elisa cienna via 400x274It is unlikely that the ESTIMA project would have been possible without the sensitivity of someone who is both bicultural and appreciates the unique issues of the US/Mexican border community. To succeed WE needed someone who would persevere when stymied by the arcane Mexican banking system, who could anticipate and compensate for fluctuations in the value of the peso, and who could function in spite of an inhospitable regulatory environment.

That uniquely qualified person is Elisa Sabatini, Executive Director of Via International, San Diego and Los Niños de Baja, Tijuana. She is a bi-national businesswoman running two organizations, one on each side of the border and she holds citizenship in both the US and Mexico.  In addition, her many years of experience managing a thriving community microloan program in Tijuana and Mexicali gave her the know-how to oversee the loan portion of the ESTIMA Project.

Elisa’s early years were spent skiing and hiking in the mountains of Colorado. In college she studied International Economics and Spanish with an emphasis on Latin America. She continued her education in Spain and spent several years living in Europe.   After running a business in Hawaii for many years, Elisa arrived in San Diego and began her work with low-income communities of women and children in Mexico and Guatemala.  Believing that everyone deserves the right to achieve their human potential, she was motivated to find some way to address the inequities and inequality present in San Diego, the border region, and beyond. Always with an eye to social business, she focused on the development of micro-credit solutions combined with food security initiatives.  In 2015, the community micro-credit program in Tijuana/Mexicali provided $225,000 in loans with 100% repayment with interest.

Under her leadership Via expanded its programs to design volunteer educational travel based on a self-financing mechanism.  Via creates a path for people to experience sustainable development solutions in San Diego, Appalachia, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Sri Lanka.  Participants in the volunteer program cover their own travel costs and contribute labor and funds for community initiatives. Working side by side with locals, they gain an awareness of other realities and learn about food, family and community.  A key to the creation of this network has been the partnerships Elisa developed in her over 30+ years working in international development.elisa 2010 400 267

In her free time, Elisa loves to be outdoors walking on the beach or in the mountains of Colorado with her faithful companion Cienna, an Italian truffle dog.

Women’s Empowerment has been privileged to partner with Elisa and Via International and to have her and her team join with us in our mission of understanding and reducing poverty in this population of vulnerable women.

What a fabulous day we had at the San Diego Women's March! It was an honor to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many of you and carry the WE banner in support of human rights and dignity for women here and around the world.

We've been thrilled by your many requests to translate that energy into action to help poor women. So WE has put together this 3-step "WE Action Guide" of things each of us can do -- right now -- to make a positive difference.

Paige Bradley: The True Impact of Economic Empowerment

The True Impact of Economic Empowerment

When we think of a poor woman starting her own business, the tangible benefits are easy to imagine. Income to meet basic needs like clean water, food and shelter. Better health and even access to education for her family.

These benefits are important, leading to better conditions for whole communities.

And yet there’s more that happens when a woman begins a journey toward economic freedom. And the impact is profound.

She gains a belief that her life can be more than struggle and hardship. With opportunity comes the possibility to hope – for herself, her family, her future.

Sandra is a seamstress in the rural community of Santa Maria in El Triunfo, Cholutec, Honduras. With an initial loan of about $140 dollars (3,000 Lempira) in 2015, Sandra purchased fabric and materials to make clothing and sell her wares to her local community. Through hard work and sacrifice and with the financial support of several additional group loans, Sandra has been able to grow her business and provide vital support to her family. 

Over 120 passionate WE members and supporters came together Sunday, September 11th for the 13th Annual WE Celebration and Meeting.  The first Unitarian Universalist Church, provided inspirational music to open the meeting. Director Lynn Mendoza-Khan said, “We want to make beautiful music which also lifts people up, and serves a higher purpose.  WE’s efforts to help marginalized women make their way in society, are a great fit with our UU values.”

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

 First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego                         

4190 Front Street, San Diego 92103 

When Jesulie references her home in Mawozo, she gestures towards the mountains south of Gantye: “No, my house is not in the mountains you can see, it is behind those mountains, and behind the next mountains, too.” Where Jesulie lives, houses are scattered up steep hillsides—connected by narrow footpaths. There are no roads, and a market, school, or health clinic can be hours away on foot.

International Fundraiser Chosen as First Executive Director of WE

WE is pleased to announce Paige Bradley as its first Executive Director. Bradley brings two decades of experience in the non-profit, political and communications arenas to the role, where she will oversee efforts to double the organization’s funding of poverty alleviation programs by 2020. Bradley most recently worked in Paris, France as a fundraising director for Sport dans la Ville, France’s leading nonprofit serving at-risk youth and families. 

Three years ago, Women’s Empowerment formed a partnership with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda in order to help a remarkable group of grandmothers. The elderly African women face the challenge of raising one or more of their grandchildren, many of whom have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Since 2013, WE has contributed more than $100,000 to the project. The majority of this money, donated by WE supporters, has gone directly into microloan pools managed by more than 90 granny groups. Late last year, WE also provided a $20,000 grant to purchase 120-liter water-harvesting tanks for almost 2000 grannies who lack reliable sources of water.

Ah Be arrived in San Diego in May of 2012, and has been involved in community events and gatherings since then. Before coming to the United States, she and her husband had their own small shop selling Burmese products within the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand. Now, she’s planning to continue the business by selling to the Burmese community in San Diego. She came to the International Rescue Committee, with the help of an interpreter, to apply for a loan of $3,000 that will allow her to purchase goods from Thailand, manufactured by Burmese refugees, and sell them at a premium price in San Diego. This will benefit the workers back home and allow Ah Be to earn income and grow her family business, while taking care of her baby at home.

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