RSHM Western American Province Reaches $300,000 Member Level
In March, Sr. Catherine Minhoto, RCIF Board Member and Director of Finance/Justice Coordinator for the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM), met with sisters responsible for stewardship of the congregation’s funds to discuss its growing stake in RCIF. She knew that some in the group had questions and concerns regarding the safety and wisdom of the investment. During the gathering, however, apprehension turned to pride. Learning in greater detail about RCIF’s assistance to organizations like Esperanza and Oikocredit, which both strive to empower women, put the committee at ease. “I think they were really proud to see that by investing in these diverse agencies we were engaging with many groups at a local, national, and international level. They saw this was a wonderful place to put our resources.”
Over the past decade, beginning as an early investor with JOLT members, RSHM’s Western American Province has incrementally increased its investment in RCIF and recently reached the $300,000 member level. Sr. Catherine views RCIF as an extension of the congregation’s purpose and vision. “Our mission calls on us to place ourselves and our resources at the service of those most in need of justice. We do this in a way that empowers people to act on their own behalf, for their own liberation,” Sr. Catherine states. “That is one of the reasons we are part of RCIF, because the types of investments made create an environment where people and communities work for their own dignity and respect.”
Founded in 1849 in France, RSHM today has 830 sisters working worldwide in five provinces (Eastern American, Western American, Brazil, Northern European, Portugal) and in two regions of Africa that include Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Sr. Catherine’s small parish serves a Spanish-speaking liturgy in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles where she plays the piano for its choir. “It’s one of the best parts of my life,” expresses Sr. Catherine.
Safety and Community at the Los Angeles House of Ruth
“The RCIF loan really saved us,” explains the Los Angeles House of Ruth’s Executive Director, Sr. Jennifer Gaeta. “By saving our agency, it therefore saved our shelters—the homes and the futures of many people.” During the recession, this Boyle Heights neighborhood refuge for domestic violence victims and their families came under financial strain. With RCIF’s support, however, the organization has regained stability and looks forward to expanding its greatly needed services. “We keep people from having to live in their cars,” states Sr. Jennifer. “We give people a real second chance at life.”
Sr. Jennifer’s biggest goal in the next five years is to partner with developers to build low-income housing units that follow a community support model. “Along with the housing, we are going to include all the necessary services to keep the family intact,” says Sr. Jennifer. Currently, the organization has four homes housing 16 families at a time. An average family’s stay lasts between six to eight months. Soon ten more units will open through a partnership with the City of Los Angeles and talks are under way to build 24 more units with another developer.
Nearly half of the House of Ruth’s 14 staff members were previously shelter residents themselves. “We just hired an ex-client into a case management position. She’ll be excellent!” Sr. Jennifer states.
Most families continue receiving services even after they’ve moved out of the in-house premises, explaining the agency’s heavy active caseload of between 150-500 people. Past residents also enjoy returning to help those currently in need. “Some of our clients have been out of our program for over ten years and they still come every month to share their stories with new residents,” Sr. Jennifer explains. “They desperately want to continue to support each other.”
Los Angeles House of Ruth received a $175,000 loan from RCIF.
Youth Speaks: Encouraging Literacy Through Spoken Word Poetry
On May 11th, in the newly restored Nourse Theater in downtown San Francisco, nearly all 1,600 seats were full with spectators for the 17th Annual Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam. The sixteen participants bravely recited very personal and powerful lines about poverty, abuse, broken education systems, death and more. The audience didn’t just sit back and listen, but instead participated with tears, cheers, clapping, and many standing ovations. “One of our key tenants is to create safe spaces for our youth and to put them on big stages. That in itself is empowering,” says Paula Arrigoni, Youth Speaks’ Managing Director.
Youth Speaks works directly with teachers in local schools to encourage teenagers, primarily from low-income families, to discover their own unique voices. “Our workshops help kids to learn how to express themselves in a writing context,” explains Arrigoni. “We’ve found that spoken word poetry is a great vehicle to get them excited to develop their literacy skills.”
The six finalists from the May 11th competition will continue on to the Youth Speaks’ 16th Annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam festival in August. The nation’s largest youth poetry performance of its kind, this year’s Brave New Voices five-day event will take place at the University of Chicago with over 500 participants taking part in bouts as well as workshops taught by leading writers and poets from across the country.
Youth Speaks received a $100,000 loan from RCIF.
By Liana S. Mortazavi