Organization Mission Statement
"Catholic Charities fulfills the Church's role in the mission of charity to anyone in need by providing complassionate, competent and professional services that strengthen and support individuals, families and communities based on the value and dignity of human life. In order to remain faithful to our mission, Catholic Charities is guided by these core values: Respect, Compassion, Competence and Stewardship."
Catholic Charities provides services internationally to individuals and families in need including adoption services, child development, child abuse or neglect, child welfare residential programs, counseling, developmental disabilities/ residential care, domestic violence, emergency assistance, employment and job training, family strengthening, health care, HIV/AIDS services, homelessness, housing for physical disabilities, immigration and naturalization, legal services, maternity and pregnancy, nutrition, refugee-resettlement, school-based services, senior affordable housing, senior case management, and senior community based services, skilled nursing facility, substance abuse, veterans services, and youth mentoring services.
Social Enterprising with Visions and Loom Programs
Elma Kulovic and Nancy Gavilanes (class of 2015) were both fourth year part time students who worked at Catholic Charities and continue to do so. Elma works with refugees, helping them find employment and settle in the United States. Nancy currently is the director of Catholic Charities’ immigration program, supervising 30 people at five different sites. The immigration department at Catholic Charities works on issues such as family reunification and domestic violence. When choosing an internship this year, Elma and Nancy both decided to choose an employment-based internship in a different department at Catholic Charities. In order for a student to have an employment-based internship, they need to meet certain criteria, such as working at the agency for at least a year, finding a different department with responsibilities that are separate from what they are doing in their job, and finding a field instructor that meets the qualifications set by the DePaul MSW Department. The advanced year internship that Elma and Nancy chose for their 2014-15 academic year worked with Catholic Charities’ new social enterprising initiatives within the program development department.
The first social enterprise was Visions, a program that works with homeless individuals in Chicago. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimated that in August 2014, there were 138,575 homeless individuals living in Chicago. Catholic Charities has several programs to address the issue of homelessness. Visions is a program that provides photography materials to these individuals. Some are given digital cameras to borrow, while others are provided disposable cameras (in the most recent distribution, 104 people got cameras for three months). Then the staff and volunteers go through pictures and choose a few to make cards. They run the project mostly on a volunteer basis.
This program allows the participants to gain self-esteem by being a part of the process of how to market themselves and pick the pictures that would be the best for cards. About 8 people each have 4 pictures that they get to exhibit at an event. Volunteers decide how many pictures they want to display. The homeless individuals involved in the program get to choose which ones. One of the homeless women who has participated in this project was able to find employment taking pictures of food at a local restaurant. Some others are able to earn money from Catholic Charities, earning approximately $100 for each picture used. The money earned depends on the size of the picture. Those pictures are then used for Christmas cards or framed pictures. Elma and Nancy both talked about how they were excited about being involved in this project.
The second social enterprise project taking place at Catholic Charities is Looms, which works with refugee women who are talented in craft making. The women in this program make items such as scarves, headbands, earrings, and other accessories. The women in the program have recently moved to the United States and many have never worked before. This program helps them learn how they can use their skills to create a job for themselves. Although the women in this program are not currently making a lot of money selling products, they are building resumes. One woman in the program was able to get a job doing specialty stitching from her work in this project.
The women in the program also participate as members of the board, deciding when they will have meetings and who will participate in each art show. This empowers them as they may not have been asked to make decisions before. They are also able to build social support networks with the other women, who have experienced similar suffering in their own countries of origin. They support one another emotionally and help each other in this new venture.
Currently the Looms project only serves 12-15 women. This number is due to the space available for the women to work, as well as only having one part time staff member to work with the project.
In the future, the programs would like to obtain a facility in order to sell the photos, scarves, and other art pieces from both Looms and Visions. Currently, some products are distributed to local boutiques to sell, but this is limited to a small number of pieces. In order for the store to happen, more artists will need to be recruited and a business plan put in place. The programs are also seeking to expand through finding grants and getting donations from corporate businesses. Donations may be in the form of money, but also in art supplies such as disposable cameras, film development, paper, and yarn.
Preferred qualifications for future interns include having knowledge of business and budget plans. The interns may work on finding a space and how to run a business, as well as working on a plan for sustainability. Eventually, the hope of staff is that profits made from selling the products will pay for the expenses of the program. Additionally, when discussing ideas for fundraising staff and interns emphasize that the money obtained would not just be given to participants, but would be used to build skill sets and help them become self-sufficient.
Supervision at this site was much different from many others, as this was a type of social work that people generally don’t think of as social work. Everyone was learning in the process, so interns and their supervisor were talking through the projects as they went along. Nancy said that the macro piece that she saw in their internship was looking at the bigger issues that were affecting the populations. There are two different populations that Catholic Charities has introduced social enterprising to help- homeless men and women, and refugee women.
Education and advocacy were needed to go along with each of the projects to show how these populations could be empowered and included in society. Elma and Nancy thought that telling stories of the artist made the pieces that much more interesting and made people want to buy them and contribute to the participants'success.
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