Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé)A faith-based organization committed to developing leaders and advocating for community needs
- Colonias community leaders and residents
- Dona Ana, Deming, and Los Lunas county religious institutions
- Three CAFé employees
CAFé, based on a “faith-first” community organizing model, is devoted to the organizing of people within the local, state, and national levels to advocate for needs in their communities, by engaging with local religious institutions. They also empower and train local people to become leaders and advocates.
How CAFé Build Relationships?
CAFé not only responds to community needs, but develops leaders to advocate for themselves.
- Employee wages
- Administrative efforts
Time for each project depends of the amount of support they receive from the community. If people closest to pain should lead efforts, they must be ready to engage. This does not come easy most times. It also depends on the amount of support they get from elected officials to help their causes.
CAFé receives training for its employees, community leaders, and volunteers from PICO. They also need meeting places. Child Care is needed so leaders with children can have them cared for while they are in trainings and meetings. Translation equipment (transmitter and headsets) is also a resource that CAFé is trying to obtain so that meetings with more than one language can run more efficiently without needing to physically translate everything.
- Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces
- People Improving Communities while Organizing (PICO)
Our Story: "Social justice is rooted in love."
Sarah Silva, CAFé’s founder, worked for twelve years with People Improving Community while Organizing (PICO) before coming back to her hometown of Vado, New Mexico. Once home, she listened to people’s struggles and dreams of safer communities and better quality of life in Vado, Las Cruces, and nearby colonias. She realized there was a local need for a group like PICO. Sarah created Comunidades de Acción y de Fé/Communities of Action and of Faith (CAFé) in 2009. Through its first project, working with families facing foreclosure, CAFé succeeded in saving the homes of twenty to twenty-five families. As a faith-based organization, CAFé brings the colonias together by reaching out to churches and their congregations to step up and take on a community organizing role. Right now, CAFé has five anchor congregations, and looser partnerships with another ten to fifteen community churches.
We all need to be liberated and we can’t do that separately.
CAFé’s second step attempts to identify other towns that have had similar issues, inform themselves on successful solutions that others have applied, finally adapt and implement those solutions to their local context. In the third step, Café, their community leaders and other residents take action. They all get the word out about the campaign or project they are fighting for through public protests, lobbying, and even appearing on TV shows. They believe that the shared power and strength of a united community will encourage county commissioners and other elected officials to believe in the cause. Finally, CAFé’s fourth step reflects on the course of action they took asking themselves: what went well? What did not go well? What can we do next time? What should we do next time that worked well this time? What other resources do we need? With reflection, they hope to adjust their strategy to make future endeavours even more successful.
With this four-step strategy, CAFé and their leaders successfully advocated for a Raise the Minimum Wage campaign in 2014. In 2019, the minimum wage will increase to $10.10 in Las Cruces. Currently, CAFé focuses on gaining funding to build and repair infrastructure for the Vado colonia, a bordertown that lacks safe paved roads.
CAFé believes when communities unite in order to fight for justice, their strength can make incredible changes happen. Creating leaders in the community empowers the most vulnerable people. CAFé want to improve the quality of life for people in the communities, and also want to change the way community is viewed and treated. CAFé seeks to improve roads or income, and to cultivate leadership skills among the human beings it touches.
In the colonias communities, people have experienced a lot of pain and disappointment. Many of the families and residents have mixed legal status and fear for their livelihoods living in areas that have significant border control presence.CAFé attempts to empower the people, understanding that in order for the colonias and surrounding areas to improve, its people have to stand behind the causes. Johana Bencomo explains that some churches are skeptical of partnering with CAFé, when their leaders think that religious institutions do not have a place in social justice movements. CAFé explains that the church can indeed make a difference in the lives of the people they serve because the faith already calls them to serve the most vulnerable. CAFé also faces obstacles when they start making progress, people in power, who do not approve of their work, can make it harder for them to accomplish their goals.
Things to Remember
- Build relationships with community leaders, residents, and churches
- Know who holds the power in communities
- Allow people closest to the pain to lead efforts
- Stay true to your original values