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What is Fe y Alegria

Qué es Fe y Alegría, febrero 2006

Fe y Alegria is a “Movement for Integral Popular Education and Social Development” whose activities are directed to the most impoverished and excluded sectors of the population, in order to empower them in their personal development and their participation in society.

It is a movement which unites people in a process of growth, self-criticism and the search for answers to the challenges presented by human needs. It concerns education because it promotes the formation of persons who are conscious of their own potential and of the reality about them; who are free, committed and open to transcendence; and who seek to be protagonists in their own development. It is popular because it sees education as a part of a pedagogical and political proposal for social transformation rooted in the local communities. It is integral because it presupposes that education involves the whole person in all his/her dimensions. And it concerns social development because, in the face of injustice and the needs of concrete individuals, it makes a commitment to confronting them and thereby creating a society which is just, fraternal, democratic and participative.

Fe y Alegria was born in Venezuela in 1955 as a way to consolidate efforts that were being made to provide educational services in the slum zones of Caracas. The bold vision of the founder, Fr Jose Maria Velaz s.j, and the collaboration of numerous people and organizations resulted in the crystallization of a work rich in history and in vision of the future.  The    movement  spread to Ecuador (1964), Panama (1965), Peru (1966), Bolivia (1966), El Salvador (1969), Colombia (1971), Nicaragua (1974), Guatemala (1976), Brazil (1980), Dominican Republic (1990), Paraguay (1992), Argentina (1995),  Honduras (2000) and Chile (2005). In Spain (1985) Fe y Alegria was established as a support platform and a means of raising consciousness in Europe; since 1999 its mission was redefined to assume new challenges in the field of cooperation to development, with the name of Entreculturas-Fe y Alegria Foundation.

There are already 16 countries where Fe y Alegria operates through national organizations, all of them associated as an International Federation. Besides, in Italy there is an extension of IRFEYAL (Radio Institute)-Ecuador. And the foundation in Haiti is in process during this year 2005.

In the search for responses to the urgent needs of students and communities, the proposals of Fe y Alegria have become embodied in a variety of initiatives. Besides the formal pre-school, primary and secondary education, other spaces for human development have opened up, such as: radio stations, adult education programs, labor training and school equivalency programs, professional formation at secondary and tertiary levels, development of cooperatives and small businesses, as well as projects for community development, health care, native culture, teacher training, publication of educational materials, among others. In all these areas Fe y Alegria acts in close coordination with the communities, seeking to complement and support the action of other public and private bodies.

In the year 2003 the students and other participants attended to by Fe y Alegria reached a total of 1.232.140. When adjusted for those who participate in more than one program, the total is 962.417. The network of Fe y Alegria consists of 2.080 centers, in which 2.696 service units function, namely: 1.015 school plants, 67 radio stations, 906 extension education centers and 775 centers for alternative education and other services.

A total of 34.788 persons work for Fe y Alegria, of whom 97,6% are lay people and 2,4% are members of religious congregations. This figure does not include hundreds of volunteer collaborators in the countries where Fe y Alegria operates.

In several programs it is almost impossible to number the direct participants, much less the indirect ones. The number of people whom the movement’s activities might reach in the course of a year could well be near seven million.