Minerva Baumann: Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza sows seeds of positive change

El Paso Times Minerva Baumann: Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza sows seeds of positive change

Aimless wandering can be a good way to discover the secret treasures of a neighborhood. The alleys and narrow streets of Central El Paso date back to a time when the pace of life ran at the speed of a stroll.

Ambling along Birch Street one Sunday, I found a short road called Chico -- only about 100 yards long. This lightly paved street parallels the railroad tracks. It is home to a handful of apartments and the backside of a bakery and a glass shop. Just north of the tracks between Maple and Cedar, a couple of blocks from a church founded in 1897, there's a white-washed, one-story building surrounded by a chain-link fence.

It is a place where women find hope.

Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza (Center for Women of Hope) wasn't open that day, but my curiosity drove me to find out more. I discovered that the group helps women by promoting "life-changing behavior addressing the needs of the body, mind and spirit." Turns out its mission goes far beyond my Central El Paso neighborhood, serving not only the city of El Paso, but also Juárez and Southern New Mexico.

This nondescript building, which I likely would not notice if I drove by it, is home to a group of people with a grand desire to help our community. They provide many learning opportunities for women that are as varied as tai chi and English classes. Regardless of the skill sets they are offering, however, their efforts seem to be targeted toward giving women tools for self-sufficiency and the self-confidence to believe they can improve their lives and accomplish their goals.

La Esperanza's website says they believe their work with women as individuals, caregivers and heads of households will have "a far-reaching and positive multiplying effect on their children and communities."

La Esperanza sees the women they help as seeds of positive change. That fits my definition of hope.

Researching supporters of Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza led me to the Frontera Women's Foundation. The foundation is well known and respected, one of two such women's foundations in Texas. It has been improving the lives of women, girls and their families along the U.S.-Mexican border since 2003.

On Frontera's home page is an amazing book, "Yes, We Are Still Dancing," by Susan Amstater, Connie Dillman and Jacquelyn Stroud Spier. This vibrant, color-filled celebration of art and poetry sings the ballad of women's resilience through stories of friendship set in our loving Southwest community. What makes it more compelling is the generosity of its creators. Through the foundation, the proceeds of this book will go toward creating an endowment for young women in our region to pursue an education in the arts.

Yes, I bought a few copies.

Whether it's over coffee with friends or during a family dinner, we each can preserve our history by sharing our stories. In March, Women's History Month gives us a chance to think about the lives of our mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, daughters and friends and to tell them how much they mean to us.

The middle-aged woman I met at the bus stop didn't know about Centro Mujeres de la Esperanza. She was tired and waiting for the bus to take her home. Maybe next time she's in the neighborhood she'll remember our brief conversation and wander up a couple of streets. She, too, may discover that white-washed, one-story building behind a chain-link fence -- where hope lives.

Minerva Baumann may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .