Fénix 2017 Mid-year Report.

In the first half of this year Fénix members have made great strides forward in their education – in high school, technical school, university and postgraduate degrees – and in their professional and personal lives.

It is very satisfying to see how much of Fénix’ main aim is being achieved: allowing vulnerable girls without resources to become excellent professionals in health and social care who can transform the lives of other vulnerable young people and contribute to improving the quality of care.

Academic and professional:

Yenifer is an auditor of care quality in a major health care company, took two postgraduate qualifications after her nursing degree. She says her next goal is a Master’s degree to qualify her to teach her specialization to others. “When you are born poor and in difficulties the only way to create a better future is with the arm of EDUCATION”.

Viviana, a doctor in another big health care company, is about to start the final semester of a Masters in Public Health (at the top of her class with a GPA of 4.19/5)  that will qualify her for research, programme design and management, and teaching,

Zarina also is taking a postgraduate degree in health care auditing, whilst continuing to work in a dental clinic. “My dream is to continue growing personally and professionally, “she says, “so that I can dedicate myself to health brigades . . .” for children in underserved areas. Her first semester’s marks are very high, 4.4/5, putting her in the top two in her class.

Disney has completed the penultimate semester of her degree in Social Work with excellent grades and after completing thesis requirements will formally graduate early next year. She has been working with victims of sexual violence and says: “This last semester I have gained new knowledge and experiences”.

Iveth has applied the credits from her ‘Tecnólogo’ (equivalent to a UK DipHE) towards a full degree in administration, whilst also working with the city programme for street youth.

Lady Johana has been working in the same scheme but is about to move on to an HIV programme under the Global Fund, and to take a technical qualification in ‘Human Resources and Community Welfare’ before returning to her psychology degree.

Edna finished high school last year, recently found work in a home for street children, and plans to go to licensed nurse training.

Sandra completed a ‘técnico’ in Administration and graduates in July.

Indira and Daniela, the two youngest in Fénix, are still in high school (though they missed classes for over a month because of a prolonged teachers’ strike) and both have been given scholarships at the Colombo-Americano English language centre, an important contributor to Fénix girls’ education.

Indira’s older sister, Angélica, has a low-paid internship in the YMCA-ACJ working with Paola in the children’s programme, to gain the certified experience demanded for work as a kindergarten assistant teacher. Once she has a stable post she hopes to go on to a full teaching degree. She is studying hard for university entrance exams and she and Indira have been taking regular English classes with Isobel Cairns.

Lizeth took a big and brave decision and has gone to work in the USA for at least six months “to learn about another country and culture, to improve my English and to save for university”, whilst a relative has taken Jaqueline to Italy, to learn Italian, register her nursing and laboratory technician qualifications there and continue her professional education.

Alejandra has decided not to return to university for the moment but is starting her own small business:


          Part of Fénix’ work is to support the personal growth and stability of girls with little (or no) family and to help them find their best way forward against the obstacles of poverty and social exclusion.

Several girls are still dealing with problems from dysfunctional or abusive families

          Psychologist Deyanire Sosa plays a major role in this, providing counseling, therapy and help in family dynamics, relationships, child-rearing and decision-making for those dealing with trauma, neglect or early motherhood, both for Fénix members and for the girls referred to Fénix or found by members, in street work, their classes or jobs, to be needing help.


          Isobel has done far more than teach English – she is a mentor, friend and big sister, taking girls to museums and films, giving vegetarian cookery classes and sharing her life with them. In July she leaves to start a Masters in Social Work and Human Rights – a decision reached by reason of her experiences with Fénix and in street outreach – and will be very much missed.

          Many previous volunteers have taken similar paths, and Samantha Joeck says she has: “completed a Master's degree in Sociology and Gender Studies…. My thesis explored issues of gender and social class regarding access to public space in Bogotá. This project involved ethnographic research in autumn 2014 and that Fénix members collaborated with. I hope to continue this research in a doctoral program.”

          Working with Fénix has influenced many volunteers and interns in this way. One former teacher said: “The Fénix girls taught me as much as I taught them and they changed my life”.


Fénix encourages members to work and save as much they can towards their education and helps negotiate scholarships and sponsorships, but most of these girls can only finish school and get degrees and professional qualifications with the extraordinary support of Fénix’ friends.

Very generous donations from Alan Riding, Richard Herbert, Renée Soulodre-LaFrance, Gwyneth Simmons, Regina Yando, Jane Grimes, Luisa Melo, David Lloyd, Brian Moser and Kate Seal, added to Viviana’s own savings and Fénix funds, are covering the costs of her MPH at a top medical school. Kate Seal and Douglas Farah are also sponsoring Disney through her Social Work degree. The regular monthly contributions by Malcolm Deas, Martha Martinez and Alison Wood cover some of the  postgraduate costs for Zarina that are beyond her and Fénix’ means.


            The core of graduates are establishing themselves in their professional lives: we all continue to discuss how they see the future activities of Fénix and their own roles in leading the foundation into possible new areas – several are keen to pool their talents, experience and qualifications and to seek funding for projects for working with high risk barrio youth.

          At the end of this year Viviana and Zarina complete their postgrads and Disney becomes a qualified social worker. Together with nurse-administrator Yenifer they will then be able to form a core professional team, for example, to design projects and programmes and seek service contracts, either in their spare time from regular jobs or taking full-time contracts, whilst also supporting a new generation of girls into higher education and taking Fénix another step forward.