2022 Mid-year Report

2022 Mid-year Report

         The intensity of Covid infections in Colombia had slackened off dramatically after a January-February peak, but began to climb again in mid-June. For most of Fénix’ girls Covid is less worrying than the dramatically rising cost of living, few job opportunities, the constant downpours of icy rain - even snow in one district of  Bogotá - and a wave of heavy colds and flu.

         However, excellent academic successes are like sunshine breaking through the clouds, and again several of the girls are at the top of their classes. Oriana has even been elected student representative to her university academic council. She has now completed the seventh semester of her degree in community education and human rights with outstanding grades.

         Face-to-face teaching, when the rainstorms and flooded streets allow, has now been mostly renewed for Fénix´ booster classes on Saturdays, attended by a core group of five to six: “those who are more advanced have been helping the beginners, allowing us to have the class completely in English”, says Ezana.                                                                         

         In her classes, says Beatriz, mindful that Fénix girls should be active, informed citizens, we devoted two sessions to the recent presidential elections, one before each of the two rounds, to read the different programs of the various candidates, focusing on how those proposals affect the girls' everyday life and that of their families”.

         Apart from giving intensive coaching to Esther Iveth in preparation for an important graduate exam:

“We have also talked about the Truth Commission as part of the country's transitional justice system, product of the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas. In this context, we read about the recently-released report by the Truth Commission on Colombia's sixty-year long armed conflict. 

And we have been reading the books of Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater - mainly about ethics, dignity and justice. Very abstract concepts, but we have had very rich discussions”.

           Sandra says these classes have introduced her to ideas and writers: “Every day I learn something new”. Her challenge now, in a difficult labour market, is to find work that she has qualified for with her SENA higher education diploma in Personnel Management, and to stop working as a waitress. She has been taking additional on-line courses, including one on public education and promotion of COVID vaccination.

           Indira is close to completing her certification course in the care of older adults and plans to continue on for two further semesters to qualify as a nursing assistant. And then perhaps go on to a full Bachelor of Nursing degree. She has already begun applying for a university place. A self-disciplined, caring and altruistic girl, she will become an excellent nurse.

           Towards the end of this year, Angelica Abril will graduate from a SENA diploma course in physical education after completing her practice placement giving classes in a school – she has enjoyed it and gained excellent grades. “The teacher congratulated me for the way I handled the group and said I was the first intern that she could leave unsupervised with students.” She is taking an additional intensive English course, with excellent grades. In Fénix Angelica mentors and looks out for two more fragile girls. She reports greatly improved relations in her own family, despite her anxiety and her mother´s serious health problems.

            Lady Johana has finished the fifth semester of her psychology degree with a very high GPA, while continuing to work in HIV prevention, detection, treatment and education.

             Disney continues as a full-time social worker with the Fundación Procrear, whose catchment area includes some of the highest risk and most vulnerable people in the city center with problems ranging through homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, other mental health issues, HIV, prostitution and violence.

           Kenyerlith has been accepted for a SENA course in audio-visual production and plans to study for a fresh attempt to get a high enough score in the national exams for admission to one of the state universities, where the fees are low but the competition is very intense. Abandoned by her father, her mother´s earnings are too low to cover most university fees. She regularly attends Feníx´ classes and the support group and has advanced hugely in self-confidence and overcoming timidity.

           Lizeth Angélica finished the fifth semester of her degree in social work with an exceptionally high grade point average of 4.7/5, for which we have warmly congratulated her. The sharp increases in the cost of living have affected her in particular as she has a growing son, and the demands of her course leave almost no opportunity for part time work. Fénix has therefore had to increase her subsistence allowance.

           Zarina is gaining experience and fluency in English working in a dental clinic in the United States, and saving towards the expensive equipment and materials for opening her own practice once back in Colombia.

           Viviana, working in her profession as a doctor, is providing an important support by accepting the role of third signatory to the bank account as a back-up to the founders.

            Yenifer has succeeded in getting her Colombian degree accepted in the U.S. and, by sheer persistence, dedication and hard work, passed the complicated exams to allow her to practice as a registered nurse and to take more specialized training. She supported herself cleaning houses while taking the necessary courses – and raising two children! We hope her example can provide a model and motivation for others in the Fénix group.

            The Sunday Zoom support group meetings are proving a valuable backup to individual attention, and psychologist Deyanire says that together we can deal with each one´s specific needs and develop strategies to face the challenges of everyday life.

            Apart from financial, academic, and health, the challenges this semester have also included increased violence and risks in the street. Two girls have lost their mobiles phones to thieves in broad daylight and Fénix in these cases also has to step in to help.

           “It is thrilling to feel my academic and professional growth, even though on the way there have been difficulties, which I have been able to resolve with the support of Fénix”, says Lizeth Angélica. “I also have to face being a mother and a student, a huge challenge for organizing my time.”

           Angélica has the good sense to continue working with Deyanire on how to handle situations that generate stress. “My infinite thanks go to all the people who have supported me and the other girls who have the privilege of studying and transforming their lives”.

           All our thanks go to the kind people whose support makes possible these privileges and transformations, especially Kate Seal and Children of Colombia, Tova Solo, Maria Eugenia Díaz, Carmenza Patiño, Malcolm Deas, Camille Marquand, Alan Riding, Alison Wood, Regina Yando, and David Veit.

           Best wishes,

     Beatriz and Timothy