El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Building Community, Together

Since our founding in 2006, the strategies of El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services have been centered on relationships—going deep with families in the neighborhood where we are located rather than offering a variety of programs to a variety of individuals. Honoring the dignity of the community, we have aimed to do with people, not for them. Our constituent families are among the poorest in our county, even though they are each headed by one or two working adults. Because their hopes are concentrated on their children’s futures, we have focused our programs on helping families support their children’s academic success. Our tutoring program, which predates our nonprofit status by three years, was developed in response to parents’ requests for help with their children’s homework.

It can be argued that the essence of poverty is the lack of freedom to make choices that can impact one’s own situation. In the past couple of years the El Buen Pastor families have become more settled in the neighborhood with a heightened commitment to our community, creating opportunities for us to leverage the trust we have built with them over the years by including them in various decision-making processes. We are committed to shifting the nature of our organization’s processes along a continuum of collaboration between long-time residents and newer immigrants, increasingly involving our Latino families in setting the direction of our work together. 
 
In keeping with our mission, we want to create space for families to equip themselves with tools to fulfill their potential by offering opportunities for children and adults to practice group process and develop leadership skills. We want to strategically transition from consulting with community members to a partnership of cooperation, while building a framework for future co-learning where community members and “outsiders” equally share leadership. As a tradition of community leadership evolves, the second generation—the children of immigrants—will eventually take over and the organization will be led and staffed by people within the community.

We have taken some initial steps in the cooperation stage—involving community members in planning our El Buen Camino 5K race, staffing the annual yard sale, and providing guidance for the tutoring programs through monthly parent meetings. In 2015 we plan to launch both a Parents’ Advisory Committee and a Youth Advisory Committee whose members will learn about nonprofit program management while serving as conduits of communication between the Board of Directors and the program participants. The challenge facing our board and staff is to maintain the balance between providing solid programs that have the support of the larger community and our funders, while beginning to transfer decision-making to members of the El Buen Pastor community. It is a challenge we embrace—our city will benefit from the contributions of these future leaders, and our society will be enriched by the strengths and fresh perspectives they share.