By Catherine Rose Grimes, Casey Family Programs Fellow, Youth Empowerment Group

• Born in Pasadena, CA
• Grew up in Los Angles/Pasadena area
• Santa Clara University, Sociology and Religious Studies, Class of 2015
• Master of Social Work Candidate- May 2017 University of Southern California, School of Social Work Concentration: Community, Organization, and Business Innovation

Why Operation HOPE: 
Over the course of my fellowship with Operation HOPE, I hope to empower others on financial dignity and social entrepreneurship. I also hope to make more sense of my difficult questions of injustice as pieces of my life puzzle. I am confident Operation HOPE will allow me to investigate the interests and passions of my deepest self, to then be projected into my actions for others in the world.

Goals:
• Improve public speaking and communication skills
• Coordinate, supervise, and to help educate students about financial literacy competency, and social entrepreneurship opportunities
• Create original presentation vehicles that deliver creative, interactive, inspiring, and on-target message objectives
• Program implementation: Banking On Our Future and HOPE Business In A Box
• Create social experiments and healthy competitions (i.e. collecting receipts)
• Assist with pitch competition: encourage creativity, teach a business model canvas
• Expand programs in low-income communities, schools and organizations
• Assist supervisor with other complimentary projects on strategic planning for YEG program management
• Needs assessments and action research findings
• Contribute to new pilot results to promote program development and improvement
• Program evaluation (i.e. volunteer retention, compassion and empathy)
• Social impact measurement: identify what type of impact (goals, target population, timeline)
• Become more financially educated and competent

As an advocate for greater social benefit, I want to continue to take on challenges with trust and mutual support. If I stick with my core values and social justice issues that really ignite my fire, then truth, joy, and love will continue to stay with me no matter what happens in life.

Background And Leadership Experience: 
I grew up in Pasadena, California, where I have been given many opportunities to meet many people all over the world who face daily hardships and experience social injustices, namely Boyles Heights and Skid Row in Los Angeles, the Tenderloin in San Francisco, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

My family has raised me to have Jesuit, Catholic values and to be a woman for and with others. I have been blessed with many privileges that I try to use in a positive light. My passion lies in social justice, with my faith as my foundation. I want to give people the hope and support that they need. I believe everyone deserves to live a happy and healthy life with equal access to resources and services. Thus, it is my mission to serve my community as an agent for change, empowerment, and self-sufficiency.

Whether it’s coping with humidity, natural disasters, poverty, marginalization, or injustice, it’s remarkable to witness these individuals be so resilient while smiling and singing in the streets. It definitively makes me think twice before I complain about something.

Opening Doors To Happiness:

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always had an ignited spirit to seek a greater sense of happiness in my life. As my curious mind developed over time, I came to realize that I love learning from people of different backgrounds than me, such as race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, and socio-economic status. I believe that a possible explanation for this curiosity is having the privilege of growing up with many special opportunities that have valued diversity and human dignity. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said, “We cannot be happy ourselves without thinking about the happiness of others.” I support this statement because I tend to be happier when I experience the happiness of someone else, sharing in that happiness together. With a major in sociology, I naturally think about others in terms of their role in society through a cultural and structural context, as well as their connection to me. Also, with a minor in religious studies, I try to incorporate my Catholic and Jesuit values as a foundation to my sociological interest.
From family relationships, I have been exposed to Hispanic realities at Dolores Mission Parish and School in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles. There, I have been welcomed by their friendship and to attend their Christmas morning Mass with homemade tamales. This community continues to inspire me to fight for injustice, especially about the limited opportunities offered to them as a result of their ethnicity and their high presence of gang violence. As Former Pastor of Dolores Mission, Founder and Director of Homeboy Industries, and dear family friend, Fr. Greg Boyle has been an inspiring role model for me to value the dignity of each human being, regardless of past mistakes or even crime records.

El Salvador_family on volcanoAnother opportunity that exposed me to a different culture was my study abroad experience in El Salvador in 2012. There, I was given an opportunity to detach from my comfortable, middle-class, American lifestyle and engage with families in various rural communities. Living without electricity, running water, and sewage system in shack homes on a volcano, I stepped into the Salvadoran reality of extreme poverty. There, I witnessed many people in the community of Las Nubes, even strong women in their 80s, who carry firewood, water jugs on their heads, and baskets of corn and coffee beans from local fields. Receiving ridiculously low wages, they work so hard to pay for their needs.

Yet in the midst of these physical struggles, it is absolutely incredible when all of the families support one another as one big community by sharing food, supplies, and confianza (both trust and genuine love). In addition to my observations as an foreigner, I have enjoyed physically accompanying the families such as listening to their testimonies, sharing smiles and laughs, taking trips to local water tanks, washing dishes with them, shucking corn off the cobs, and making pupusas (thick corn tortillas with beans and cheese inside). Spending four months in this community has given me a more thorough experience of what life is like in such poor conditions.

Finding Joy And Empowerment In The Philippines:

After studying abroad in El Salvador, I then traveled to the Philippines through Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship in 2014. The people and places I visited did enlighten me to see and act in a new way. They have enhanced my Untitled design (168)education to delve into various social justice issues that I have been so passionate about reducing or eradicating. Through research, discussions, and fieldwork observations in the Philippines, I have been inspired by the intellectual thought and wisdom learned. Two books that the Fellows and I read are John Elkinton’s Power of Unreasonable People and Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership. Each one of these books has been insightful, expressing new and innovative ideas for passionate leaders in our world.

From The Power of Unreasonable People, I learned that we all have the ability to promote change that may be askew from the norm. As George Bernard Shaw once stated, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Whether it is proposing a risky opportunity or an unconventional business strategy, we should have confidence in its success and to not let others trample over our different or crazy ideas. We are in the age of new thinking and new ways of solving social, economic, and environmental issues, so why not walk, or better yet, lead down that path of positive change for future markets. Now is the time to start learning from, partnering with, and investing in these people who are changing the way societies can better function and interact in the world.

Untitled design (167)From my fieldwork in the Philippines, the Global Social Benefit Fellowship gave me the opportunity to view emerging global issues with a new eye. I was not only exposed to poverty with an unequal gap between the rich and the poor, but I also witnessed empowerment, self-sufficiency, and community building. Working with Rags2Riches, Inc., I learned to be touched by my experience. There, I met Filipinos who challenged my perspectives of the developing world and social issues that continue to be prevalent.
Striving to be a “woman for others,” I worked on action research that demands affordable resources by analyzing components on the development of social and economic operations. With the goal of lifting Filipino artisans out of poverty in the Philippines, this action research was able to strongly empower me to achieve my career goals of promoting sustainable development and self-sufficiency through compassionate reason.

To reflect on a few points from Heroic Leadership, I have learned to never stop learning and asking questions as two fundamental practices of being a leader. When we question opinions about a certain topic, it can help us either solidify or change a little of what we first believed. There are many types of leadership strategies that can be developed, but it is the confidence and perseverance of a leader than will make it thrive and put into positive action. Also from Heroic Leadership, I learned to surround myself with Jesuit values that will compliment my personal and vocational goals. I must be humble in what I do, respectful of the people I may affect, and grateful for the opportunities I am given. I have learned that it is healthy to take risks that are out of my comfort zone. New and different opportunities may lead me down a path that I want to pursue in life, and it was a result of that risk taken. The Jesuits also embraced change, yet they remained rooted in Jesuit values of self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism. Self-awareness can be linked to ingenuity in the corporate world. If one is seeking a corporate ingenuity through business strategies, it is important to be self aware in three aspects. First, one must know their personal and fundamental values that are nonnegotiable. Also, one should not be bias to a subject with unhealthy attachments and therefore have no room for compromise. A third nugget of wisdom is to have the confidence to seize new ideas, viewpoints, and approaches that can shine light on our world’s most pressing issues.

Vocational Objectives:
• Measure social impact to promote sustainable life development
• Apply action research, innovative ideas, and strategies for program evaluation and capacity building
• Support for-profit and non-profit organizations in social responsibility and ethics
• Broaden local and global perspectives with more cultural competency

Gratitude:
At Operation HOPE, I know it’ll be a busy, challenging, yet rewarding year ahead! I feel blessed to be working with such positive and passionate souls who want to lift children and families out of poverty and be financially stable. This opportunity is definitely complimenting my business macro goals during my graduate program at the USC School of Social Work.

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”

– William Arthur Ward

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

– Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

El Salvador_water