March 15, 2018
I had the privilege to attend Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, a top quality Jesuit institution in Caracas, Venezuela. The integral education I received made me cultivate a powerful connection with the value of excellence, as well as a profound commitment to service and a strong appetite for becoming a factor of change in the troubled environment that surrounded me.
Being part of the Ignatian community allowed me to appreciate the work of Fe y Alegría very closely. Every once in a while, we received sets of raffle tickets that we had to sell to contribute to the organization. When I was a child, I did not understand the purpose of this, but as I got older I understood the great value that this small grain of sand had in the most marginalized areas of society. Nonetheless, it was in ninth grade that I fully grasped how meaningful and important the labor of Fe y Alegria really is. That year, I had the opportunity to participate in my first exchange activity in one of their rural schools, Padre Román, located about three hours from Ciudad Bolívar. I spent a week there with students from different indigenous ethnic groups, engaging in their daily routine and sharing unforgettable moments of work and recreation. The barriers that divided our society were suddenly broken. This interaction made us understand that even though we come from very different backgrounds, at heart we are all the same. We share the same ambitions and therefore we deserve to have the same opportunities.
The wonderful experience I had at Padre Román motivated me to continue exploring this universe, which led me to sign up to go to Mérida to visit San Javier del Valle the following year. Again, I was amazed by how those seemingly small contributions from the raffles were being transformed into a stimulating environment of growth. San Javier is a truly sustainable farm school, where students from all over the region learn about conventional subjects and at the same time prepare to enter and adapt to the workforce. The school provides them with all the necessary tools to become competent professionals, by allowing them to develop skills through specialized courses in areas such as agriculture, metallurgy, electricity, textiles, and plastic arts. I was so grateful for the kindness of the people and the good vibe of those mountains, that when I was offered the possibility to visit again in my senior year, I did not hesitate.
It was through these three activities that I realized Fe y Alegría is much more than just education. This organization goes beyond and instills essential values to form holistic and engaged citizens. These students have goals, aspirations, and desire to work to achieve their dreams. More than that, they have the eagerness and the passion to become positive leaders in their communities. The more I spoke with them, the more I recognized how fundamental Father Vélaz’s vision was. Honoring his legacy, I am more convinced than ever that, in this divided world, supporting initiatives like Fe y Alegría is precisely what we need to catalyze the change we all want.
[Blog post by Luis Ravelo, former Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola de Caracas student.]