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Mary’s Pence Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

Sunset over Suchitoto ElSalvador during COVID19

The work at Mary’s Pence has shifted in the past few weeks in response to the global pandemic. The focus of our work, however, remains not only the same, but more important than ever as we are called to join together to take care of ourselves and others.

Staff and Office in the United States

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility of protecting the health and safety of our greater community, our St. Paul office staff has been working from home since Monday, March 16th. Thanks to the wonders of technology, creativity, and dedicated staff and board members, our office functions have continued as normal. We are receiving and responding to all emails and phone calls. And, as always, we welcome a call from you if you want to talk.

Mary’s Pence Grants across the U.S. and Canada

Our grantees continue their critical work to address inequalities and promote social change in their communities. Many advocate for just economy and society, and address intersectional issues such as gender, poverty, racism, as well as care for our precious earth. This work will be more important than ever as we emerge from the current crisis that has highlighted injustices in our country and in our world.

We are now actively supporting our grantees in multiple ways:

  • Encouraging current grantees to use their grant for their most urgent budgeting needs and proving a grace period to submit final reports.
  • Continuing our twice-per-year granting cycles (February 1 and August 1).
  • Providing resources that could be helpful (e.g. a list of other granters who are responding to organizations  affected by COVID-19) and sharing tips on emotional-wellness and stress management.
  • Connecting with grantees through emails and phone calls to share encouragement and participate in problem solving. Through these conversations, Mary’s Pence Grants Manager Robyn Browning is helping us to understand the most important issues affecting grantees right now.

ESPERA in Central America and Mexico

Mary’s Pence has three women on staff in the region: Gilda, Eva, and Brenda. Brenda and Eva are at home in their community of Suchitoto, El Salvador. Gilda, who is from Mexico, is also in Suchitoto due to movement restrictions that were put in place while she was traveling for ESPERA work. Gilda is staying at Centro Arte para la Paz, a lovely community center with a hostel and restaurant for take-out meals.

Some observations about the situation in the region:

  • Many ESPERA women tell our staff that they are feeling vulnerable. Some are scared, some are hopeful. Emotions change day to day.
  • ESPERA staff are affected by the same emotions but are doing well and working together on some immediate needs of ESPERA partners, as well as longer-term plans for ESPERA programming.
  • Each country in the region is reacting differently according to their government’s mandates. In El Salvador where all borders have been shut down, all non-essential workers are required to stay home for 30 days and can be fined if they don’t comply. By contrast, in neighboring Nicaragua there are few restrictions, which causes its own challenges and concerns for people.
  • The situation is changing daily and the Mary’s Pence U.S. office remains in regular communication with our ESPERA team to follow the situation.

Our staff is actively working to provide support to ESPERA women in several ways:

  • Staff and ESPERA group leaders are working to stay in touch with individual women. At times this can be difficult because limited income means limited access to telephone and internet.
  • We are identifying and discussing additional ways to provide support. One possibility we are exploring is providing support for small tiendas (corner stores) so women have items to supply their communities and can afford to stay in operation. Another possibility is providing supplemental food or money to buy food for women and their families who have no way to earn income with the forced closures of small businesses. With limited transportation and travel restrictions the logistics complicates these possibilities, but we are exploring options with our network of partners.
  • Margarita O’Farrill, a Mexican psychologist living in El Salvador, is voluntarily providing emotional support and training via calls to ESPERA women. Margarita has led several emotional wellness retreats over the past couple years for ESPERA and is a well-respected and trusted resource.

Let’s Maintain our Momentum

Our thanks to you for your support of Mary’s Pence. Reflecting on all that we have to accomplish to address unjust systems that disproportionately affect the lives of women, we are in awe of the power of our collective ability to make change. We are confident that, even in the most difficult of times, we will see the best in ourselves and in humanity as we work for a just and equal world — together.

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