BACKGROUND: In 2021, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, began a special grant initiative entitled “Sisters Supporting Women for a Better World”. Because women are at the heart of their communities, the demands that they face are many as are the challenges they encounter. For women living in economic poverty, the resources they need to succeed are often beyond their reach. These include education, economic opportunity, personal safety, health care and social services. Our educational ministries were asked to consider how they could make a difference in lives of women and in their communities. Projects were requested from student teams in the United States and Mexico with assistance from a faculty mentor in this new initiative. In Peru, projects were requested from areas served by Sisters.
The purpose of the grant initiative is to provide funding to develop and implement a project to serve economically poor women. These projects were asked to incorporate providing direct services for women, or advocating for policy change on an issue that direct impacts women.
Utilizing financial revenue from the investment funded by the Women’s Global Initiative, for the first year, 2021-22, 11 grants were offered in the total amount of $20,950, 4 in the United States, 6 in Mexico and 1 in Peru. A total of 23 applications were received from the schools and from Peru, and 11 were awarded grants.
CURRENT GRANT YEAR: For the second year, 2022-23, utilizing financial revenue from the investment funded by the Women’s Global Initiative, 18 grant applications were received during the timeline of September 12-November 12, 2022. 10 winning grants totaling $19,300 were announced on December 12, 2022, and approved projects began from January 1-June 30, 2023. 6 grant applications were approved from Mexico schools, 3 from the United States schools, and one from Peru.
CCVI Grant Summaries, “Sisters Supporting Women for a Better World” 2022 – Funded in 2023
UNITED STATES SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Two Grants Awarded at $1650.00 each
Incarnate Word Academy, St, Louis, Missouri
“Queen of Peace Center, Supplying Needed Items for Women in Treatment and for their Children”
This is the second year of a grant application for the IWA student team to work with the Queen of Peace Center. This Center in St. Louis, Missouri, provides family-centered behavioral healthcare for women with substance use disorders, their families, and at-risk youth through treatment, prevention, education and housing.
Incarnate Word Academy was approved for a second year grant to help women and families undergoing treatment. Since the first year worked well with purchasing various items for families, this year’s grant money was used to shop for items identified by the Center as needed. Sheets, pillows, towels, socks, hygiene products and play sets were bought for 16 women, their children and yet-to-be born babies. IWA’s Mission Committee participated in this project, and notes of encouragement and support were sent to the women by students participating in the project. The women receiving the notes and items were appreciative of the support.
Incarnate Word High School, San Antonio, Texas
“JUST FOR YOU Wellness Day”
The grant application from IWHS proposed a wellness event to be held at the Guadalupe Community Center/Catholic Charities which serves families in the Guadalupe area. The event will focus on offering women in the Guadalupe and Westside of San Antonio access to health and personal wellness at no charge. IWHS proposed to offer the mobile mammogram unit, basic health checks, financial advisors, legal advisors, nutritionist, hairstylist providing haircuts, and a kiosk with clothes for women to select for interviews. Childcare will be provided by our IWHS Sister Dorothy Ettling Society student organization.
Because of administrative changes at IWHS during the year, the “JUST FOR YOU Wellness Day” was not able to take place. IWHS has asked that this grant funding be extended into 2024. This will be considered by the CCVI Sister Review Committee.
UNITED STATES UNIVERSITY
One Grant Awarded at $5000.00
UNIVERSITY OF THE INCARNATE WORD, San Antonio
“GEMS STEAM and Robotic Summer Camps and after School Clubs”
This is the second year of grant approval for the GEMS Steam and Robotic Summer Camps and After School Clubs at UIW in San Antonio.
Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (GEMS) is a free all-female STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) and programming summer camp and after-school robotics clubs that focus on educating girls about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. GEMS is divided into two main programs: miniGEMS for rising fifth through eighth-grade middle school students and megaGEMS for rising ninth – twelfth-grade high school students. Recruiting for GEMS programs come from five school districts in Bexar County. The summer camps are held at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX, and hosted by the Autonomous Vehicle Systems (AVS) Research Laboratories from the School of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering.
The mission statement of GEMS is to inspire and empower young girls to be innovative with their future in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). GEMS works directly with underserved, under-resourced, Title I schools within the greater San Antonio, Texas area. The main objective of GEMS is to build the next generation of STEM leaders and innovators by cultivating them to tackle challenges as early as elementary school by keeping them engaged and stimulated by STEM. The long-term objective of GEMS is to increase the number of females pursuing STEM pathways in high school and achieving success in STEM fields. GEMS strives to maintain a presence with girls year-round by continually developing new and innovative ways to keep the girls engaged in STEAM from fifth grade to twelfth grade. The cyber security curriculum was newly added for the summer of 2022.
