After Togo, the first phase of the Fondacio Congress will start tomorrow, 2 April 2022, in Colombia. It will open with a day of collective thinking about integral ecology and the youth. Fondacio began working in Latin America in the early 1980s. School support, construction of decent housing and promotion of reading are among the projects carried out by Fondacio in Latin America.
Our history in Latin America
Fondacio was born in Poitiers (west of France), in 1974, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Three years later, in 1977, Domingo Santa Maria, a Chilean businessman involved in the Charismatic Renewal, met the new-born community in Europe. It led to a first weekend of evangelization organized by Fondacio in Santiago de Chile, in July 1980. One year later, the Fondacio community was created in the Latin American country.
In 1988-1990, a plot of land was purchased in Conchalí (now Huechuraba), north of Santiago. A centre was built as a “bridge” between people from the slums (the "pobladores") and people from rich neighbourhoods, with responsibilities in the economic or political world. The centre, Los Almendros, enables the encounter of different and distant socio-economic realities, that can be in communion and unity in sharing common activities and evangelism. In the years that followed, it became an incubation platform for many social and environmental projects.
Then, in 1997, some Colombian couples, formed in Chile, planted the seeds for the creation of a Fondacio community in Bogotá. In 2010, Fondacio Colombia co-created Oasis, a development and solidarity program, together with the Colegio Emilio Valenzuela Foundation. Oasis is based in a slum on the heights of Bogotá, in the northeast territory of San Luis. This slum dates back to the 1960s, when the Colombian civil war led many rural populations to flee. San Luis lacks investment in all structures: education, health, roads, property, etc.
Today, Oasis is active in fields as diverse as children's education, protection of the environment and housing improvement. The local population can access and get involved in all the projects. Oasis welcomes teenagers, when they are not at school, as well as mothers and grandmothers involved in education. Thus, Oasis offers a place both at the service of the inhabitants of the district and a bridge between local realities and international volunteers who take part in its activities. Since 2019, Oasis has spread to another district of Bogotá, Ciudad Bolivar.
“Yes, Chile and Colombia are part of the same continent, Latin America”, says Caroline Jouan, general secretary of Fondacio. “But several thousands of kilometres separate them. It takes six hours by plane to go from one to the other. They have many cultural and social differences.” Let’s take a closer look at all the development and solidarity programs carried out by Fondacio in Chile and Colombia.
Biblioteca Los Almendros
The Biblioteca Los Almendros was born in 2002, at the crossroads of the very poor, the businessmen of the Chilean “City”, built nearby, and the city of Santiago. The Biblioteca works for the social development of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, on a cultural and educational level. It welcomes children, teenagers, adults and families, to whom it lends books. The Biblioteca also has games and a green space.
"Often, children do not have many hours of classes in the afternoon. So they can go there instead of staying alone at home or into the streets," explains Caroline Jouan. Tutoring is offered to them.
The Biblioteca Los Almendros also works with the elderly in health centres. It brings them books and reads to them. It also organises literary picnics and goes out to meet the population, riding a bicycle equipped with a box of books. In 2020, almost 1000 people took part in its activities. Since 2016, this project has been run in partnership with the NGO Vidascopio. The team is composed of two permanent employees, foreign and local volunteers.
Un Hogar Màs Digno
"A more dignified home" is a program of reconstruction and improvement of housing. It is developed in towns north of Santiago, like La Pincoya, Conchalí or El Barrero. Here, it is common to see poor families living in houses that do not meet the minimum requirements. They do not qualify for the traditional bank financing system and do not receive state assistance. A Hogar Màs Digno builds and improves the houses of the pre-selected families, through a personalized architectural project. Before the pandemic, the program was taking care of an average of six to seven houses per year, with the help of young foreign volunteers.
Centro Occupational Hortiterapéutico
This project was created for people with mental and/or physical disabilities. Chile does not have any structures to welcome them. So, they stay at home and suffer from isolation. At the Centro, they can work in the horticultural field. They grow medicinal plants, take care of fruit trees and sell their products (like herbal teas). "This allows them to get out of their homes and have an occupation," underlines Caroline Jouan. "The aim is to give them back their dignity through work, which also allows them to have a social life."
The Centro is located at the same place as the Biblioteca Los Almendros. Together, the two programs organize cross-activities related to reading.
“Jesus the Carpenter”: this project, created in 2012, concerns the inhabitants of disadvantaged areas near Huechuraba. It started with a workshop to awaken their creative power. Then, it expanded to entrepreneurship workshops. Participants learn how to bake, comb and handle the tools, but also how to get inspired for their creations. In 2019, six entrepreneurship workshops were carried out, and among them: a Basic hairdressing course, a Sewing workshop with recycled clothing, a Patchwork and Weaving workshops.
