woman in pink
  April 2010
GranteeGrantee Highlights

Supporting Food Vendors in the Bronx


This year one of Mary's Pence grants helped support Common Law's work with VAMOS Unidos, a Latina/o Bronx based community group working toward economic and racial justice for street vendors in New York City.  


Common Law co-founders Karen Gargamelli, Mike Wang and Jay Kim
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Common Law was founded by attorneys seeking to use their legal resources to increase community organizing. Their unique model utilizes a union-like arrangement: Common Law provides free legal services and legal education to all members of their partner organization. Co-founder Jay Kim explains that "stronger, more informed members leads to more powerful and sustained organizing." 


Through their partnership with VAMOS Unidos, Common Law serves food vendors supporting their families by selling homemade foods on New York City streets. Most of the vendors must work "illegally" because of New York City's exceptionally low cap on permits. There are only 3,000 permits for 20,000 food vendors in New York City!


Common Law works with Latina food vendors in New York on permit issues.
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As VAMOS Unidos vendors organize to increase the number of food vending permits in New York City, Common Law supports individual VAMOS Unidos members by representing them in court. Vending violations can cost hundreds of dollars; a violation for "vending without a permit" carries a $1,000 fine.


Thus far, Common Law has defended against 150 violations and saved VAMOS Unidos vendors over $50,000 in fines. The vendors are greatly encouraged by the victories, and continue to hold rallies throughout the city-in their churches and on the steps of City Hall.


In addition, Common Law supports the work of "Picture the Homeless" as their members fight to increase and preserve affordable housing in New York City. In the fall, Common Law will add "Communities Against Anti-Asian Violence" (CAAAV) to its list of partners.


Common Law was founded in 2007 over a kitchen table. Three friends in their third year of law school asked one another "how could legal services empower clients?"  Co-founder Karen Gargamelli recalls, "We were not interested in providing charity to the poor. We believed then, as we do now, in providing social services for social change."

IssuesIssues of Justice

Awakening Consciousness in Latin America

Zoraida Sosa Sanchez lives in Managua, Nicaragua and served last year as one of the coordinators of Red de Nicarauhault, Mary's Pence ESPERA Fund partner in Nicaragua.


Zoraida Sosa Sanchez works with Community and Women on domestic violence issues.
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My name is Zoraida Sosa Sanchez. I am fifty years old and I work with an organization called Women and Community, which was founded ten years ago. The organization works with women to provide support in situations of domestic violence. However, the organization does more than just comfort the women. Rather, we tell them their rights and what they can do for themselves, and we support them in those endeavors.

Here in Nicaragua the rate of domestic abuse is very high, and on top of this there is also the issue of sexual abuse. A lot of this has to do with the patriarchal culture and the norms of our society in regards to gender roles. These roles are reinforced by the schools, government, and church, and because of them women are eager to enter into and then preserve their marriages, regardless of violence. Women are concerned with their families, but do not take care of themselves. Also, they do not have a voice in their own homes, and often have to wait for their husbands to make decisions.

Therefore, our work is to awaken the consciousness of the women so that they recognize themselves as a person, and begin to demand the respect and space that they need. As a theologian, I believe that men and women were created by God, and because of this we have our responsibilities and tasks, but also we have the opportunity to work together to create something beautiful in this world, where we all should be equal without following the orders of anyone. Because of this, we are disseminating knowledge about women's rights.

Here, violence is a real problem, and as a mother, daughter, and grandmother, I have experienced violence and sexual abuse since I was a child. Because of this, I am convinced that if a woman does not try to change, nothing else will change. On the other hand, if a woman begins to change, she demands a change in others and teaches them to respect and include her. Women need to learn to demand respect and visibility, and from this they will affect change in their sons, brothers, husbands, and families. For me, this is very important, and I feel that the women of the world are being more vocal. It is evident that the patriarchal system is feeling threatened, and in Nicaragua the men are responding the only way they know how: violence. There has been an increase of the killing of women recently, and it is only increasing. I hope that my words help-I speak them from my own experience and from my heart.

ActionAction For Mary's Pence

Do You Shop on the Internet? Do You Search Online? 

By Consilia Karli, Mary's Pence Treasurer

What if a percentage of every purchase you made online went to support our cause?  Or if Marys Pence earned a donation every time you searched the Internet? Well, now it can!

GoodShop.com is an online resource that donates up to 30 percent of each purchase to your favorite cause. Hundreds of stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy's and Barnes & Noble participate.  Every time you place an order, you'll be supporting Mary's Pence.

GoodSearch.com is a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half its advertising revenue, about a penny per search, to the charities its users designate.

I've tried it and it's easy! You can also download the GoodSearch - Marys Pence toolbar, and Mary's Pence will earn money every time you shop and search online - even if you forget to go to GoodShop or GoodSearch first! Add the Mary's Pence toolbar at http://www.goodsearch.com/toolbar/marys-pence.

If you believe as I do that small amounts can grow exponentially to make significant differences in women's lives, then join me in using technology to help us in our ministry of raising funds for Mary's Pence. If you are going to search or shop anyway, it's just another one of those win-win situations.  GoodSearch---GoodShop---Good Idea.


You might want to spread the GoodWord about this to your friends too.


Mary's Pence - Who Are We?

We are a small organization with a big vision.  We want women in the Americas living in poverty to have a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved.  Therefore we invest in local women who are creating models to increase women's economic status and improve their status in their community.  We look for models that foster women working together, to learn from each other, support each other, and explore new ideas.  We fund women in North, Central and South America.

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In This Issue

Supporting Food Vendors in the Bronx

Awakening Consciousness in Latin America
Do You Shop On the Internet?

Prayerful Reflection 
 Stopping the World to Release and Renew

PrayerfulPrayerful Reflection

Juanita Benedicto volunteers at Buen Pastor, a convent located in Guanajuato, Mexico, that runs a few programs including a women's shelter.  The mission of Buen Pastor is to empower women and girls and to help families find a way out of domestic violence. 

Juanita provides compassionate touch for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.  She is a Mary's Pence grantee this year.  

haiti 2What follows is a reflection based on her work with one women. This woman endured 37 years of abuse at the hands of her parents before fleeing her home and seeking refuge at Buen Pastor. Juanita works with her using massage and reiki. After sessions, Juanita assigns her visualization homework to build her self-esteem.


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As Juanita works, she meditates on the image of the Virgincita comforting the Pope. She leans on the Virgincita's example: serene in the face of hardship, not taking another's pain but making a place for it to come out into the light where it can be witnessed and then released.


She laid prone on the table, talking like a water fountain you can't turn off. The table was drenched in words. Her parents kicked her out. Her mother was mean. She's almost 40 going on 12.

She won't look you in the eye. Her head won't stop hurting. It's hurt for months. Maybe a year now.

I looked to the Virgincita for compassion and grounding.

I asked her to turn supine. I asked her to imagine her mind a clear, blue sky, and wherever there is pain, there are dark clouds. Bring a small, steady wind to clear those clouds so that she can return her mind to clear blue. As she closed her eyes and visualized, she began to relax.

The fountain stopped, her breathing deepened, her body loosened. I held the sides of her head for 20 minutes while the world stopped and transformed and released and renewed.




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