Education * Empowerment * Enterprise

Friday, October 19, 2012

This is written by Ali Brown who shares her thoughts about working for us! Check out Ali's blog at Protecting your Mission

 Thoughts from Ali Brown!

 Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We- The Creation and Growth of a Mission through Collaboration

Today is Blog Action Day. This event is an opportunity to bring bloggers from all over the world together to blog about a similar topic. This years’ topic is the Power of We. Progressive thinkers all over will be posting about the power of collaboration and working hand in hand. This year’s topic serves as a wonderful starting point for our exploration of protecting your mission. Although there are many things that non-profit organizations can do to protect their mission, working in collaboration with others is fundamental. In order to see the Power of We first hand I am going to introduce you to the organization Adelante Mujeres, where I worked for from 2008-2012.
Adelante Mujeres is a non-profit organization in Forest Grove, Oregon (about 30 miles west of Portland) that works towards the education and empower of Latina women and their families. The organization was built through strong partnerships and continues to grow and thrive thanks to these connections. The organization’s connections with the community are countless but two programs stick out; Adelante Empresas and Forest Grove Farmers Market.

Adelante Empresas

Adelante Empresas, Adelante Mujeres’ small business training program, provides trainings and individualized support to 100 Latino small business owners every year, all with only two staff members. This sort of impact is only possible thanks to the Power of We.  Empresas staff works directly with the local Chambers of Commerce, the Forest Grove Economic Develop Department, local volunteers and the growing number of participating small business owners to continue to build a strong network of Latino owned small businesses. Bringing together each of these institutions and allowing them do what they do best has allowed for participating entrepreneurs to receive the support that they need, and for each of these organizations to work towards their specific missions. The local volunteers do not have to write grants or teach classes and Adelante Mujeres does not have to facilitate regional networking events. This collaboration has also brought together business leaders in the region and allowed for the development of new services and initiatives to better serve and advocate for all business owners. Empresas shows how the Power of We allows for the development and maintenance of a strong program within non-profit organizations and also provides the space for future collaboration.

The Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Forest Grove Farmers Market, a weekly seasonal market, is managed by Adelante Mujeres and has created strong partnerships in order to develop and work towards its mission. The farmers market has transformed from a place to buy and sell locally grown and produced goods into an accessible community-gathering place. The market partners with the downtown association, schools, universities, local banks and hospitals and other community groups to provide additional services to community members such as matching dollars for individuals using federal benefits such as SNAP and WIC, weekly kids activities and monthly expanded markets. These partnerships make the Forest Grove Farmers Market unique and have transformed it into a cornerstone of the community.

An Inclusive Definition of the Power of We  

Traditionally partnerships in the non-profit sector are directly between organizations or between organizations and community volunteers. As seen above Adelante has created many of these partnerships but is also working to redefine who is an essential partner. One way in which Adelante Mujeres truly exemplifies the Power of We is the organization’s relationship with program participants and its responsiveness to their needs and concerns. The organizational mission and the scope of its programs are constantly being shaped and improved by the needs and input of participants, giving a voice to a population that is often silenced. Adelante is a model of an organization that has defined the Power of We broadly and has used this power to grow and protect a powerful mission.

Adelante Mujeres
To learn more about Adelante Mujeres please check out their website at

I have been lucky enough to work within and learn from this organization but I know it is not the only way to do this good work. What organizations model this behavior in your world? How do they define the Power of We? How do they harness it? How can we continue to make the Power of We more inclusive to continue growing and learning?

Thank you, Ali for writing such a great blog about us!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 10 of 10

Note: This article is the last in a ten-part series, leading up to Adelante Mujeres' 10th Anniversary Celebration on Wednesday September 12th at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.  For more details, see the Adelante Mujeres website.

Written by Charles Drummond

Sister Barbara is co-founder of Adelante Mujeres.

“It was like watching flowers grow.” Sister Barbara Raymond knew that she and co-founder Bridget Cooke had made the right decision to launch Adelante Mujeres in 2002 as she watched the 12 education-starved Latina women who formed the original pilot project blossom before her eyes.

