WASHINGTON (February 12, 2007)– Comunidad en Movimiento, an organization of Latina women at the Dolores Mission Catholic parish in Los Angeles, received the Year 2007 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award for its efforts to secure justice and basic human rights for low-income people. The national award is given annually by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and was presented here February 11.
Comunidad en Movimiento (CEM) is a faith-based program started in 1996 by a group of Dolores Mission parishioners to respond to ongoing violations of basic human rights that were taking place in the low-income Latino community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. It is led by Latina women who have organized fellow residents to discuss issues that affect them and get involved in actions that create institutional change. CEM members identified neighborhood safety as a primary concern, so the group began a "Safe Passage" campaign in 1999. The program uses more than 50 trained community volunteers to assist children who are walking home from school to arrive safely. It encourages residents to take responsibility for children throughout the neighborhood.
CEM and local police have also collaborated on the Dolores Mission Safety Project, a community-policing program based on models used in other cities, but specially adapted to meet the needs identified by the residents of Boyle Heights.
A third major initiative of CEM is an annual conference that focuses on the health and well-being of women. More than 400 women participated in the 2006 conference.
Consuelo Valdez is the director of CEM. "Dolores Mission is a Jesuit parish with a history of justice work," she explained. "Comunidad en Movimiento is a non-profit organization that works through the Christian base communities in the parish. We are integrated into the community and the church." CEM's members are primarily Latina women from Mexico and Central America, said Ms. Valdez. Most are mothers and they range in age "from the 30s to the 70s."
"Their common bond is their faith," said Ms. Valdez. "They read Scripture, analyze it and act on it." She said that there are some 50 women currently active in various leadership roles, but that 500 can be drawn to an action where CEM is calling attention to an injustice.
Joan Harper, the CCHD director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said, "Through CEM, the women have a sense of empowerment that allows them to make changes in their personal, social and civic lives. They are fearless in their challenge of power for the good of their community." She described an event several years ago where CEM held a forum attended by the mayor of Los Angeles, the chief of police and members of the city council. "The women were truly inspiring," she recalled. "They would not end the event until they had the commitment they required for their community. They see themselves as family and they work together."
The Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award, named in memory of the late Presentation Sister who served as executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and a member of the Catholic Bishops' Committee for CCHD, honors an individual or group who exemplifies a commitment to the development of people and the elimination of poverty. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to human development and have offered heroic responses to the needs of the economically disadvantaged. The award was established 20 years ago in 1987 and was called the Development of People Award until 1997, when it was renamed in Sister Margaret Cafferty's honor after her death.
Mr. Tim Collins, CCHD Executive Director, said, "The women of Comunidad en Movimiento at Dolores Mission are rooted in their faith and their small Christian communities. CEM is a beacon in its community because of its commitment to social justice and collaboration with the people it serves. In ten years, it has become a national model of empowerment, especially by and for low-income Latina women."
Mr. Collins said, "CEM works to address and break the cycle of poverty. It reflects the spirit and mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, because its programs are devised and implemented by the community in response to thoughtful and prayerful reflection on its basic needs."
CCHD is the largest private funder of anti-poverty programs controlled by the poor in the United States. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) established the Campaign in 1970 to support self-help efforts of low-income people, to address the root causes of poverty and bring to life both Scripture and the Church's social teaching. Since then, CCHD has distributed more than $270 million in grants to more than 4,000 projects dedicated to helping people overcome their own poverty.
CEM community organizer Rita Chairez and volunteer leader Rosa Campos accepted the award on behalf of the entire membership of Comunidad en Movimiento. Mr. Collins presented it on Sunday, February 11, at the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
More information about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and poverty in America can be found at the CCHD websites www.usccb.org/cchd and www.povertyusa.org
Editors: To request a photo of Comunidad en Movimiento, the two members accepting the award, or for additional information, contact Barbara Stephenson, CCHD, 202-541-3364, email@example.com