Meet the projects and initiatives that the JustPax Fund helped launch in 2017.
The following grantees reflect community, national, and transnational interests who were awarded grants by the JustPax Fund through an open-application process in the Fund’s fourth grant-making year.
Supporting Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs
Awamaki – Seattle, WA
$20,000 was awarded to Awamaki to support indigenous women entrepreneurs to launch and independently manage their artisanal cooperative businesses in rural Peru. The project will enable women to earn an income, promote traditional crafts in a sustainable and culturally respectful manner, and expand an economic model that can be scaled to empower more women in the region. Funds will be used to support a new partner cooperative of 15 women who spin raw alpaca fiber into finished yarn. The artisans, who live in the community of Huilloc, will progress through the Impact Model, a series of trainings designed by Awamaki and tailored to the needs of partner cooperatives. By celebrating and promoting traditional indigenous crafts, Awamaki opens economic opportunity for women to make their traditional way of life prosperous. The model allows them to work from their home communities while earning an income that can be used to improve their homes, send their children to school, and establish themselves as breadwinners in their families. Further, the project elevates the status of women and establishes them as equal partners in income earning and community decision-making.
Mobile Immigration Support Unit
NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center – Harrisonburg, VA
$15,000 was awarded to NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center (NBIRC), which is working to establish a new emphasis that further contextualizes economic and gender justice issues for immigrant women in the Shenandoah Valley. The agency’s Immigration Legal Program connects isolated women who have experienced violence with immigration relief providers with trauma informed practice. The goal of this project is to set up and run a mobile immigration unit through a Recreational Vehicle (RV) that cycles through strategic locations in the Shenandoah Valley. The mobile immigration unit will screen and accompany vulnerable women through the increasingly complex immigration landscape with the goal of supporting financial independence.
NBIRC was established in 2000 by Mennonite churches to provide support to immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley. The agency became an independent 501(c)3 organization in 2012. Funding from the JustPax Fund was given to support programming associated with their new mobile immigration unit.
Capital Christian Fellowship – Lanham, MD
$14,000 was given to Capital Christian Fellowship, which provides space to explore creation with a community garden for families and individuals as a form of financial and emotional therapy, addresses immediate challenges to those immigrating to the area who need mental health awareness education and support, and connects families to supportive services and financial stability through financial counseling and various family oriented enrichment opportunities. Through “Growing Roots,” each participant will be given small plots of land to learn gardening skills, a Care Counselor, and enrollment in a personalized 18 month care/reconciliation program. In “Growing Roots,” gardening is a focus and resource of healing, therapy, and reconciliation. Every participant will be enrolled in comprehensive, holistic workshops, classes, and opportunities enriching urban lives with knowledge of earth, health, relationship, and finances. “Growing Roots” participants will have one on one relationships with care counselors who will aid in connecting “Growing Roots” participants with the appropriate, empowering resources. Services offered will include pastoral care, group care, licensed therapy, immigration services, language services, financial literacy classes, and mental health awareness.
Democracy School 2.0
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – Mercersburg, PA
$10,000 was awarded to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to transform their two day Democracy School curriculum from one primarily focused on the environment, to one that encompasses the broader manifestations of a patriarchal and capitalist system. This includes gender, race, and economic justice, as well as environmental justice. Democracy School is a foundational tool in their grassroots organizing and education. CELDF examines the systemic barriers to creating sustainable communities, and explore what communities are doing to overcome those barriers as they work to advance “community rights” to clean air, water, and the right to local community self-government. CELDF works with communities across the U.S. using community rights to challenge and change the barriers to sustainability, laying the foundation for local community self-government, and for the advancement of rights to clean air and water. Historically, women have led most of the community groups CELDF works with to advance rights. As their work has grown, CELDF now engaged with tribal nations, communities seeking to transform economic exploitation through the advancement of worker rights, and racial justice organizations and communities seeking sanctuary city protections. To successfully support new communities experiencing the broad range of harms wrought by unjust cultural and legal systems, Project Democracy School 2.0 will create a community learning curriculum that addresses these broader environmental, economic and gender injustices.
Building Just Communities
Inside Out Playback Theatre – Harrisonburg, VA
$10,000 was awarded to Inside Out Playback Theater for Building Just Communities, an initiative that seeks to address economic and social/gender injustice through storytelling and dialogue. Inside Out will partner with civic organizations that are addressing diverse areas of economic and gender injustice, such the Fairfield Center working with juvenile offenders, the Harrisonburg Police Department, ex-offenders at Gemeinschaft, sexual abuse survivors working with GuideSpring Journey Groups, and the Harrisonburg City Schools English Language Learners, Faith in Action racial justice initiatives, and Legal Aid Justice Center’s work with migrant workers in Virginia. With each partner organization, Inside Out will conduct a series of playback workshops to tell the stories of audience members and train the organizations to establish their own fluency in Playback Theatre. Playback Theater provides an innovative method to engage economic, social, and gender justice: “Our human dignity is honored when our stories are listened to deeply, and we cannot help but feel connected to someone once we know their story.”