This grant approval provided another year of opportunities for students from 3rd to 8th grade to explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) through robotics and block coding. The female students were able to have a fun, safe, and innovative learning environment run by encouraging and inspiring teachers, and GEMS staff. At each after-school club meeting, the students would work together with the veteran students from last year’s team teaching the new members how to create an Innovative Project, construct accurate and precise codes for each module, and build a cohesive team.
The GEMS student population served consisted of female students from ages 8 – 14 years of age in elementary and middle school. This particular year GEMS had students from lower grade levels wanting to join therefore GEMS altered its current age group to accommodate students and encourage intellectual curiosity. A handful of students are considered homeless and are being raised by extended family members.
The GEMS teachers dedicated their time to staying beyond the end of the school day and returning on weekends to support the same efforts as the GEMS staff and leadership. GEMS teachers, staff, and leadership are committed to inspiring and empowering young girls to be innovative with their futures in the fields of STEAM. Approximately 35 students and teachers were supported weekly throughout
The funding from the 2022 grant cycle provided the Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) to host all-female afterschool robotics clubs at Barkley-Ruiz Elementary and Tafolla Middle School, both schools residing in the heart of San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). GEMS equipped each afterschool club with FIRST Lego League (FLL) EV3 Mindstorm or the SPIKE Prime robots for competition, computers for programming, classroom snacks for weekly meetings, meals for competition, and transportation to and from FLL competition.
An additional 5 schools interested in forming miniGEMS after-school clubs received a classroom STEAM kit filled with activities, supplies for experiments, and an EV3 robot. Monthly projects were posted on the GEMS website to encourage participation. This pilot program was successful in multiple schools.
For each weekly club meeting, the students would remain after school for a minimum of one hour with some practices lasting up to two hours. The funding from the grant provided snack options for the students who reside in a zip code in San Antonio known for extreme food scarcity. The ability to provide snacks and meals as needed was a critical aspect of the funding that was received from this grant.
When the qualifier competition was only a month away, the two teams, Barkley-Ruiz Elementary and Tafolla Middle School, merged creating a “Super Team” to go to the
competition. The combined team pulled the strengths together empowering the students even more. Teachers from both schools worked together to schedule meetings that would allow the
students to communicate virtually and meet at one school simultaneously. For the competition, the teamwork was noticed by the judges, earning the 2022 miniGEMS the
Motivation Award. This makes the second consecutive year the miniGEMS have won awards at competition.
This year’s funding also provided supplies to create a special event during the 2023 Engineering Week. GEMS is fortunate to have community partnerships that could make this happen. The students were able to conduct experiments and open dialogue with professional engineers. Another event funded by the grant was a PopUP STEM event on March 14, 2023. This event was free for the community to eat and explore STEM through activities.
The funding from this grant allowed GEMS to remove obstacles for students, and parents as well as uplift the teachers who support the programs. Tafolla Middle School resides in the 78207 zip code also known as a “food desert” for its lack of proper grocery stores. As GEMS focuses on Title I schools or areas of low income, each club meeting/event provided an opportunity for the students to have exposure to STEAM experiences and food.
On March 14, 2023, also known as “Pi day,” for its date matching the first few letters of Pi (3.14), GEMS partnered with Barkley-Ruiz Elementary to host a community event to recruit for the miniGEMS. The community event had BBQ hamburgers and hotdogs with all the sides, cooked by the Jefferson High School BBQ team (another SAISD school). This event had activities consisting of making bubbles, making slime, constructing butterflies and flowers out of coffee filters, and planting herbs to take home. GEMS received a positive response from the locals who enjoyed the festivities.
GEMS partnered with several members of AWWA &WEAT (American Water Works Association & Water Environment Association of Texas) for guest speakers as various professional engineers. Each guest speaker spoke on various engineering careers, leadership roles, the importance of mentors, and especially each of their own paths from high school to college to industry.
GEMS in the news!
Shining GEMS! Check out the amazing video produced for BexarFest by the Thomas Jefferson High School team.
GEMS Images! So many memories were made. Here are a few images from the miniGEMS STEAM and Robotics after-school clubs. Check out the miniGEMS website for many more memories!
GEMS Social Media!
