The Road to Immokalee: A Chapter comes together
When World Vision brings assistance to a community it is done carefully and with the support of those who will benefit. This is the case for a new US Programs World Vision project in Immokalee Florida, an impoverished community of migrant farmworkers. Over the past year the Southwest Florida Chapter has focused their service and fundraising in this community. Their hearts were drawn especially to the young girls who live without hope from the hardships of this life. Chapter leader Billie Jauss shares the story of the dedicated women who had a vision for change and created the first WOV Girls Club in the Immokalee community. New women coming to Women of Vision can form a Circle and support those in need of life-giving water or improved health for mothers and children.
by Billie Jauss, WOV Southwest FL chapter
When twelve women gathered to pray about forming a Women of Vision chapter in Southwest Florida we knew our main focus would be Immokalee Florida and the development of a US Program site in this community. Immokalee is a migrant farmworker community exporting the largest supply of tomatoes along with other vegetable and fruit crops. Often entire families are working and girls drop out of school at an alarming rate. Over 40% of children are born to single moms and those living at or below poverty make up over 47% of the population. Immokalee is merely 45 minutes from Naples, Florida, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. The WOV Southwest FL Chapter is based in Naples with a unique opportunity to make a difference in our own backyard while serving alongside World Vision.
We began learning from Jan Stubblefield, a partner with the Charlotte Chapter, about their support of a World Vision US project in Appalachia. For the past seven years WOV Charlotte has offered a summer camp for girls and provided a coat drive and other service in the fall. We heard how the lives of the girls and the lives of the Charlotte Chapter women had been transformed through building relationships in this impoverished community. Their stories of transformation gave us great hope to consider that we might be able to do the same in Immokalee. We began to pray as a chapter about empowering us to offer hope to the precious young girls in this community.
God began answering this prayer when we met Andrea, a high school senior from Immokalee. Andrea was an excellent student and a top candidate for Valedictorian of the class of 2011. Her drive and determination overshadowed the obstacles she had faced as an undocumented girl living in poverty. Andrea shared about the daily hardships she and the children of Immokalee face. Boredom, lack of hope and no purpose were a few of the difficulties she expressed. We talked with her about our chapter and our hope to begin a mentoring project with young girls in her community. Her first question to us was, “Are you going to come out here, kiss them on the head, give them stuff and leave and never return? That is not what they need. They need commitment.” At that moment we knew if we were going to begin a group for girls we would have to offer them consistency and commitment.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11) After praying together and with the help from the women in the Charlotte Chapter, we formed the Women of Vision Girls Club. Our goal was to teach young girls about God’s plan and hope for their future. We would come every month and let the girls know that God loved them and so did we. We had to have a plan and those young girls needed to know we were committed.
God answered a second prayer by bringing us Frank Rincon, a Youth Pastor of a local church and now working with World Vision staff in community engagement. Through Frank we were introduced to a few women from Bethel Assembly of God Spanish Church who committed to helping us make the Girls Club as successful as possible. We met in the church with the help of these wonderful women. They committed to us as we committed to the girls of Immokalee. This was another answer to prayer with many prayers still to come!
Next week, don’t miss part 2 of this story which tells how the WOV Southwest FL Chapter saw transformation and answered prayer in Immokalee.