Today we remember the death of the Chilean Jesuit, José María Vélaz. He was the founder of one of the most innovative educational works of the Society in the recent history, 'Fe y Alegria'. When he was 36 years old, having been a Jesuit for half of that time, he was sent to Venezuela and his contact with the poor and marginalised was to transform him.
He realised that the education of the poor did not have to be a poor education. During his work in Saint José de Mérida, he began to experiment with alternative education - asking the local community to be more involved with running the school, a preferential option for the poorest, the technical training for the disabled, work placed education, and these innovations would finally lead to the creation of a network of schools in the areas surrounding cities and in rural environments.
The network began in 1960 and four years later there were approximately 10 thousand students in Venezuela connected this network. This started to attract attention from outside of Venezuela and In a period of two years, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Central America and Colombia would all be included in the Fe y Alegria network. Currently over a million students in over a 1000 places are involved - including Chad in Africa and Italy & Spain in Europe. A lot of this growth is facilitated by the Spanish Jesuit NGO Entreculturas.