Funds from the JustPax Fund will be used in part to create a toolkit for other participatory arts organizations around the country to engage in similar partnerships and transformative justice work.
Discovery: A Comic Lament
Ted and Company Theater Works – Harrisonburg, VA
$10,000 was awarded to Ted & Company Theater Works. Through the power of theater, humor, and space for facilitated conversation and reflection, this new project seeks to transform entrenched false views of American history regarding land and the oppression of indigenous people, toward environmental and social justice. Discovery: A Comic Lament is a play about the Doctrine of Discovery, the legal framework created by the Christian church in the 15th century that justifies theft of land and oppression of Indigenous Peoples. It offers “both comic and challenging glimpses into the absurdity of white settler oppression of Indigenous Peoples and the land we live on. A show about love, and loss, of land, Discovery nudges us to question our stories with honesty and integrity. Comedy gives people permission to laugh at themselves, and at culturally prohibitive reality to see in a new light without fear or overwhelming emotion.” The play includes a ‘second hour’, a time for audience members to process what they’ve experienced, think about how their own stories intersect with the history of white settlement and oppression, and reflect on their relationship to the land they live on and love. JustPax Funds will be used to bring the play to final production and to ensure that under-privileged communities and churches with small budgets are able to book this event.
The Watershed Story Project
Think Like a Bee – Albuquerque, NM
$10,000 was awarded to Think Like a Bee for their Watershed Story Project. This project will collect, through the use of media and documentary tools, the stories of those indigenous communities and elders who are sustained by living close to the land in the Rio Grande Watershed, cherishing and respecting the land, water and community, living a sustainable lifestyle which illustrates querencia (love of land and family). The documenting of stories will begin to show, over centuries, the degradation of the land and water from colonization, the spiritual dis-ease, addiction and dislocation that has happened for generations of those, both oppressed and the oppressor, as well as practices that can restore and heal not only the water and land, but the people. The project seeks to bring these stories of those who have been colonized in the Rio Grande Watershed of New Mexico to the Mennonite settler communities, who have been part of the colonizing effort. “It is an opportunity to become more aware of who are our ‘neighbors,’ remembering our own history as settlers and the possibility of creating a new narrative for future generations in our watershed.”
Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program
Center for Justice and Peace Building, Eastern Mennonite University – Harrisonburg, VA
$7,500 was awarded to Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peace Building (CJP) to expand international women’s access to the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP). WPLP, a grad certificate program, believes that women’s involvement and leadership at all levels of society is critical to addressing the interconnected challenges of peace, security, governance, and development. However, in many parts of the world, the visibility and impact of women peacebuilders is missing. WPLP seeks to close this gap by using practice-based methodologies to educate strategically-placed women in the theories and practice of conflict analysis, prevention, and transformation—with the end goal of establishing regional networks of women leaders equipped to respond to conflict and build peace. This planning and travel grant will enable CJP to build relationships to explore the possibilities of a USAID-funded women’s cohort from Bosnia focused on trauma and resilience, to expand peacebuilding training and curriculum development in universities in Iraq and Kenya, and to strengthen CJP’s U.S. domestic peacebuilding work, by providing restorative justice training to several of the 14 pilot communities identified by the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation enterprise.
Documentation and International Advocacy
School of the Americas Watch – Washington, DC
$7,500 was awarded the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), in partnership with COPINH. SOAW is a nonviolent grassroots movement working to end US militarization in the Americas and acting in solidarity with organizations and movements struggling for justice and peace. Their principles include building relationships of respect, nonviolence, solidarity, and respecting the leadership of directly affected peoples. COPINH is an Indigenous organization made up of Lenca communities in the Honduran states of Intibuca, Lempira, La Paz, Santa Barbara, and Comayagua that seeks to advance the rights of the Lenca people and organize collectively for economic, political, and social alternatives based on the Lenca cosmovision.
The Documentation and International Advocacy Project seeks to organize internationally around the clear calls for justice of the Indigenous Lenca communities organized in COPINH, especially the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, as they defend their rivers, forests, territory and rights. The project will document and expose the violence, threats, and violation of the rights of the Lenca people who are defending their territory from destructive projects, as well as the role of international banks, companies, and governments in enabling the violent imposition of these projects. One element of this project will include disseminating information internationally about the lack of justice for the 2016 assassination of COPINH’s General Coordinator and internationally recognized Indigenous leader Berta Caceres.
Millennial Outreach to Address Homelessness
Bridge of Hope – Exton, PA
$5,000 was awarded to Bridge of Hope as seed money to create a millennial outreach strategy and program. Bridge of Hope has been providing a comprehensive approach to ending homelessness for women with children for 30 years. While in Bridge of Hope, families facing homelessness (over 80% are women raising children alone) successfully obtain housing and the improved financial position to remain housed, while also holistically addressing the underlying issues of homelessness. The Bridge of Hope model is a three-way partnership between a family facing homelessness, a professional case manager and a group of “Neighboring Volunteers” from a Christian faith community. The overarching goal of this project is to engage millennials in volunteerism for Bridge of Hope, who currently only comprise an estimated 10% of all volunteers.
Growing Hope Farm Expansion Project
Growing Hope Farm – Cambridge, Ontario
$5,000 was awarded to Growing Hope Farm, a program whose overarching goals is to take care of the earth and create healthy, organic and sustainably farmed food. Growing Hope Farm is also a social enterprise that provides employment and volunteer opportunities to at-risk youth and marginalized individuals that have multiple barriers to employment. The five-acre organic farm in Cambridge, Ontario offers at-risk youth and marginalized individuals a safe and nurturing environment where they can learn new skills, gain work experience and gather the confidence needed to reintegrate into the broader community, while providing healthy, fresh and local vegetables, fruit, and meat. One of the farm’s targeted groups is women who are in the local federal prison. The JustPax Fund grant will be used to develop the farm’s capacity, including building a shelter for special events at the farm, to expand shed space for animals, to enclose another pasture area, and to double their capacity for at-risk individuals to engage with the farm. The program is a partnership with Conrad Grebel University College, via Friends of University of Waterloo Foundation.
Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm
Koinonia Farm – Atlanta, GA
$5,000 was awarded to the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm, working to build a movement of youth peacemakers that uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the road map to lead youth to a deeper understanding of injustice and as a toolkit for social action. The mission of Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is to provide a transformative summer camp experience that empowers a diverse community of youth to work toward peace, justice and human rights. Each summer, youth ages 11 to 14 spend a week together in rural south Georgia learning how to work toward peace and justice, building a foundation of knowledge about human rights and exploring questions of justice and injustice: What communities do not have access to the right to fair wages and safe working conditions (Article 23 in the Universal Declaration)? How is the right to an adequate standard of living affected by the state of the natural environment, especially in poorer communities (Article 25)? How do we reconcile the fact that “all humans are born free and equal in rights and dignity” with the reality that our society and institutions often have double standards depending on a person’s gender (Article 1)? Each week of camp weaves together education and activism about gender, environmental, and economic justice to inspire and train the peacemakers of the future.
The grant from the JustPax Fund will support expanding programming to build a more youth-led environment. To elevate teen voices and leadership within our program, Peacebuilders Camp will bring at least six teen-aged peacemakers to share with our campers why and how they have chosen to actively address social justice issues in their communities.
Blacks Run Forest Farm and Folk School
New Community Project – Harrisonburg, VA
$2,500 was awarded as seed money for Blacks Run Forest Farm and Folk School, a just-launching community rootstock for agroforestry and restorative justice. Blacks Run Forest Farm and Folk School is committed to “wild and wonderful plant-and-people partnerships through growing healthy food and fuel, caring for our soil and water, restoring relationships, and cultivating abundant neighborhoods.” The forest farm will grow on nearly 3.5 acres along Blacks Run Stream by leasing land from Salvation Army, which sits along the proposed Northend Greenway and where volunteers have already planted a small forest garden, and the adjoining lots from Harrisonburg Public Works and Parks and Recreation. The folk school will focus on remediating the toxins that pollute our souls, society, and soil by educating our whole bodies through the work of the hands, the head, and the heart. Inspired by the tradition of Appalachian folk schools, they will provide workshops on land-and-craft skills and trainings for community empowerment and uprooting racism, partner with students for research projects, invite thoughtful and compassionate speakers, host an apprenticeship program, and potentially develop a restorative justice program as an alternative-to-incarceration for youth.
Michiana Voices for Middle East Peace
The Indiana Center for Middle East Peace – Goshen, IN
$2,500 was awarded as seed money for Michiana Voices for Middle East Peace leadership (MVMEP), composed of volunteers, most of whom have been to Israel/Palestine either in Mennonite Central Committee assignments or via “Menno-PIN“ or on MCC “Come & See” tours. Each has experienced the daily living situation of Palestinian Christians under the domination of the Israeli military presence. They bring a strong commitment to justice that rings true for all parties and persons affected by the conflict there. MVMEP will host community meetings that are free and open to the public to help bring awareness to the injustice of the Palestinian occupation. They will also offer special seminars for pastors and other religious leaders and teachers to discuss the theological implications Christian Zionism and the impact of US economic, political, and military policy. Their goal is to inspire a better understanding of the religious and political situation that will empower persons and congregations to think and act in new, more peaceful ways.