September 13, 2017

Catharine Steffens: “We are called to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized across our vast Jesuit Network”

Written by Catharine S. Steffens, Georgetown Preparatory School

“An hour outside of Buenos Aires you find the town of San Miguel. While one side of the town has beautiful weekend and family homes, the other side shows a different reality. This side of San Miguel is where the Centro Educativo de Nivel Secundario and the Centro de Formación Profesional are located. These Fe y Alegría Centers have their arms wide open to a population who have not had the opportunity to finish secondary school or to complete job training that would aid in professional placement and advancement. These Centers are active in the quest to close the opportunity gap with the powerful tool of education. Fe y Alegría Argentina promotes and facilitates free education for children and adults in the most marginalized and excluded populations of Argentina.

This August I was privileged to spend a day at the Centro de Formación Profesional en San Miguel. After a warm and informative welcome from the Fe y Alegría Argentina team at their offices in Colegio del Salvador we headed out to the Center. The first group we looked in on were the women in the sewing course. They were working through creating, sizing and sewing skirt patterns. Each of the courses at the Center result in a professional certificate so these are serious courses with clear goals, checkpoints and tasks to complete. We immediately fell into conversation with these lovely women who were of all ages. We walked away from there with gifts of hand bordered washcloths and some purchases of kitchen mitt and apron sets.

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From there we progressed through courses for welding, electrical engineering, ironworks, plumbing and auto mechanics. While mostly men in the classes. we were pleased to observe, some women as well. Many of the adults in these courses were studying for job advancement opportunities within their current employments. This Center provides the opportunity to entry level worker to gain expertise and to achieve higher level diplomas and certificates. They are focused on leveling the playing field within the professional world.

We found our last stop of the evening by following the scent of choripan wafting in the air! This was the cooking course where chefs-to-be were mixing and proofing yeast dough for a typical Argentine biscuit. We were lucky to also have arrived the night a fundraiser was underway to purchase a churro machine and by selling choripan, that delicious Argentine sandwich of chorizo in baguette. We were first in line!

As Jesuit educators, we are called to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized, we are also being called on to collaborate across our vast Jesuit Network. The time spent with the Fe y Alegría team and the adult participants of the Professional Formation Center was a clear experience of this faith and justice in action. We thank them for a beautiful visit.”

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