We are making impact now and building future leaders with technical/skill-based experience, deep engagement with other cultures, and personal and social analysis to ensure a future committed to social change.
Here are just a few examples of the impact of our current ministries:
In the Garden: Growing Community
In Cochabamba, Bolivia, missioner Annemarie Barrett is a part of the Pastoral Team for Mother Earth (Pastoral de la Madre Tierra), which accompanies communities in the creation of organic in-home gardens, empowering their food autonomy and ensuring healthy food for their families. These communities are in the parish of Santa Vera Cruz and in the rural Santa Rosa de Lima community. Because of new techniques the team learned through regional workshops on sustainable agriculture, they drastically improved the soil quality and production of the parish garden. They went from growing a single crop of potatoes one year to a plethora of vegetables the next, which they sell to the parish twice a week. The garden has also become more sustainable: Food waste is fed to the worm bed to produce hummus and other organic matter is used for mulch.
About 10 women of Santa Rosa de Lima work alongside the team at the parish or in the gardens of the women’s families.They plant together, they harvest together, they share meals together, they are community together. The women have seen their own gardens double in productivity. The food source is welcome in an area where there is a lack of water, healthy and affordable food, sanitation systems, quality education, and reliable transportation. There is also constant marginalization based on race, class, and culture. “We recognize that there are great struggles in these communities,” Annemarie says. “And we choose to struggle and work with them for better access to these resources. We choose to work as a community.”
In the Prisons: Affirming Dignity
Missioner Jeff Sved spends time at seven prisons around Cochabamba, Bolivia. When you are incarcerated in Bolivia, you have to pay for your cell and for your food. If you are a woman then your children may also be sent to the prison to live with you… often times you were sent there for stealing to provide for your family in the first place. Many people are also held in prison for a long time awaiting trial. To pay for their cell, food and whatever else their families need, people in prison make crafts or goods. One of Jeff’s ministries is to sell the goods at the market, and another is to acquire the raw materials for the shoes, cards, and whatever else the inmates make. About 200 artisans, carpenters, and shoemakers regularly work with Jeff. The friendships Jeff forms through this ministry are just as important as the leather he buys or shoes he sells. These relationships affirm the prisoners’ human dignity.
Missioner Hady Mendez also visits with about 20 women imprisoned in Cochabamba. In addition to forming friendships and sharing in Bible study, Hady encourages their need for meaningful work and desire for gaining skills they can employ after their release. Some of the women knit for an ethical manufacturing company while others learn how to do hair in the prison salon.
In the Studio: Releasing Tension
In Washington, DC, program associate John Quense was our second Nonprofit Servant Leadership associate to volunteer at Miriam’s Studio, an art therapy program for those who are experiencing homelessness. This therapeutic space is important because many of the studio’s guests who don’t trust the traditional homeless services model. The activities and opportunity to create art in a variety of media at Miriam’s Studio creates a safe environment and a place of belonging, where each guest is free to share and grow. Their relationships with their case managers are better, and their dignity is fostered.
Many of the guests of Miriam’s are chronically homeless and thus experience a lot of stress and trauma. John leads a yoga session for about six guests each Wednesday afternoon. The stretches and deep breathing helps them emotionally and physically. “For some of them it might be the only time all day their mind and body gets a break from the anxiety and stress they normally carry,” said John.