Feb. 11, 2012 – Dr. Priscilla Benner received this year’s Franconia Conference Peace Mug Award during the Winter Peace Retreat at Spruce Lake. Dr. Benner has been involved since the early 1980’s in the visioning and creation of the organization named MAMA Project. MAMA, which stands for Mujeres Amigas (Women Friends) Miles Apart, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
MAMA grew out of what Ruth Cole, Dr. Benner’s sister, and others witnessed for themselves during mission trips to Honduras in 1983 and 1984. Her pictures and stories were shared in eight Mennonite Churches in the Franconia and Eastern District Conferences, and with women’s mission groups which then reached out to the Mennonite Women’s Organization of the Honduran Mennonite Church, and a partnership was formed.
Dr. Benner grew up in a community where all the influential people in her life were intensely nationalistic. She was introduced to the Mennonite peace perspective when she married David Benner, but the horrible things she witnessed in Central America – extreme poverty, war and militarization, fueled by her beloved country – shattered her world view and transformed her life.
From the outset MAMA has focused on families with children living at risk for early death from malnutrition, beginning with the “Superbar” and “Super Cookies” projects. Since then, MAMA has grown significantly, being involved in direct aid with food supplements, nutrition and childcare education, literacy, scholarships; and when crises such as floods occur, rescue, relief, and reconstruction projects. At times, MAMA’s work has included loans, home construction, latrine and water projects, but today most construction is focused on cementing floors in poor homes.
MAMA has also had a significant role to play in the sphere of national health policy and has had influence in Honduras and in other countries by partnering with others and sharing its materials, systems, and perspectives. Dr. Benner says, “We take teams to work in and experience Honduras, and hope and pray that the fire of their own passion for service will be fueled by this experience.”
Peace Mugs, provided by the Peace and Justice Support Network (PJSN) of Mennonite Church USA and awarded by our conference Peace & Justice Committee, honor those among us who demonstrate a lifelong commitment to peace and justice.