For the past six years in Venezuela, the non-profit organization Construyendo Futuros – or Building Futures – has been positively changing the country one school, family and person at a time.
With a team of young college students, Construyendo Futuros plans, builds, equips and opens public schools. I helped found the organization when a group of my peers realized that public schools in our country were in unacceptable conditions. Similar to lower-income communities in the United States, Venezuela’s public education infrastructure is highly under developed. Most school buildings are totally damaged, some lacking roofs which leads to flooding when it rains, or having tin roofs that create unbearable heat. Other common issues are sewage spills, water shortages and lack of adequate space to teach in. In addition, teachers are poorly paid and classes are held irregularly.
Everything started when I passed near a school in a lower-income community and saw, just from the outside, what unacceptable condition the school was in. When I went inside to see how I could help, I realized that the school needed help in almost every area – they even needed toilet paper. This experience changed my life. Since that day I haven’t stopped working on improving the public education system of Venezuela.
Wanting to help those who need it the most, I started recruiting young people who had the same interest in me in changing the future of the country from various Universities. We organized and started looking for nonprofits to volunteer with. However, we soon learned that there weren’t any organizations in Venezuela that were dedicated to helping these schools. As a solution, we decided to help by creating our own nonprofit.
When I started this work seven years ago, I didn’t know that I would want to devote my life to fixing the schools in Venezuela. Over time, as I worked in these schools and with the communities near them, I became aware that my work with them would never end – there was too much to do and too little support from the government. The first project the nonprofit completed was the construction of a new school for 600 children in a rural area outside of the capital city, Caracas. When the school was finished, I realized that the problem wasn’t only in the infrastructure of the building – there was also a problem with the capabilities of teachers and a lack of an administrative and financial support system for them. To address these issues, Construyendo Futuros gathered a group of students and education professionals and began implementing a training program for the teachers and is currently working in more than 30 schools in and around Caracas. Since 2006, we have renovated and equipped over eight schools and have more than eight different capacity-building projects for the students, teachers and community members.
Today, Construyendo Futuros is a formal and recognized nonprofit organization consisting of a professional staff that work every day to help young Venezuelan students and teachers. The hope is to change the future of our country. The world needs competent and knowledgeable children to improve our future. Having access to education, regardless of ethnicity, racial background, or socioeconomic status is a basic human right. Construyendo Futuros believes that improving the quality of life for children living in poverty, through education and extracurricular programs is essential to the task of building a more united and fair world without exclusion.
by Thalma Cohen