Dreaming of a bilingual Colombia, with equal opportunities regardless of social conditions and economies and with a quality education to reduce knowledge gaps, were the motivations that led to the creation of La Fontaine School in the Siloe neighborhood of Cali, a neighborhood with great difficulties and social problems in the capital of the Cauca Valley, where the lack of opportunities and the stigmatization of its inhabitants become an obstacle to their development.
La Fontaine School was born in 2015 as a response to a latent need in the community and country, due to a low quality education that many Colombian children and young people receive. They arrive at adult life with gaps in knowledge that makes them lose competitiveness, self-esteem and finally postpone or cancel their life project.
A quality education offers personalized instruction, learning of other languages, sports, art, curricula updated to the reality of the world, among other things. But very few of these benefits reach families that have few resources and must opt for public education or low quality private schools. Through La Fontaine School, the knowledge and opportunities gap is narrowed with an education proposal with emphasis on bilingualism and 21st century skills development (STEAM- Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics), with personalized classes, pedagogical outings, use of technology and all the characteristics of a quality school. All this educational offer allows children from a low-income sector such as the Commune 20 of Cali where 80% of its inhabitants live in stratum 1, to remain within the educational system since traditional education added to the lack of support of families causes high school dropouts; In addition, children develop the strategies and skills necessary to continue through secondary education and to empower themselves as leading citizens and able to build a healthy, productive and happy way of life.
Being a social enterprise, the initiative is sustainable over time because its beneficiaries (125 families for the year 2018) provide a monthly charge that is within reach of their income. Those who do not have the resources to do a monthly payment receive full or partial scholarships thanks to a sponsorship program with Colombian citizens or from other countries that wish to support the education of a child for one year. This year, 20% of students have this benefit and this has allowed to expand the impact in the community.
The goal of Colegio La Fontaine is to become -in the next five years- the first bilingual school of a social nature for the commune 20, counting on foreign volunteers to teach languages, mainly English, and establish satellites along the hillside, establishing itself as well as a network of quality schools for the less favored communities of the city of Cali.
Lillybeidy a leader and social entrepreneur who shares her knowledge and personal experience with her community.
Lillybeidy Manrique, 30, grew up in Siloé Cali. She is the youngest of 6 siblings. She went to a public school and the public university, which made her sensitive to the power of education to reduce gaps in inequality. She has a degree in foreign languages from Universidad del Valle and is currently studying for a three-month master’s degree in Management for social innovation at Icesi University. Young Leader of the Americas Initiative 2016 Scholar by the government of President Barack Obama and Ambassador One Young World.
After graduating she lived two years in the United States teaching Spanish. She worked for 7 years in private schools in Cali knowing all the benefits of elite bilingual private education.
It was there when, with brother Adarley, they asked themselves the question: Why can’t the children of the community have the same? And that is how the idea of starting a bilingual school of a social nature arose. Today the school works in the same house where they grew and lived for 24 years. At that time, it was a community house that benefited women from the same commune. All these were elements that helped create a life project focused on community service and progress as more powerful than individual progress.
English is the language of knowledge, of research … Of everything! The world speaks English. For a child of Siloé, speaking English is synonymous with empowerment, connection with the rest of the world. It gives them a vision that there is a huge world out there that they can participate in and that they can know. Finally speaking a language different from the mother tongue creates in the human being empathy and better communication skills. It is proven that a bilingual Colombian has greater access to opportunities in the world of work, scholarships and improves their income, assured this social entrepreneur who is transforming realities.