This solidarity project, created in 2006, helps homeless people. The idea is to share a coffee or a meal with them, to break the solitude and create links. The aim is also to try to get them off the streets by putting them in touch with social structures. And so, Mi próximo has created the first inclusive social network in Chile: a webapp that allows anyone to report situations of need to the relevant organizations. The network lists the institutions that work with people in the streets. It aims at improving the general service in terms of distribution of food, materials and health.
The Institut de formation Fondacio (IFF) in Latin America was created in 2014, in Santiago. It proposes an intercultural and innovative training in ethical leadership and social project entrepreneurship. This training is designed to empower young people, aged 20 to 30, for them to contribute to the social transformation of the continent. Indeed, Latin America and the Caribbean have greatly developed in a short time, but it only benefited to a few people, the majority of the population remaining poor.
Iff America’s training enables young people to conduct social projects to fight against these inequalities in their countries of origin. They are trained to discern their vocation, acquire the skills, leadership and project management tools, to create projects that respond to local needs or to integrate existing social structures.
Four courses are currently available:
- International diploma in ethical leadership and undertaking of social projects, either full-time or part-time. The diplomas are certified by the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Colombia, in partnership with IFF America.
- The International Social Programme ;
- Personal and career orientation workshops.
Since its creation, IFF America has trained more than 90 students from a dozen Latin American countries. The Institute has also conducted personal and professional orientation workshops for over 100 high school students in Santiago.
The education project proposes personal work, tutoring and play spaces. In that way, children are given the tools to think about their future. They are busy during the afternoon, when they are not in class, and not alone at home or in the streets.
The project enables the inhabitants to take care and preserve the nature that surrounds them. In fact, they are part of a high Andean forest ecosystem. Oasis organizes different activities. The inhabitants are involved in taking care of urban gardens, promoting the use of ecological products, cleaning up the rivers and transforming the burned cooking oil into ecological soaps.
Since 2013, Oasis participates in the construction of new prefabricated houses, together with the Catalina Muñoz Foundation. So, how does it work? First, families pay for the foundations of their house (sometimes with the help of a micro-credit). A donation helps finance the rest of the house, which is assembled with the help of volunteers. The house is built in prefabricated form. It goes very fast: one house is built in one day.
It is connected to electricity and water, has a kitchenette and a bathroom. The walls are coated with a thermal and sound insulator (cotton cellulose) which the family can paint and personalise. The goal is for the family to manage the project, discover its capacities for action, initiative, and liaison with others. Oasis accompanies the families throughout the whole process: before, during and after the construction day.
By the end of 2019, 76 prefabricated houses, of about 30 m2 each, have been built.
Young Lives Development Center (YLDC)
The Young Lives Development Center (YLDC) program, already underway in several Asian countries, is training disadvantaged young people in Ciudad Bolívar, south of Bogotá, since 2020. The YLDC project helps them acquire skills to empower them. The YLDC project targets vulnerable young people, aged 16 to 25. Ciudad Bolívar presents one of the most difficult conditions for young people to access higher education or work. During the lockdown, classes were given online.
"These young people got their high school diploma, but they lack the financial, and sometimes intellectual, means to continue their studies," explains Fondacio's secretary general, Caroline Jouan. "In Latin America, there is a huge step between high school and university. The problem is that, without a university degree, young people are forced to work informally.”
The YLDC program offers four to six months of training. These include transversal skills (English, IT, etc.), as well as self-awareness to determine which studies to choose, and capacity building. Students can work on the side or create their own business to earn money and pay for college. The YLDC in Colombia has established partnerships with universities to reduce tuition fees by half.
Students can choose to pursue short studies, such as apprenticeships and professional degrees, or long studies, with a five-year curriculum. Ten students completed the program in 2021.
First phase of the Fondacio Congress
After Africa, the first phase of the Fondacio Congress will start tomorrow, 2 April, in Latin America, Colombia. It will open with a day of collective thinking on Saturday, at the Faculty of Theology of the Javeriana University of Bogotá, called: “Raising Our Gaze: Integral Ecology And Youth, The Big Challenge”.
Students, unemployed people, entrepreneurs, partners and members of the Fondacio community in Latin America will take part to the event. The aim is to hear and gather new thoughts and ideas from the periphery. It will help our Christian community to evolve and take another step forward.
The event will be broadcasted on the YouTube channel of the Faculty of Theology of the Javeriana University of Bogotá :
Then, Latin American delegates and several members of the Fondacio Council will work in groups. They will review the past four years, since the last Congress which was held in 2018 in the Philippines. During the first phase of the Congress, alike meetings will take place on each continent as part of the synodal process.
After Africa and Latin America, the first phase will be held in Versailles, France, from 24 to 27 May, and in Asia, from 18 to 22 June. The election of the President will take place in March 2023, before a meeting of all the delegates in Africa in May 2023.
Below, listen to the testimony of three French Volunteers in Latin America :