As the Forest Grove-based nonprofit prepares to celebrate its 10-year anniversary on Sept. 12, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sister Barbara to discuss where the organization has come from and where it is headed. Although she retired from Adelante Mujeres four years ago, she is still actively engaged as a volunteer.

It’s easy to understand why she has been such an effective influence on the organization and the lives of those she taught. I couldn’t help but think of the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day ... teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Sister Barbara’s approach to education has focused on not just teaching reading, writing, English or math, but also opening up opportunities for learners to become engaged advocates for themselves and their communities.

She grew up in nearby St. Paul, Ore., and spoke fondly about the influence it had on the direction of her career. She was the oldest of eight children and while still in high school helped supplement the family income by working in the fields and on the farm.

“You might say we were poor but I didn’t know it because everyone around me didn’t have much either,” she said. “Many of my early friends were migrants who came to work in the fields.”

Discovering her path

Sister Barbara believes it was during those years that she subconsciously made the decision for her life’s work. “I wanted to retain a connection with people like me — with people who didn’t have much,” she said.
Nobody in her family had ever gone to college and she never imagined that she would. That is, until she turned 17, “felt the call” and left for Sisters of the Holy Names and Marylhurst University.

“At Marylhust I discovered that I loved teaching. After graduating, I taught at the elementary level for many years and high school for eight years,” she said.

One of her last jobs in public education was a bittersweet moment for her. As head of the religion department and student activities in a Catholic high school that would suddenly be closed, she had to decide how to write the next chapter in her life.

“I had begun studying Spanish shortly before and realized that I wanted to work in a Hispanic community,” she said.

Soon she found herself in the lobby of Centro Cultural in Cornelius, volunteering “to sweep floors, wash dishes, anything to be of service.” Her “volunteer” status quickly turned into a position as education director, which lasted 10 years.

It was during her tenure at Centro Cultural that she met Bridget Cooke. The two collaborated on a number of programs, one of which formed the core concept of Adelante Mujeres.

While working with immigrant families, they noticed that some organizational structures made it difficult for women to participate in programs being offered. Sister Barbara and Cooke began working on a plan to develop classes specifically for women. What began as simple arts and crafts soon blossomed into much more.

“We asked the participants, “if you could do anything you wanted to do, what would it be?” Their answer came quickly,” said Sister Barbara. “We want an education.”

“It was then that Bridget and I made the decision to create Adelante Mujeres as a nonprofit organization,” she said. “We had no office, very little grant money and no staff.”

A modest start

Under the leadership of Sister Barbara and Cooke, the organization thrived. For the first five years Adelante Mujeres operated out of Sister Barbara’s home.

The tight confines and late hours were taking a toll on both co-founders. Sister Barbara shared this problem with her community leaders at Marylhurst. The work and accomplishments of Adelante Mujeres coincided with the mission of the sisters — namely, the education of impoverished families.

“Every year we wrote a grant request to the Sisters of the Holy Names,” she said. “The response from the Sisters was that in lieu of a grant they would fund our move to a real office.”

Within days a place was found and within hours of signing the lease the move was complete.

I asked Sister Barbara where she thinks the organization will be at the end of the next 10 years.

“There is nothing we can’t do if we continue to get our message out to the right places,” she said.

While Adelante Mujeres has built a solid following among participants and the local community, the biggest challenge will come in the area of fundraising.

“They will need to continue to reach out to the business community and show how success benefits them directly and indirectly,” she said. “Building stronger families builds stronger communities ... and that is good for everyone.”

Even though she is retired from day-to-day responsibilities with Adelante Mujeres, I couldn’t help but notice the fire in her soft blue eyes and the passion in her voice when she talked about supporting Latinos in Washington County as they recognize opportunities for success and how to achieve them.

Today Adelante Mujeres serves more than 450 families each year and counts on the dedication of 800 community volunteers.

I am sure that as long as Adelante’s work continues to embody Sister Barbara’s passion and vision, the organization is going to enjoy even more success in the years to come.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 5 of 10

Note: Apologies for the late posting of this story (part 5 of 10), which was published at the end of July.

A glimpse of one of GX Family Garden's plots in Corbett.

Written by Charles Drummond

Chue Cha has had a special connection with the earth since early childhood in her native Laos.

Today she is the guiding force behind a successful family-operated micro enterprise that grows and sells fresh flowers and vegetables at local farmers markets, including the one in Forest Grove.

As a child growing up in a small village in the mountainous regions of Laos, it was in the family garden where she learned important lessons about farming.

Like many families among the Hmong ethnic groups, the food the family raised and grew in their Southeast Asian homeland helped sustain them through the year.

A quarter of a century later it is still the bounty from the family garden that sustains Chue Cha, her husband, Ge Xiong, and their family. Today, however, their crop doesn’t go directly from the garden to the table — instead, money earned at local farmers markets provides needed income.

The family business, in turn, gives something back to the three markets it attends.

With its spectacular array of bright flowers, the GX Family Garden booth is the visual star at each location.

Chue Cha launched the business 11 years ago. She credits other family members in Seattle and California for giving her the opportunity to learn the flower business.

She’s now passing that knowledge on to her six children, who also participate working in the fields and helping at the booth on market days. (In addition to the Wednesday market in Forest Grove, the family sells flowers at the Tuesday Market in Hillsboro and on the weekends at the Vancouver Farmers Market.)

The oldest of the children is 21-year-old Billie Xiong. Smart, affable and with a smile as broad and bright as her mother's, Billie functions as the family spokesperson.

Billie at work at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.

Forest Grove favorite
She says her mom’s favorite market is the Forest Grove Farmers Market. “We were one of the first vendors when Adelante Mujeres launched the market in the parking lot behind the Dollar Tree in 2005,” she said. “Our business has sort of grown right along with this market.”

The GX Family Garden grows its flowers and vegetables on two different plots in Corbett and Damascus.

Speaking through her daughter, Chue Cha said she is proud of the fact that everything is grown from seed. The seeds germinate in greenhouses and transferred as seedlings to the garden plots.

Decisions about varieties are made by trial and error as well as networking with the other family members in the flower business.

“But,” says Billie, “the main thing is how well they all go together to create one of our bouquets. We grow different varieties at different times during the season. All together we probably grow and harvest more than three dozen varieties.”

Working together
Watching family members assembling elaborate bouquets during a busy market day clearly demonstrates how hard they work, but also how well they work together.

On a recent Wednesday, Billie and her two oldest brothers — Kevin, 19, and Jason, 15 — joined their mother in a blur of colorful choreography, somehow managing to not get in each other’s way in the tight confines of a 10-by-10-foot booth while putting together their floral creations.

Flowers await arranging at the GX Family Garden stand.

By 8 p.m., market closing time, all that remained in the booth were the empty plastic pots used to keep the flowers fresh. According to Billie, “this is the best time of year for us. The flowers are the prettiest and customers are in the mood to purchase.”

On the days that aren’t as successful, Billie says that they often donate the unsold flowers to senior centers or convalescent homes, giving back to the communities that are helping support their family.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 9 of 10

Dear Adelante Mujeres supporters,

This week's article leading up to Adelante Mujeres' 10th anniversary celebration is a special one for me because I had the opportunity to work at the Forest Grove Farmer's Market with Mayra Hernandez (the star of this piece!) this summer.  She's a great person to have on the Adelante team and I enjoyed working with and practicing my Spanish with her.

Mayra Hernandez (right, standing) speaks with customers at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.

If you're in the area, make sure to check out Adelante's 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Forest Grove Farmers Market on Wednesday Sepetember 12th from 4pm to 8pm.  For more information, please check out the Adelante website.

-Erika Takeo, Summer Micro-Enterprise Team Intern

Written by Carrie Schmid

Thirteen years ago, Javier Urenda never imagined he would be working alongside his wife, Mayra Hernandez.

They were recently married, living in their native Mexico. He was a college graduate with a degree in civil engineering. She was pregnant with their first child and unable to finish her last year of high school.

Now they both work for Washington County non-profits, Urenda for Bienestar and Hernandez for Adelante Mujeres.

Hernandez, mother of two and Outreach Assistant for the Forest Grove Farmers Market, does not have the kind of life her mother had, who stayed at home full-time and raised five children. But Urenda and Hernandez say that her pursuit in work and school has been positive for the family. It was Adelante Mujeres, they say, that helped to empower Hernandez to accomplish these goals.

In Mexico, Urenda said, Hernandez “was more insecure. I can see she’s more and more secure. When she wants something, she knows she can do it.” The Adelante Mujeres program teaches women to value themselves, he said.

As a new mother and recent immigrant to the U.S., Hernandez said she was looking for more. “I didn’t have any activities,” she said. “I took care of the kids. I waited for my husband to get home from work. I didn’t have any structure. I felt like it wasn’t enough just to be at home. I was interested in a career but I didn’t know how to make it a reality.”

In 2003, Urenda introduced Hernandez to the Adelante Mujeres program where she could learn English, work towards her GED, take classes in parenting, leadership, nutrition and personal development, and take advantage of early childhood education classes for her two young children.

Hernandez has been involved with Adelante Mujeres ever since, first as a student in the adult education program and now as a staff member. The result, she said, has been a change from the routine of her daily life.
“Leaving my routine meant doing something different that would be productive and benefit me,” she said. “And by doing that I could help my children.”

It was a boost in confidence, Hernandez said, to earn her GED after her first two years in Adelante's adult education program. The non-profit's students are required to spend 20 hours volunteering each trimester of the program, and Hernandez spent her time working with small children. As a result of this, she was able to gain certification and get a job as a teaching assistant with Head Start.

Adelante Mujeres’ personal development class, Escuelas de Perdón y Reconciliación, also taught Hernandez to nurture her self-image, and value and invest in herself, she said. The ESPERE program teaches students how to cope with past aggression and transcend conflict in their lives.

After working for Head Start, Hernandez came back to Adelante Mujeres in 2008 to continue improving her English. She recently started working for the organization, helping to build the Forest Grove Farmers Market. Hernandez shares information with recipients of benefits from the federal programs that provide assistance for food, like WIC and SNAP, to help them understand how they can benefit from the Forest Grove Farmers Market, like getting $10 worth of fresh produce for free.

“Now, I really like what I am doing, to get in touch with the people most in need and to see what is out there and how they can benefit from it,” she said.

Hernandez, who dreamed about becoming an accountant as a girl, said that she has discovered a new passion in her work. In the next 10 years, she sees herself continuing to help people in need.

Hernandez’s children, Fatima, 13, and Carlos, 12, still see her biggest accomplishment in her role as their mother.

“She’s a good mom,” Fatima said. “She’s always there for us.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Social Capital: a Cornerstone to Business Development

In 2008, a group of Adelante Mujeres staff were sitting in an office and brainstorming the best way to support aspiring Latino small business owners. At the time, the organization was offering a 10-week business development course, which introduced basic business vocabulary and skills, and we were providing additional individualized support when necessary. But was there more that we could do? What other support did our business owners need? The primary need that we identified was increased social capital.
Social capital is defined as “the network of social connections that exist between people, and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enable and encourage mutually advantageous social cooperation.” Social capital is an asset that we each have within our community. Think of the last time you asked friends if they knew of a good dentist or if you could borrow their lawn mower.  These are  both examples of leveraging your social capital. The Latino community supports one another in many ways, but we started to question whether our business owners had sufficient connections in the business world and in their target markets to successfully launch and grow their businesses.
In order to grow this social network we built a program that allowed our participants to leverage Adelante’s social capital within the community and also learn from other participants. Over the years this has been one of the most successful components of the program. We have seen businesses refer clients to one another and also build strong relationships with their clients.  This allows them to continue to build their own social capital which helps grow their business. Recently I received the following recommendation from one of Blanco’s Green Cleaners clients. To me it exemplifies our success at supporting the development of our business owners’ connections in the community through building social capital.
To potential clients of Blanco’s Green Cleaning Service:
If you need a cleaning service, consider yourself lucky for having found Blanco’s Green Cleaners.
Fernando and Venicia are hard workers and are willing to do nearly anything you need done, the way you want it done.  I have never found that kind of flexibility when I have used a cleaning company.  In fact, I find the rules that company workers must follow to be rigid and limiting.
Blanco’s Green Cleaning Service is easy to work with.  They are pleasant and friendly, but not intrusive.  They are consistent, prompt and respectful.  The products they use do not leave a chemical odor behind.  If something isn’t quite to my liking, they want to know about it before they leave.  If I want more attention paid in a particular area on a regular basis or I would like something to be accomplished differently, I simply show them on the next visit.
After working together for a while and establishing a trusting relationship, they have taken the initiative to get some things done that I have been rather lax about handling.  Of course, Fernando either asks before diving in or simply knows from previous visits that I want the chore done but haven’t prepared for it.  One day, he simply worked around my clutter in one troublesome room and got it done.  It was such a pleasant surprise.
I encourage you to give Blanco’s Green Cleaners a try.  If you would like to speak with me personally, please feel free to call.

To learn more about the work that Adelante Mujeres is doing to grow the social capital of Latino owned businesses or to hire one of our businesses please visit the website at or contact Ali Brown at

-Alison Brown, Director of Adelante Empresas

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 8 of 10

“Early Childhood Classes Help Mom, Too"
Written by Carrie Schmid

Elide Martinez Román is 6 years old, but she already has a lot of friends. Sometimes she plays babies or Barbies with the “two Kaelys” in her neighborhood. Sometimes she sees her old friends, Genesis and Jazmán, from Adelante Mujeres Early Childhood Education program.

But five years ago, when Elide’s family had recently moved to Hillsboro from Mexico, life was very different, remembers her mother, Araceli Román. “The kids were sad. They didn’t know other kids,” said Román, who has four other children in addition to Elide. “I felt enclosed. I didn’t know people.”
Elide’s blossom to social butterfly began in the ECE program at Adelante Mujeres, said Román, where “she learned to feel bonded and to be a friend.”

This fall, Adelante Mujeres will celebrate the accomplishments of participants like Elide and Román with a special event at the Forest Grove Farmers Market on Sept. 12.

During her five years with the Adelante Mujeres Early Childhood Education program, Elide spent five days a week learning literacy skills from her teachers in her bilingual classroom. She also met weekly with English-speaking volunteers who work with the preschool-aged children at Adelante Mujeres.

“She learned English at the school. It happened really quickly. Now, she can communicate with everyone,” Román said.

In addition to helping her develop the social skills necessary for school, Elide, who will be in the first grade at McKinney Elementary School in Hillsboro next year, also gained important academic skills. They practiced letters, shapes, colors and telling stories through pictures, her mother said.

Getting students ready for kindergarten is a top priority of the Adelante Mujeres ECE program and nearly 100 percent of preschoolers who participate achieve scores above the benchmark on standardized tests, said Francisca Perez, Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Adelante Mujeres.

In the program, Elide “really learned to love class,” Román said. “Right now she’s starting to read. We go to the library and she comes home with her little bag full of books.”

Adelante Mujeres' ECE program provides a variety of educational opportunities for young Latino children and their families.

While Elide attended the ECE program, Román was a participant in the Adult Education program. Adelante Mujeres offers a dual education program for Latina mothers and their children between the ages of one and five. The adults take classes in English, Spanish literature, grammar, math, nutrition, personal development and leadership.

At first, Román was mainly focused on learning English and obtaining her GED, which she did after the first year of the program. It wasn’t until she came back to the program in the fall of 2010 that she became interested in other topics, like parenting.

“At first, I didn’t like it,” said Román of the parenting class. “I said, ‘They’re not going to teach me how to be a mom.’” But then she started to pay attention and pick up tips. “The older ones, they need their time with me. With the little ones, you really have to pay attention when they talk. You have to give them your time.”

She shared these tips with her husband. “We all eat together and we ask (the children), ‘How’s it going for you?’”

Because she had obtained her GED, Román was also able to take classes at Pacific University’s English Language Institute. Adelante Mujeres students who have obtained their GED are invited to attend the Institute’s classes for free. The course is designed to prepare English as a Second Language students to enter Pacific.

Monique Grindell, Academic Coordinator of the English Language Institute, said having Adelante Mujeres students also benefits her program because the students add diversity. “We rarely have Hispanics,” she said. Adelante Mujeres students also live locally, unlike most of Grindell’s students, and “can tell them about things around town,” she said.

“It was lots of homework, lots of writing,” Román remembered of the ELI program. “But it was a good challenge.” And, she added, her children noticed how hard she worked at her studies and it set an example for them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 7 of 10

Written by Kati Mayfield

Maria Sandoval, 12, and Briana Larios, 11, prove that great ambition comes in small and soft-spoken packages.

With great poise the girls, or chicas in Spanish, describe their stories of finding self confidence and social grace through a local youth development program called Adelante Chicas.

Through the Adelante Chicas program, part of local non-profit Adelante Mujeres, Maria and Briana participate in after-school groups with other girls their age and learn about topics ranging from self-esteem to financial literacy to college prep.

With a staff of three and a legion of committed volunteers, Adelante Chicas runs in six sites in the Forest Grove school district and one in Hillsboro, serving over 250 girls, ages 8 to 18, each year.

During the school year, Adelante Chicas holds one after school group at every school site per week and takes the girls on educational excursions on the weekends. During the summer Adelante Chicas runs a six-week soccer academy and three week-long summer camps where the girls learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); healthy lifestyles; and cultural arts.

Maria, who is going into seventh grade at Neil Armstrong Middle School, and Briana, who is going into sixth grade at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School, both joined Adelante Chicas as quiet third graders.

Maria was the pioneering third-grader who joined Adelante Chicas when it was only offered to girls in fourth grade and up. The summer before her third grade year Maria tagged along to Chicas summer camps with her older sister, Monica. Fascinated by a unit on community health and wellness, Maria didn’t want the experience to end with the summer, so she persuaded the Adelante Chicas staff to let her join the program. Staff members conceded because they were impressed by Maria’s dedication to the activities and to her peers.

Briana, one year younger, benefitted from Maria’s legacy the next year when Adelante Chicas staff decided to open the program to all third graders. Briana says that, though she was very studious, she was too shy to raise her hand in class or participate in extra-curricular activities. But when she heard that Adelante Chicas was just “for Latina girls like me,” she joined the group at Echo Shaw Elementary School. What she found was an all-Latina group of girls her age and program facilitators who created a safe and supportive environment for her to explore her ideas and identity.

The foundation of the group is the “girls circle,” where the girls discuss their ups and downs and address a different theme each week. Each girl gets a chance to speak in the circle, which helps them gain confidence about expressing themselves and addressing an audience.

Briana says, and her mother confirms, that whereas before she was reluctant to say anything in a group or at home, she now can articulate her opinions on everything from her favorite pop star to her greatest ambitions.

Maria has taken from Adelante Chicas the desire to help others and take care of the environment. Participating in annual camping trips and volunteer excursions to local wetlands, she has gotten exposure to the region’s incredible natural resources and become determined to protect them.

Maria and Briana have made the most out of every Adelante Chicas activity. Through the Adelante Chicas Journey to College initiative, Maria and Briana have toured local colleges and universities and learned about career tracks and how to get scholarships. And, they have committed to giving back to the community, thanks to the great role models they have in Adelante Chicas staff and volunteers.

In 10 years, both girls say they envision themselves attending college and volunteering with a program like Adelante Chicas, helping other Latina girls become more social and break out of their shells.

Leticia Aguilar, the Adelante Chicas elementary school facilitator, beams with pride over all her chicas, particularly when they express their dreams about what they want to be when they grow up.

Maria aspires to be an immigration lawyer, and Briana says with determination that she plans to be a doctor — a pediatrician, to be exact.

Meet Maria Sandoval, J.D., and Briana Larios, M.D. They may not have earned those credentials quite yet, but they are certainly on their way.