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* "Investment in girls' education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world."

* "The question is not whether countries can afford this investment, but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls."

* "Gender equality yields a double dividend by elevating not only women but also their children and communities." 

 "Half the Sky" -- Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

                                                                                                       

Welcome to Fundación Social Fénix

Fénix Founders

Fénix is a not-for-profit foundation, registered in Colombia as ‘Fundación Social Fénix’, providing educational assistance, group support, peer leader mentoring, tutoring and leadership training to vulnerable young people without resources.

Fénix developed out of the experience of supporting girls from a child care programme in the difficult transition to independent living and tertiary education, assisting them in choosing and entering degree courses, finding financial assistance and scholarships, supplying computers and text-books and providing guidance and support when needed.

The programme goal is to prepare highly motivated young adults, well-educated in social and health science professions, trained as peer leaders and committed to working with socially excluded and vulnerable groups, who otherwise would have little chance of achieving their full potential. Their own experiences of neglect, abuse and institutional life give them invaluable knowledge and understanding and a greatly enhanced ability to work with other young people at risk or in youth institutions, thus contributing significantly to an improved quality of care and eventually to programme leadership and policy generation.

 

The Fénix model integrates resource provision for higher education (to include post-graduate specializations), group support, leadership training, mentoring, tutoring and full participation by members in running their own organization. Whilst Fénix has drawn on concepts and methodology of the successful European Union MAITRE programme of training and supervision in peer mentoring, Fénix’ innovatory aspect is combining the methods of MAITRE and similar schemes with group support and leadership training in a user centred and directed organisation.

As each group of students matures they are trained to provide support, mentoring and guidance to new beneficiaries entering the programme, and gradually to take over administrative and policy responsibilities in Fénix. Thus we aim at constant renewal of leadership, and the foundation’s name -- the Spanish for ‘Phoenix’ -- symbolizes regeneration, every time bigger, brighter and better.

The first four girls in higher education came through a protection programme for high risk adolescents. These four are members of the board of directors of Fénix and are taking training workshops in mentoring and basic counseling techniques. They are responsible for evaluating candidates for Fénix support, coaching them in their final year of high school in preparation for university entrance, supporting them through their transitions and university careers, and in turn training them as new peer leaders.

They also represent Fénix at meetings with potential supporters, other organizations and educational institutions and, as board members, share policy formation and decision-making. Fénix plans to increase progressively the number of students supported, by up to five each year according to available finances, towards a total at any one time of 20, the maximum number that could be managed without administrative staff. It is intended to expand only as funding and management capacity are consolidated and sufficient reserves established to guarantee continuity.  Higher education costs are funded through negotiating fee discounts and scholarships, one-on-one ‘godparent’ relationships and individual, corporate and institutional sponsorship and donations. The UK registered charity ‘Children of Colombia’ is an important fund-raiser for Fénix and the Centro Colombo-Americano provides scholarships for English courses.

Administrative costs are covered by the founders so that 100% of contributions can be applied directly to programme beneficiaries. No office rent or employees are paid, other than part-time book-keepers. Accounts are provided to stakeholders every six months, together with progress reports and academic grades of beneficiaries, who write directly to their sponsors. Process evaluation is continuous.

The Foundation has a code of ethics and internal regulations that commit members to transparency and accountability, confidentiality of personal information, defense of the rights of children and youth, and that preclude any member from voting on decisions concerning their own benefits.

Fénix provides financial support only for those who demonstrate the self-discipline and academic ability to study to an advanced level and have a clear and sincere commitment to using their knowledge, education and abilities to help other vulnerable young people, throughout their careers. Support is provided on a semester-by-semester basis, and is conditional on maintaining high grades, providing complete accounts, and participation in Fénix administrative, training and mentoring activities. Support for a student requires peer and teacher / social worker / therapist evaluation, performance monitoring during the final one or two semesters of high school, a written essay with a clear explanation of the need for assistance, and unanimous approval by Fénix’ directors.

Although priority is given to education and training in the caring professions, Fénix also considers requests for support for education in other fields of direct benefit to vulnerable groups, such as displaced people, urban in-migrant communities where poverty, unemployment, violence and substance abuse put youth at exceptional risk, and indigenous peoples.

It costs an average of US$3,930 per year to subsidize fees, transport, text-books and associated costs for each student.

Whilst it is never made a condition for support, Fénix expects that once in professional employment with stable salaries graduates will sponsor new beneficiaries and help make Fénix self-sustaining.