants have been the foundation of our work since we began in 1987. For over 26 years we have dedicated ourselves to investing in women’s projects that bring about empowerment and systemic change. Just like we are doing with ESPERA, because of increased donations we are able to invest in big new ways in our grants program in the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan.

In a recent survey of grantees we asked what Mary’s Pence can do better to partner in the important work they are doing. Grantees asked for more opportunities for networking, resource sharing, and the chance to have multi-year support. In short, our grantees asked for deeper relationship with Mary’s Pence.

We are planning to connect grantees to each other, to Mary’s Pence staff and to local donors, through events, conferences and gatherings. Already we have in place a joint workshop at the 2014 Call to Action Conference, “Making Moral Economic Systems,” with Vicki Meath, executive director of grantee Just Economics. Our goal is to help grantees increase their visibility and provide them opportunities to network.

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, former Mary's Pence grantee, offer leadership development for young women building peace in their communities.

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, former Mary’s Pence grantee, offers leadership development for young women building peace in their communities.

We also are increasing the funding pool for grantees, connecting grantees to other resources and expertise, and offering the opportunity for multi-year grants. All these actions will help build capacity and sustainability for our grantees. Small, and often start-up, organizations that are making big changes in their communities usually need all the help they can get. At Mary’s Pence, and with our supporters, we hope to do more for our grantees.

Through this discussion with donors, board members, and grantees, we’ve also decided to limit our grantees to only organizations in the United States and Canada. After a year of implementing these new initiatives, we will reevaluate expanding back to Latin America and the Caribbean. We will continue to direct increased resources to Latin America through ESPERA, while also bringing renewed focus and support to the United States and Canada through the grant process. This focus will allow us to intentionally strengthen our relationships with grantees now, so that we will be able to grow stronger in the future.

Mary's Pence funded the "Well Women Clinic" of Naco Wellness Initiative - a program aimed at providing health services to marginalized Latina women on the borderland of Arizona and Mexico.

Mary’s Pence helped fund the “Well Women Clinic” of Naco Wellness Initiative – a program aimed at providing health services to marginalized Latina women on the borderland of Arizona and Mexico.

We hope you join us in excitement about this strong approach to our grants program, as we invest in women who are working for a world where justice flourishes!

Interested in learning more about the plan for Mary’s Pence in the next five years? Keep an eye on our blog for all four posts about our 2014-2019 strategic plan.

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Investing in ESPERA is Investing in Women: ESPERA to grow in the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan

Members of the ESPERA Group,  Asociación de Mujeres Sembradoras de Esperanza, and some family members

Members of the ESPERA Group, Asociación de Mujeres Sembradoras de Esperanza, and some family members

The Mary’s Pence ESPERA model is unique in the world of micro-credit or micro-lending, which is why we refer to what we do as community lending, instead. We believe that the lending pool should be a lasting resource in a community – to be continually circulated for the benefit of all women in an area, never to return to the organization that granted it. This is an alternative way to move money. We are working hard to ensure the sustainability of the ESPERA program.

But we can do more…and we will…

Since our Encuentro gathering over a year ago we’ve been discussing how to support the women as they work to improve the sustainability of their businesses. We want to ensure that each loan a woman receives is used to its maximum potential – that each loan can help lift a woman out of poverty, increase her self-esteem, and improve her engagement in community.

Through ESPERA Mary's Pence supporters provide the monetary resources necessary for women to improve their well-being and grow in empowerment

Through ESPERA Mary’s Pence supporters provide the monetary resources necessary for women to improve their well-being and grow in empowerment.

Mary’s Pence board, staff, and supporters haven’t been the only ones thinking about how to improve the sustainability of ESPERA businesses, so have the women of ESPERA. Auxiliadora, local coordinator of the ESPERA network in Nicaragua has already begun a recordkeeping training for the women participants there. The Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto in El Salvador has sent us a proposal to invest in coaching individual and cooperative businesses, and explore the potential for creating new markets for their products. The women of ESPERA have great ideas about how to enhance the ESPERA program. We can’t wait to work with them on these ideas and replicate them across the region!

With this energy and room for growth in the ESPERA program we plan to invest significantly more in ESPERA in the coming year! With your support, we’ll be able to achieve the following goals for the ESPERA program, as described in our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan:

Members of collective businesses that are a part of the ESPERA Group in Nicaragua, Red de Mujeres Nicarahualt

Members of collective businesses that are a part of the ESPERA Group in Nicaragua, Red de Mujeres Nicarahualt.

1. Provide access to financial resources by adding to community lending pools when appropriate and encouraging savings programs.
2. Strengthen businesses by providing intensive coaching and accompaniment to the women on the topics of recordkeeping, sustainable business practices, and understanding markets.
3. Deepen and strengthen stability of groups, member involvement, and network opportunities across the groups by encouraging joint planning and trainings, as well as supporting the groups to obtain legal status in their countries.
4. Document processes and create support materials so that the trainings and resources we develop can be easily shared with all ESPERA groups. And so that we effectively monitor and evaluate our work.
5. And finally, we plan to expand ESPERA to new groups in Central America, and potentially to South America!

In this time of planning we are again reminded that ESPERA means “she hopes” and “she waits.” We know that many of the women we work with have been waiting a long time for the necessary resources to work for their dreams. Through ESPERA we are able to provide those monetary resources, and now we look forward to doing even more to strengthen the women’s ability to use the ESPERA loans to improve their lives.

Interested in learning more about the plan for Mary’s Pence in the next five years? Keep an eye on our blog for all four posts about our 2014-2019 strategic plan.

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