Economically poor women in Juarez, Mexico have formed a sewing co-op in order to earn money to support their children.
Most live in hand made shacks, mostly made out of cinder blocks, built on the city’s former garbage dump. These homes have nothing but love. There are no indoor water, electricity, or city services. This “colonia” just recently became a part of the city, named Colonia Panfilo Natera.
All of the residents have come from rural areas trying to get a job in the big city. They could not survive in their poor villages.
The cooperative is the only source of funds for these women. It also serves as a place where they can get support from one another and form a bond of friendship.
Their sewing skills are excellent. They ask for your help, not through pity or a hand out, but in purchasing their professional quallity hand made products. The money raised is shared equally among every women in the co-op. Some money is set aside for materials as needed.
Cooperativa Las Mujeres De Esperanza Y Fe
In “La Lucha” with Jesus and women of our world, we the women of Las Mujeres de Esperanza Fe are a faith based community voicing our dreams and goals in community decision making and working together for spiritual development, economic empowerment and self-determination.
Centro Santa Catalina was started by Two Adrian Dominican Nuns, Sr. Donna Kustusch OP and Sr. Eleanor Stech in 1996.
The Center is located at Calle Pavo Real # 1480 in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The center is in an area that was previously the city garbage dump. Postal service is not safe at this address.
The women in the Colonia were poor and had little or no education. They were looking for a way to earn money to help support their families.
The co-op started in 1997 under the direction of Sr. Elizabeth Pepe, osf and Sr. Roseann Schlitt, op who had previous experience in starting co-ops in the Dominican Republic
The co-op is still in existence. There are 22 women in the co-op. Their products are sold in the United States by Sr. Maureen Gallagher, op and Sr. Fran Hicks, sssf and a group of volunteers. Sister Rita Nealon, hs also helps with the co-op.
The money the women earn is distributed equally among them after co-op bills are paid and material purchased. They are working hard to expand the co-op into a business. If you know a store or are willing to sell during the year at a house or church party – let us know.
The Homework Hep Program started in 1997 and is still in operation. The program benefits 200+/- children a week and 6 women. The women are paid by the center. They receive the benefits required by Mexican law.
In 1999 there was a need for a Pre School Program in the area and the center started a program under the umbrella of Colegio Josefa Villegas and in 2008 it was registered with SEP* in Chihuahua, it operated until 2015. There were 100 children, a director and 6 teachers, also paid by the center. The teachers had attended school with scholarships paid by the center.
The center, with the help of grants and donations send many of the women to school. Some of the women did not have a junior high or high school degree. Many of the women now have a degree from the University.
Many of the mothers of the children attended a Program called Valores, Fe y Vida. There were approximately 100 women in this program. The women who taught the classes were trained by Sr. Donna. They received a stipend for facilitating the program. This program was interrupted in 2015; we are restarting the Women’s Valores, Fe y Vida program.
Currently, we still help 200+/- children a week in the Homework Help Program. We also have added 20 computers for the children to use. We are paying for 6 women to attend a program to be certified teachers’ assistants.
The center has been funded mostly by individual and church donors, the Dominican Congregation located in Adrian Michigan, and grants from American groups or foundations. We also have fundraisers and faithful monthly donors from around the United States. We are in process of receiving not for profit status in Mexico to be able to apply for funds in Mexico. We are currently a 501 (C)(3) [non–profit] in the United States.
We would be happy to have you come and visit the Center at your convenience-let us know and bring your Passport.
Many goals have already been realized at Centro Santa Catalina.
A community building and education system have been the most significant achievements.
The support of one another in faith and community is key to the empowerment experienced by the women at the Center. The women build community as they gather in prayer, work in the cooperative and host visitors. They plan, make decisions and share their faith, their reality and gifts with each other and all with who they come in contact. This has empowered them to know their potential as women, wives, mothers and friends.
The programs offered at Centro Santa Catalina have contributed to the women’s self-esteem, self-knowledge and most especially self-determination to be all that God is calling them to be.
The women themselves have begun to secure the sustainability of the cooperative by willingly contributing $5 per month to a savings fund for future needs. This may seem like a minimal effort however it is all that they can afford.
Future ability to continue to produce a quality product for the cooperative may result in a long term, low interest loan. Centro Santa Catalina is looking into a three year strategic plan to view its ability to grow in the future.
Truly they are Women of Hope and Faith.
Centro Santa Catalina
Colonia Panfilo Natera
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico