The 2020 annual report from Fénix, the Colombian charity which supports vulnerable young women through mentoring and education, makes difficult reading.
“This was a terrifying and tragic year.” writes founding director Timothy Ross. “For the Fénix girls, it meant confinement, fear, the proximity of death and reduced income and hopes, in a nasty echo of early experiences of poverty and trauma.”
Several girls contracted Covid-19 and some lost family members during the pandemic. The “stay at home” lockdown rules have been stressful for many but they brought much greater hardship for girls living with abusive, violent families. The usual weekly get togethers, lessons and psychology and mentoring sessions had to be done online and the lack of face-to-face contact and freedom to escape tense home environments were very real set-backs.
Despite the many difficulties, Fénix reports notable academic successes and achievements. New members have joined the group and are participating in the regular Saturday discussions and classes including Kenyerlith who shared her experiences as a Venezuelan refugee during this time of crisis which led her to take an overdose. Her Fenix friends got her to hospital and continue to support her after the emergency. Kenyerlith now has a residence permit and can apply for a place on a SENA course. “Her great intelligence and insight have allowed her to share with the Fénix group, work with the psychotherapist, to receive warm support and to integrate fully,” reports Timothy Ross.
Sandra graduated from her ‘Tecnólogo’ (Higher Education Diploma) in Human Resources Management and sisters Indira and Lizeth Angélica both achieved excellent academic success at high school and university while coping with the loss of their mother and grandmother.
Funds from Children of Colombia and other supporters have helped Fénix continue its work with these vulnerable students – including providing food and laptops – and the peer mentoring has proved a huge help during the pandemic. “Fénix supported me through depression and anxiety, you opened your arms and listened to me when I most needed it, and even helped economically when I had no work” writes one new member.
Through all their personal struggles and disadvantages, it is very moving to read how these young women have helped others even less fortunate than themselves. With support from Children of Colombia’s appeal, they sent six shipments of medical material and food to families in Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon which was hit particularly hard by Covid-19 and local flooding. Kilyam, a fully qualified nurse and former Fénix student, now works full-time with Covid patients in Leticia, in the Amazon area and alerted other Fénix members in Bogotá to the crisis. Educators from Natütama, the charity based in Puerto Nariño, helped sort and distribute the supplies and it was inspiring to read how the two groups had co-operated for the benefit of the local community.
You can read the full report and more about Fénix on the Fénix charity page
or download here: