It’s a Wonderful Life is an all-time favorite Christmas movie for many. In this classic tale, the main character, George Bailey, is at the edge of ruin. His guardian angel intervenes and shows George what the world would be like if he were never born. George realizes that despite the hardships he was experiencing, his life truly made a difference in his family and community.
I have often thought of the ripple effect that our lives have on those around us. Just a simple act of generosity or kindness can make a difference beyond what we can see, just as George learned in the movie.
Thankfully we don’t need to learn the lesson as dramatically as George Bailey. I look around me and see the effect of so much generosity from friends and donors at Ciudad Nueva every day, and I am certain that you are making ripples in this world.
So much has happened this past year at Ciudad Nueva, and we are so grateful to our generous donors who have given to our ministry faithfully this year. We truly could not do what we do without you. We are humbled and full of gratitude to partner with you in this ministry.
Here some of the highlights of this year that were enabled by your generosity and participation in 2016:
High school interns
Last school year we were able to hire two paid high school interns. These two amazing young leaders started out with Ciudad Nueva in third grade and have attended our programs through high school. One of them has now joined our staff part time while he attends UTEP. They are now both passing on their leadership skills to the next generation as they help lead all elements of the middle school program.
We were able to expand our staffing during this year to meet some areas of critical need within our neighborhood. We now have more staff to walk alongside adults and families in the community, connect them to available resources, and help them move down the path to self-sufficiency.
Catalyst – Teen Life Skills Program
This year our Catalyst Program, which is a life skills class for high schoolers, grew both in scope and in enrollment. The program now includes courses such as how to buy your first car, job readiness, financial management, and college prep.
Another goal that we met was creating a college tour with some of our Catalyst students. We really wanted to help kids enrolled in the Catalyst program broaden their vision for their futures by visiting colleges outside El Paso. While considering different career options throughout the school year, the students had been learning about different vocations, visiting companies, and learning job skills such as interviewing and resume writing.
At the end of the school year, we were able to take a group of Catalyst students on a week-long trip to explore, have fun, and visit college campuses in Austin, College Station, and San Antonio. Most had never been to those cities, and none of the kids had visited an out-of-town college campus.
We were able to do all this through the generosity of a number of churches and individuals. It was a transformative trip for many of the youth as their dreams for their futures expanded. It has also motivated them to do well in school in order to follow their careers. Click here to read about one of our students, Sofia, who participated in this trip.
A thousand other little ways
In addition to these big goals that we achieved, there were thousands of other little ways that our donors made a difference in our community this year:
- 85 families received food for Thanksgiving.
- Dozens of families received support such as home visits, prayer, help with utilities and groceries, rent assistance, furniture, help applying for jobs, and help applying for college.
- 21 teenagers and young adults were connected to jobs within the community.
- 75 kids attended summer camp, grew deeper in faith, visited colleges, visited the ocean, and went horseback riding, mountain climbing, rafting, and rock climbing.
- 600 neighbors attended community dinners.
Heading into 2017
Catalyst Growth – In the next year we would like to expand the Catalyst Program to cover more life skills for teenagers.
Community Connectors – We would like to start a Community Connector program which would train, empower, and hire adults part time to walk alongside other community members. They would help identify goals and challenges and then help their neighbors make plans and find resources to move forward on those goals. We will also pilot a food-coop in conjunction with this group.
Immigration Legal Center – We have plans to open an accredited immigration legal center within our community. This center would have staff who can answer any immigration-related questions, file paperwork, and help families navigate the legal process. We will host informational sessions to help educate families who are in need of immigration legal services.
The Greatest Gift
The original story that inspired the movie It’s a Wonderful Life was actually called The Greatest Gift. As I reflect on this last year and look forward with expectation toward 2017, I am so thankful for all the gifts given by our donors this year. Every gift, from the smallest to the very largest, has made a difference in our community and continues to send ripples through the lives of many people.
The true Greatest Gift, of course, is our faith in Christ, in whose name all of this is done. We at Ciudad Nueva send each of you our warmest wishes and blessings at this holiday season and pray that the Greatest Gift will be the center of your Christmas celebration.
See you in 2017!