North Park Students Raise $15,000 for Mexico Ministry

Post a Comment » Written on May 7th, 2009     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (May 7, 2009) – The leader of a ministry that provides micro-enterprise loans to poor women in Oaxaca, Mexico, expressed his gratitude for $15,000 that was given by North Park University Ministries last week.

“We are so grateful that people far away from us would take what they have and share it with us,” said Guillermo Conde, the director of Fuentes Libres, who spoke from Oaxaca via Skype video connection during a check presentation in Chicago.

ConversationCampus Chaplain Judy Howard Peterson and two other representatives from University Ministries presented the funds to the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) Department of World Mission during a ceremony at Covenant offices. Students raised $10,000 during a special chapel offering on March 25, and an anonymous donor matched that with a gift of $5,000.

A week earlier, Peterson had challenged the students to donate $5,000. It was a great surprise to everyone when they doubled that amount. To see a video of the response in Mexico when the foundation learned of the donation, click here. To see women describe the difference the ministry has made in their lives, click here.

“We’re so proud of University Ministries and the students whose hearts are big enough for the whole world,” ECC President Gary Walter told those assembled in Chicago and viewing via computer.

Stephanie Lee, a junior Spanish education major who traveled to Oaxaca with a student team during spring break, came up with the idea to raise money for Fuentes Libres. The other students eagerly agreed.

“They figured if they could raise the money to get (a group) down there, they could raise the money for the people there to use instead,” said Peterson. They realized they didn’t have to send out letters. They just had to tell people around them.”

Covenant Missionary Nancy Jo Hoover started the ministry in 1979. At first it helped with community projects such as building latrines and developing family gardens.

The foundation began to look for ways to have an ongoing sustainable ministry, however. They decided to provide loans that people could use to start or grow their own businesses.

They started by providing loans to men, but “the men failed miserably,” said Hoover. “The women have just taken off.”

Loans are provided through community banks that offer the loans at three percent interest, which covers the cost of the person who runs the bank.

The loans are generally between $100-$150 and paid back within 90 days. The foundation will work with the women for two years to help get the businesses established.

Women also must take a percentage of the loan and put it into savings. The money is held in a reserve fund that is available to them after two years.

PresentationThe students’ donations will fund the start of three new banks, which need $5,000 each to be launched, Cindy Hoover said.

Fuentes Libres is one of the global partnerships of University Ministries. Through the program, students are able to minister at sites around the world.

“We can’t wait to send the next group of students to see the ministry,” Peterson said.

Other participants in the ceremony included Baxter Swenson of the Department of World Mission, Nor senior Tricia Pitts, and Grace Martinez, University Ministries office manager.

Editor’s note: the top photo was taken during the Skype-based conversation using a laptop in the Covenant Communications offices – Guillermo Conde is speaking to the Chicago group. The center image is a video excerpt of Peterson explaining the importance of the university’s relationship with the Mexico ministry. The lower photo of the check presentation includes (from left) Swenson, Walter, Peterson, Pitts and Martinez.

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