Philadelphia’s Esperanza: Hope for American Cities?

“…the church bridge often challenging differences in culture and worldview, to help its diverse branches better appreciate, and learn from, one another? ”

Team Members/Contributors

James M Ault, Jr. Hartford Seminary Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

If you were mayor of a major city looking to restore a center city neighborhood run down by poverty, unemployment, poor education performance, etc., would you invest in a faith-based organization founded by a group of Protestant clergy to do the job? How many cities would?

Yet, Philadelphia’s Esperanza is an inspiringly successful example of just such work. Now a generation old since its founding by a network of Hispanic pastors in Philadelphia in 1987, it has made great strides toward these varied and challenging ends in Philadelphia’s largely Latino North End: building a strikingly successful charter high school,a college, an arts education program and now a middle school; offering services like job and housing training, and immigration counseling; and partnering with banks and other community organizations to transform the North End’s 5th Street Market Area, just to name just some of its wide-ranging work. Injust fifteen years Esperanza’s staff has grown tenfold, and its total assets have grown from $2m to $58 million.

How did this happen? And what lessons can be learned from Esperanza’s pioneering work? This documentary film will tell Esperanza’s story in intimate, character-driving storytelling, bringing viewers into the range of Esperanza’s work as it touches the lives of members of the community. It will portray how its leaders and workers come together to launch, grow and carry forward this work on a day-to-day basis. And it will also portray Esperanza’s wider reach around the US and the world in part through the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast held every other year in Washington, DC, begun by Esperanza’s founding director and leader, the Rev. Luis Cortés.