Newsletter 2023

Newsletter 2023

Dear friends,

We are pleased to share our first News Letter of 2023. We highlight the support of CANPACK-Colombia with the financing of the “Finish your Highschool” Educational Program. We also thank the AMA association of Belgium for funding the 2022 theatre classes, led by Professor Ana Mazhari. Additionally, the first two bachelors of the program graduated high school in November. We will start our newsletter with the arrival of the new volunteers and we will finish it with the projects for 2023.

Wishing you a pleasant reading and thanking you for your support,

Javier Palacio

Javier Palacio on the bridge of Palomino River, pointing to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Arrival of new volunteers

At the end of 2022, we welcomed Isabella Camargo, Colombian, and Marie-Astrid Ghion, Belgian. Both graduated respectively in Sociology at the Institut des Hautes Études de l’Amérique Latine, France, and Management at the Louvain School of Management in Belgium. Isabella joined the “Finish Your Highschool” program team in August, led by Professor Max and Teacher Juliana. She will stay until mid-2023. Marie-Astrid arrived in November and will provide pedagogical support until September 2023.

The two volunteers stand out for their altruistic commitment and dedication, giving reinforcement classes in math, reading, English, and other subjects in which our students have knowledge gaps. We have been able to make important changes in the curriculum thanks to the enlargement of the pedagogical team. One of the most significant is our commitment to higher education. Last November, we had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony of the first two adolescents in our program to finish school. We realised that, due to a lack of preparation, the results of the students of Marquetalia in the state test that gives access to university (ICFES) are deficient. Indeed, the ICFES is marked out of 500 points, and usually, between 250 and 400 points are needed to enter a university career. Unfortunately, according to the teachers themselves, students from the village usually get less than 200 points. Therefore, we decided to open preparation workshops for the exam in question, aimed at six adolescents from our program who are in their final years of school. These classes take place on Saturday mornings and are led by Professor Max, who teaches Natural Sciences, Marie-Astrid, who is in charge of the preparation for the Mathematics test, and Isabella, who prepares the students for the Social Sciences and Critical Reading tests.

We are delighted with the effort of our pedagogical team, and we hope that 2023 will be a year of success for our students.

Javier Palacio, next to Isabella Camargo in the center and Marie-Astrid Ghion on the right.

Visit of Professor Athanassios Kolivras

In April 2022, we once again welcomed Professor Athanassios Kolivras, Ph.D. in dermatology and Head of Clinic at the Saint Pierre Hospital in Belgium. It is the third time he has visited us to give free medical care to children and young people with skin problems in the village.

On this occasion, he came with Dr. Athanasia Gkiouleka. They both collaborated in this dermatological mission organized by the Foundation, which was free of charge for us. The doctors brought creams and medicines for the pertinent treatments. Also, the children were taught about the prevention and care they should have with the sun, as well as the diseases they can develop due to lack of prevention.

We are immensely grateful for this medical collaboration since going to the dermatologist is important but not easy for the residents of the village. Indeed, in addition to the medicines and creams for the treatments, the trip to the nearest city and the consultation require important expenses.

Winter Camp

For 5 years, Mateo Bruce Senior and his sisters Sara and María Paz have visited us from Bogotá. This year they came in the company of a Mexican friend, Orina Acuña. Between January 6th and 9th, they organized activities for the children of the village. More specifically, for the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6th, they helped us distribute toys and clothes donated by AMA of Belgium. Our visitors also bought food to cook with the children, screened films, organized recreational activities, and led various activities to raise awareness of climate change. It was very pleasant to receive them again: the children already know them and spent very happy moments together.

January 20 – Excursion to MA-ZIRUMA

At the end of 2022, we had the joy of seeing most of our students get through the school year. To reward their efforts, dedication, and good behaviour, Professor Juliana organized a day trip. Accompanied by the two volunteers, she went with the children to Ma-Ziruma, a sports and leisure centre in La Guajira where there are swimming pools, slides, and recreation areas. They had a wonderful day: they were able to swim, play and above all, share unforgettable moments with each other.

Visit of CANPACK – Christmas Novenas

On December 14th, 2022, we were delighted by the visit of CANPACK Colombia, sponsor of the “Finish your Highschool” Educational Program, designed and managed by us. Soraya Barbosa, Jhonatan Carreño, and Lorena Solaque came with gifts, snacks, and drinks for the celebration of the first Christmas novena. The affection with which they spoke to the young people was highly appreciated, transmitting values that will allow them to fulfil themselves as humans and fulfil their goals. In turn, the children delivered letters thanking the CANPACK family for this educational program that is improving their self-esteem and preparing them to face a better future.

For the FDH it is very gratifying to see the progress in these young people and the motivation they have developed in their studies. Through the educational program financed by this great company, they are acquiring knowledge and skills that generate big changes in them.

Closing the school year: presentation of the theatre play

In 2022, the AMA organization of Belgium financed the theatre classes taught by Professor Ana Mazhari, which took place on Saturdays at the Ludoteca. It was a unique opportunity for the children, where they could explore and express feelings, improve their communication skills, and overcome shyness in a safe environment. On December 11th, at the end of the school year, they presented a Christmas play written by themselves: “Santa Claus in Marquetalia”. It was highly appreciated by children and parents.

