Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category
Camden, N.J., is just the width of a river away from Philadelphia, but the distance between its poverty and its neighbor’s corporate headquarters and comfortable suburbs is enormous. Growing up in Camden can mean sudden violence, inadequate schools, lack of opportunity and little hope for a better future. According to the 2007 U.S. Census data, more than 35 percent of Camden’s population lives in poverty and the school dropout rate is consistently one of the highest in the country.
Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff has picked this unlikely place to try a bold initiative that uses digital technology and entrepreneurial business practices to help Camden’s youth find their way forward. Burnt-out homes and empty lots surround the three-story row house headquarters of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a technology training center where as many as 250 Camden youth can learn technical skills in Web design, programming languages and information systems. They range in age from 14 to 23 and might begin with just a seventh-grade reading level. They leave with technological training, greatly enhanced self-confidence and job experience in the bigger world.
Fr. Putthoff created Hopeworks as a service for commercial and non-profit clients that pay for work by young Hopeworks trainees. Initially, Web design was the main product, but Hopeworks is moving beyond that into other areas and applications such as social media and Geographic Information Systems.
“We are not a business that has internships; we are a youth development program that has a business, and that business is part of our strategy for engaging our youth,” Fr. Putthoff said.
Hopeworks requires no entrance exam and charges no tuition. Most other job development programs for college-age students demand some prerequisite skills just to get in the door, a requirement that would keep out most of the Camden youth. The young people who want to come to Hopeworks are not illiterate, just poorly trained; but they learn quickly, Putthoff said.
“There is nothing the matter with the youth except that they have not been given what they need,” he said.
Young men and women come in with few skills and lots of damage from their environment. They cannot imagine themselves belonging in a corporate setting in what seems a world apart in Philadelphia. Hopeworks challenges them to think about themselves and their futures in new ways. They start to reimagine their lives with a different trajectory.
The data show that this innovative approach works. Nearly 100 alumni have progressed to junior college and around 300 jobs have been created. Read the rest of this entry »
When Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy was pastor of Dolores Mission, located in the barrio of East Los Angeles, he witnessed firsthand the impact to the community of having so many of its youth facing life without parole. After serving as pastor from 1994 to 2007, Fr. Kennedy left Dolores Mission to start the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI) to provide support and hope to juveniles with life sentences.
Through the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a series of meditative prayers helping people find God in their everyday experiences, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative provides tools that allow prisoners to find healing and forgiveness and to recognize their lives have meaning and purpose. As JRJI’s Executive Director, Fr. Kennedy also reaches out to victims and their families to provide support and healing. The group’s advocacy outreach from its headquarters in Culver City, Calif., includes mobilizing communities to transform the justice system from one that is solely punitive to one that is restorative. Fr. Kennedy has been recognized for JRJI’s efforts to transform the lives of incarcerated youth, their families and communities by the California Chief of Probation Officers and the City of Los Angeles.
In this Ignatian News Network video piece below, you can find out more about Fr. Kennedy and the work of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative to bring hope to Los Angeles’ incarcerated juveniles:
For family and friends following him on Facebook, Jesuit Father Joseph Laramie has been posting weekly narrative and photo updates about his Belizian experience. These reflections vary widely, from on mud-stuck trucks, inconsiderate roosters and people seemingly from another time.
Fr. Laramie, a St. Louis-area native, was ordained last June and finished his Jesuit theology classes at Boston College in January.
A month later, he began what will be a four-month pastoral assignment in Belize helping the Missouri Province Jesuits staff St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda and providing sacraments to the 40-plus Mayan villages in the surrounding area, most of which have a Catholic chapel.
Punta Gorda’s 5,000 diverse residents include Garufina, people of African and Caribbean descent; Mopan- and Kekchi-speaking Mayans; and Mestizo, people with a mix of Spanish and Mayan ancestry.
Fr. Laramie’s work is mostly sacramental; Mass at St. Peter Claver Parish, Masses for school kids in Punta Gorda and villages, and Sunday Masses in Mayan villages, where his homily is usually translated into Kekchi by a Mayan leader at the villages. Songs and readings also are in Kekchi.
Next stop on his Jesuit journey is Kansas City, Mo.’s Rockhurst High School, where he’ll serve as director of pastoral ministry starting June 1.
But until then, readers can follow a Jesuit in Belize whose dispatches and reflections illuminate, educate and entertain.
Check out his Facebook page to read more about Fr. Laramie’s work.
A new study conducted by Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life has dug deeper into India’s gender ratio imbalance crisis to find that it is being fueled by complex family pressures, including the belief that boys will be better wage earners, and that men will more likely take better care of their aging parents. The study also indicates that elders in the family and often husbands prefer a male child, while many wives pointed out that their voices were not being heard and had little choice in the matter.
Fairfield University’s innovative survey examined how gender dynamics and family pressures in India lead to the birth of a significantly greater number of boys than girls. The study suggests that male child preference is quite prevalent and the gender ratio imbalance – which is on the increase and was evident in the 2011 Indian National Census – is likely to be a major impediment to the future development of India.
Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, professor of sociology and director of The Center for Faith and Public Life, conducted the study and recently sat down for an interview with National Jesuit News.
According to the 2011 National Census of India, there were 914 girls born for every 1,000 boys; in some regions reaching as low as 824 girls. These figures are alarming in comparison to the United Nation’s 2010 Population Sex Ratio norm of 101.7 males to 100 females. The Indian census numbers therefore show a severe gender ratio imbalance in the nation. The Indian government, numerous global agencies, NGOs and researchers contend that as women become a minority in the population, there is bound to be a detrimental effect on both India’s economic development and social stability.
Undertaken in partnership with two Jesuit schools in India – St. Xavier College in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai – the research also found that girls are being systematically devalued in society. Yet, the findings also revealed many wives responding that daughters would be better caregivers than sons.
Fairfield’s researchers surveyed the upper layer of the lower class and the lower layer of the middle class. The assumption was that those families could be the part of the population that can make changes in their attitudes towards the son preference practice, a change that could be discernible by the next census, in 2021.
For more information on the “Impact India” study, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/cfpl/cfpl_gsri.html.
Jesuits have recently provided 127 flood-affected families with new homes in Raichur, India. Residents there lost their homes in late 2009 when flooding swept through the southwestern region of the country.
The Jesuits in the region have been working for the last two years to help rebuild the homes, especially for the poorest in the community.
“We are handing over 127 houses in Manvi and Sindanoor subdistrict,” said Jesuit Father Eric Mathias, director of the Centre for Non Formal and Continuing Education, a Jesuit-run non-governmental organization (NGO).
“We have been given a lovely house with a bedroom, hall and kitchen. This is a great gift to all of us who had no shelter, said Arogyappa, one of the beneficiaries.
Each home cost 150,000 rupees (US $3,000). Ninety percent of the funds to build the homes were provided by the Jesuit-run center, the rest came from donations.
Hampayya Nayak, a local legislator, praised the Jesuits for their efforts during the handing over ceremony in late February.
“I appreciate the Jesuits’ commitment to the cause of the poor. They have shown people through their work where God is really found.”