MEXICO SECONDARY SCHOOLS
Four Grants Awarded at $1250.00 Each
Instituto Miguel Angel
“Love is Wellbeing”
This project was to offer adequate and pertinent information on sexual education to adolescent women in vulnerable situations. A series of training workshops and an educational fair were designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies in adolescents in the area near the Parish of San Miguel Archángel in the Historic Center of Mexico City.
A health fair was held in the Parish of San Miguel Archangel. The workshop on comprehensive sex education was provided to both women and men and has brought a wealth of opinions and mutual understanding. It was considered essential that both women and men are trained in the subject so that conscious decisions are made to take care of themselves and others, to avoid unwanted pregnancies and harm to human dignity.
Adolescents between 14-16 years of age attended the workshop with 10 young people per activity. The team partnered with he organization La Casa de la Sal, A.C., which offers accompaniment and guidance to children, young people and adults living with HIV. This organization also taught the training course in Comprehensive Sexual Education, so that students could replicate the course with the adolescents of the Parish of San Miguel Archangel.
The impact of this project has been substantial in filling the training gap between the information on sex education provided by families and the schools. The development of the Youth for Youth project has been positive, fostering the openness and trust needed to ask questions, participate and share views with peers. The same adolescents benefiting from this project may be transmitters of knowledge among their peers of the same age, extending “Love is Wellbeing” to other adolescents in the area.
Centro Educativo, Santa Catarina
“YOU ARE MORE… Walking Together” (Eras Mas)
This grant project was submitted to provide a space for personal and spiritual well-being to adolescents from the Women’s Social Orientation Center, in order to increase their self-esteem and comprehensive well-being.
The project was aimed at adolescents from 14 to 16 years of age with socio-emotional problems at the Female Social Orientation Institute. Initially, the project began with 21 students; however, as the months passed, for external reasons, the students were discharged from the institution, thus reducing the number to 14 girls.
It has been possible to raise awareness in adolescents of the importance they have as women, their dignity, self-knowledge and self-love based on the expected objectives. Emphasis was placed on the personal improvement of each one and recognition of their options and their value as human beings, guided by the hand of the Virgin Mary.
The impact on the students involved has been radical, since it reduces physical and verbal injuries among the adolescents at the boarding school, they developed their cognitive abilities in their school environment and they emphasize the importance of mental health and emotional stability, they seek moments of prayer and they happily participate in the masses and activities of the institution.
Constant listening and assertive communication, as well as negotiation, are important in life and in the project. The team learned the importance of always seeking to continue until the end, not giving up, since this kind of project where you help others leaves a mark on the hearts of people and is a great lesson.
“Basic Kit for Our Migrant Friend”
Recognizing the many needs of migrant women, Instituto America School and San Agustin Migrant House joined their efforts to promote charity with vulnerable people, providing as much as possible assistance and support to migrant women by providing them with a “basic kit” including personal items according to the needs of age groups: adolescents and adults.
Migrant women encountered come from different countries, such as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and even Mexico, among others. Each person has different migration experiences and specific needs that may vary according to their country of origin. Migrant women are in transit to another destination, mainly the United States, and often face multiple challenges and risks during their journey. Many of them escape situations of violence, poverty, political persecution, or other difficulties in their countries of origin. On their way to a better future, they may face obstacles such as lack of resources, exploitation, discrimination, and violence.
The students involved with this grant worked together in developing basic kits for these women. Bodega Aurrera was found to be most cost effective. The items needed were identified and purchased, the kits were assembled and stored for later distribution. This was completed by May 17th, the assigned date. Personal hygiene kits provided migrant women with essentials – soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary pads, etc. During this grant year 120 women were supported with the kits delivered.
The team worked together with “La Casa del Migrante San Agustín” to decide on the items in the kit and also for the logistics in carrying it out. The students involved were able to have contact with the care home where they learned and visualized the particular dynamics of that place.
Instituto Hispano Ingles
“Listening to the Older Sister”
This project allows the elderly people in San Patricio Ac Asylum to experience and give dimension to the value of the person, empathy and solidarity through active listening and other playful and recreational activities.
The revaluation of the person – in this case the grandmothers at the San Patricio asylum both for themselves and for the people who worked in the project, has been something palpable. There is an attitude of joy on the part o the grandmothers of the asylum because the visits rekindle and strengthen the sense of being heard, of interacting with people outside of themselves and developing a sincere empathy. Closeness and warmth are shown when the grandmothers ask for the younger people and are excited about seeing them.
The direct beneficiaries of this project are 13 people from the San Patricio Asylum and another 20 people impacted indirectly. In the course and evolution of the visits and work, the students participating in the project were able to better understand the sense of service to the community, especially to people in a vulnerable state.
