Martin, handmaid of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, incorporates this need of the Mexican community in the mission statement for Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, the ministry and after-school program she started in September 2002.
As a community leader and role model, Sister Margarita and sisters Marietta Jansen and Angela Cordero, started and still operate Oasis. The program, not only provides ministries to the people of the Pinewood Estates North community and surrounding areas, but additional community services as well. Sister Margarita nicknamed herself and the other sisters “Three Musketeers” because to overcome the obstacles faced as immigrants, formed friendships with one another and set off with intentions to heal and comfort others. For Sister Margarita, the work never stops as she lives up the street in the community she helps and loves.
When the program started, there was no formal agenda as the three women simply wanted to create a place of retreat for the Latino community. However, another need became apparent when children did not have anywhere to go after school. The Spanish-speaking children with non-English speaking parents needed extra help on homework and encouragement be successful in school. Martin recognized this need and established Oasis’ tutoring program.
“Sister Margarita has truly brought her community together and made it stronger,” said Leanna Ross, an Oasis tutor. By creating a place of comfort in which children can receive help from English-speaking tutors, mainly University of Georgia students, Sister Margarita provides these children with an equal learning experience.
Since establishment in 2002, attendance at Oasis has grown from about 20 students to 107. The children range in age from three-year-old munchkins to 3rd graders. Volunteers are required to tutor once a week for 12 weeks in order to be involved with the tutoring program.
“It is important for the children to have the same tutor every Monday and form a relationship with that tutor,” said Martin. “The tutoring process is just as educational for the children as it is for the tutors.”
This two-way educational relationship is revealed at the end of the semester during the tutors’ personal evaluations of their time with Oasis. Tutors have the opportunity to provide Martin with feedback on Oasis and their experiences with the children.
Kathleen Ward, a kindergarten tutor, experienced the effects of Martin’s tutoring program firsthand during her time with Oasis.
“She helped me understand how much of a role model I became,” said Ward. While we teach the children, they are teaching us valuable life lessons in return… definitely a give-and- take relationship.”
With 200 tutors, Oasis continues to expand as the need continues to grow. Sixty tutors need to be scheduled daily for the program to work best with two students per tutor. Despite the large amount of tutors, Oasis is “always hungry for more tutors,” said Martin.
Sister Margarita Martin is determined to continue the success that Oasis has seen integrating and caring for the Latino community in Athens. With fierce compassion and dedication, she plans to touch the lives of as many Latinos as possible with Oasis.
“She is one of the most passionate women I have ever met and even when it seems like the program won’t succeed, she fights harder to make sure it does,” said Ward. “Sister Margarita is known for her love for these students and that is something you don’t see as often anymore.”