First highschool graduates

In November 2022, Yoimer García and Neilis Florez, the first two members of the educational program “Finish your Highschool” to take this step, graduated high school. At this moment we are preparing Yoimer for the admission exam of SENA, a higher education institution. The young man wants to study aviation mechanics and, currently, we are looking for funding among our group of friends so that he can realize his dream.

Food delivery of disadvantages families

At the end of December, our employee Diomedes Sanguino delivered on behalf of our foundation 30 bags of food for the less favoured families of the village. We also distribute clothes for children, donated by our group of friends and Christmas gifts for children.

Theatre Club

In 2023 we will continue with the theatre courses as a strategy that allows young people a better approach to literary texts and a change of routine in classes. We have gathered more than 500 books in Spanish, a result of donations in Colombia and Belgium, which we have been taking to the Ludoteca on each visit. Among these, we have fables and children’s stories that transmit important messages and values to young people. It is clear that theatre boosts the expression of emotions, self-esteem, and teamwork, thus encouraging the development of essential attitudes for adult life. The theatre club will be led by Professor Juliana Casasbuenas.

Smiles that reach the soul

Nathalie is an 8-year-old girl who was born with a birth defect called “cleft lip,” which causes a cleft between the upper lip and the nose, she couldn’t close her mouth and was frequently having infections. In 2016, the FDH contacted Operación Sonrisa, a non-profit organization that performs reconstructive surgery for underprivileged children, to correct this condition. The FDH also collected funds that allowed Nathalie to go by plane to Bogotá for post-operative medical examinations. We then covered all the expenses of medicine, treatment, and the posterior trips to Barranquilla for her and her grandmother, who was by her side during this process.
Today, Nathalie, along with other children, has tutoring classes with Marie Astrid.

Once again, we want to express our gratitude to the friends who participated to carry out this medical intervention. Thanks to you, Nathalie is now a healthy, happy and persevering girl, with a radiant smile.

Visit of Dora Méndez and her husband Mario Tamara

Agronomists Leandro Gil (left) and Mario Tamara (right)

In February 2023 we received Dora, a biologist, and Mario, an agronomist who has already come several times to do agricultural activities with our students.

For this occasion, they stayed for a weekend, during which they led several activities with the children of our program. On Friday, Dora gave a talk about higher education, the possibility of winning scholarships to go to college, and career choice. On Saturday and Sunday, the young people planted various plants under the supervision of Mario, Professor Max, and teacher Juliana. They pledged to take care of the garden and cultivate its fruits when the time comes.

We greatly appreciate this intervention, because it not only teaches children about agriculture, but also instills in them values such as patience, perseverance, teamwork, and commitment.

We would like to highlight, on the other hand, the involvement of our employee Diomedes Sanguino with the altruistic support of agronomists Mario Tamara and Leandro Gil, sent by the ICC ( in the agricultural activities of Finca del Río Palomino, whose profits are invested in our social programs. Mario and Leandro have known and supported us for several years. This 2023, we are collaborating to design a program to optimize the agricultural production of the farm, which has suffered from the impacts generated by the African snail plague that we are trying to control and eradicate.

Facility Improvements – Made possible by Donors

In 2022 we finished the 120m2 multi-purpose classroom. Today, it is used by teachers and volunteers to give their respective classes. The classroom consists of two main spaces, one in height and the other at floor level. The first serves as a platform during presentations or talks given by different guests, and the second is composed of two spaces separated by mobile libraries. The oldest classroom is mainly used by volunteers to teach English and mathematics.

On the other hand, we built a canteen store to store food and snacks. The construction costs of roofs, walls, floors, bathrooms, plumbing, and electricity were bought thanks to the donation of a group of friends headed by Roberto Villaquiran, Marcela Ordoñez, María Angeles Montes, María Angélica Arenas, Lars Livud, Ruth and Christian Kappler, Isabelle Meiers, and Javier Palacio, among others. CANPACK Colombia financed the doors of the classroom and the bathroom.

Finally, we are excited to announce that we intend to enlarge the old classroom to make a “Computing Room” in 2023. The room will have 12 computers connected to the internet, which will allow the children of the program to access a greater knowledge and develop digital skills, essential in their professional and personal life. We are currently making contact with universities so that adolescents who finish high school can access distance higher education


We would like to thank all the people who have supported us this year, either through financial, material, or time donations:

Athanasia Gkiouleka, Athanassios Kolivras, Yves Maskens, Nicolas Verheyden, Néstor Bedoya and family, AMA from Belgium, Samuel Haesendonck, Adriana Senior and family, Manuel Moreno and family, Mirko Glisic and family, Ayda Kaplan, Emanuele Sanguineti and family, Jasmin Battista and family, Tristan Baume and family, Michele Stellato, Rafael Navazo and family, Maria Angélica Arenas and his group of friends from la Celle Saint Cloud in France, Claudia Orozco, Olga Johnson, Max and Juliana Casasbuenas, Martin Bretton, Alaïa Nell, Diomedes Sanguino, Zully Marques, Isabella Camargo, Marie-Astrid Ghion, Olga Nieto, Mario Tamara, Dora Mendez, Leandro Gil, Juan Marti, Martha and Gloria Palacio, Luis Fernando Chamie and Javier Palacio.

Every donation counts! Thank you very much! Thanks to all and each one of you, the children of our program are learning to build a better future.

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