Two Grants Awarded at $2500.00 Each
Universitario Incarnate Word, Campus Bajio
This project consists of making pots based on the Yuriria Lake lily, in which seeds can be germinated for greenhouses to develop food sources and lake cleansing. It is a manual and artisanal work that will help women, especially mothers who can work at home without neglecting their family and children, since it does not involve arduous physical labor, as it is manual work. With this they will be able to have extra income and help the family economy. In addition, they will use materials that benefit the care of the environment by cleaning the lake from lily contamination. The pots, when placed on the ground, are biodegradable and enrich the soil, thanks to the fact that there are a large number of greenhouses in the area.
Progress on this project includes gathering women interested in participating, informing them of the project and training them in the use of materials. Testing of the pots has begun, with 3 types of molds according to possible market demands. Two potential buyers of the project products have been identified. Prototypes of equipment have been designed, adapted to manufacturing needs, and work continues on the testing stage.
The team is working in alliance with the fishing community of Yuriria, since they are the ones who obtain the lily and process it, and some of them are husbands of some of the women. Given that this is the main raw material, they have helped the women’s confidence in the project and these 4 couples help us convince other families to believe and support the women to continue participating.
Thirty families have been involved with this project, 98 people directly (30 mothers, their husbands and children). The women and some of their relatives have expressed gratitude to us for offering a possibility to generate income to improve the economy of their families and give them the opportunity to learn to do something different, without neglecting their work at home.
Centro Universitario Incarnate Word
Living Pharmacy, “Women Generating a Community Economy”
Because the number of people living in poverty has increased to 130 million, now extending to urban populations, this project was submitted to create a food system to assist the poor in Xochimilco and Milpa Alta, Mexico City. This project is aimed to provide a self-sustaining method for food. The first phase of the project included purchase of materials for the terrace system for placement of a cistern, purchase of a cistern, hoses and keys, and installing water and irrigation infrastructure. A community focus was planned for 2 conferences via Zoom aimed at students who will participate in field activities and other students in general. Planting activities, bioconstruction of plants and construction of composter was carried out in May and June. Shovels are being borrowed from the University.
The Living Pharmacy Project is located in the town of Santa Ana Tlacotenco, Milpa Alta city, in CDMX. It has a population of approximately 12,000 residents, of which approximately 53% are women. The collective Tlalcihuame describes its community as a semi-rural population, where many families live, economically classified in poverty and extreme poverty categories, the town has centers of basic and upper secondary education. Economic activity is predominantly primary: farming nopal, where they had previously planted corn (which ceased to be cultivated due to lack of water).
Living Pharmacy aims to be a sustainable unit that generates educational spaces and dissemination of the cultural wealth of the people of Santa Ana Tlacotenco; its activity is focused on the use of medicinal plants and traditional medicine in the region (more than 3000 people, in the locality, do not have access to health services, INEGI). In the medium term, Farmacia Viviente will join other projects, focused on rescuing the uses and customs of the original peoples that promote wellness tourism in the region, directly impacting the locality’s socio-economic development.
During 2023, all Phase 1 activities were completed, covering land development, purchase of materials and equipment and installation of hydraulic and agricultural infrastructure.Two tasks of Phase 2 have been completed corresponding to the agricultural infrastructure that delimits the productive areas. Activities related to the acquisition, exploitation and use of medicinal plants still remain.
One Grant Awarded for $1000.00
SURGE PERU YOUTH COMMUNITY
San Clara Specialized Health Center –SSVE
“Health for Women”
Our project consists of 2 stages – a virtual training/session and a face-to-face meeting to support 2 representative women participating in an international meeting to be held in Mexico in order to promote and develop their leadership by letting others know our reality and our customs.
When the young women returned, they shared their experiences with the community and thus build new strengthened projects in a culture of encounter and spiritual growth without limiting our ideas. We achieved the goal of being able to provide quality medical care to women who did not have the financial means. We gave diagnostic help (laboratory and ultrasound), procedures (wound healing), and purchased medicines for the women.
The health of women was improved so that the can keep their jobs and care for their families, thus having a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
20 women were helped between the ages of 30 and 50. This group of women a workers and housewives who do not have any type of insurance; therefore, we benefited 20 families with an absent father. 20 women were also served between the ages of 70 and 80. This group of women live alone and their neighbors or their teenage grandchildren are their caregivers. We collaborated with health professionals, to include a gynecologist and a neurologist.