So, okay, two days ago, the National Assembly appointed new justices for our Supreme Court. This deepens the political and institutional crisis and, just on Thursday, a general strike was carried in a vitriolic cloud of violence across the nation there are many wounded or in prison.

As you probably know, most of the killed during this round of protests are kids. The promise for the future, literally fighting for the country we all want, and a vicious dictatorship steps on them. A dire panorama: how not to despair?

People ask me that all the time. I tell them that I’m no longer optimistic, I just have hope. And there’s a big difference.

Consider Daniel Santos, a student in El Peñón who wants to be a politician and just got selected to study at United World Colleges’ (UWC) Pearson College, in Vancouver, Canada. Or Valery León, a girl from Catia, who won a scholarship to study at UWC Robert Bosch College, in Germany. There’s Gabriel Sorondo, a 17 year old from Caracas, selected for UWC Mahindra in Pune, India, and María Fernanda Bencomo, from Valencia, selected for UWC ISAK in Japan.

With Fundayacucho gone, looks like there’s no way to invest on the best international education of the most driven among our emerging talent, so they can come back and apply their knowledge to our problems.

But this is what UWC Venezuela keeps doing, year after year.

I discovered UWC when I was a 16-year-old nerd studying at an all-girls Catholic school in Caracas. I went through a selection process organized by Avemundo the UWC National Committee of Venezuela and got selected for a full scholarship to UWC Adriatic, in Italy.

You are reading this post today because we believe that supporting UWC Venezuela is a great, effective way to help the country.

The transformative power of a UWC experience starts even before you are selected. Thanks to Avemundo’s selection process, I dared for the first time to step inside a barrio as I was asked to organize a community project and present it for the interview stage. I continued doing social service in El Carmen, La Vega for many summers.

At UWC, I spent two years studying the International Baccalaureate, living with 200 other people my age, from more than 80 different nationalities. It was 2006: Chávez hadn’t started calling himself a socialist; it was the beginning of what, at the time, we called “a leftist wave” in Latin America. Inevitably, at UWC, I had my first true political debates, which encouraged me to study Political Science rather than Journalism.

UWC validated and changed the many questions I had drawn from my own context back in Venezuela and gave me the tools to answer them. I brought the concept of diversity to my personal, intellectual, and professional life and I have clung to it ever since, to better understand where I come from and where I want to go.  

I bet you’re probably asking what makes this experience different from a regular exchange program. What defines UWC is that the experience goes beyond those two intense years. When I feel sad, when I feel that there’s nothing left to be done, looking around the community of other Venezuelan UWC graduates, here and abroad, feels like a breath of fresh air. Some of those who had the opportunity to study at UWC also went to universities in the U.S., came back to Venezuela and are doing exactly what they set out to do: living by the values learned at UWC.

There are many other UWC graduates in Venezuela right now doing tiny, yet extremely valuable work.

Look at Samuel Díaz, current president of Universidad Metropolitana’s Student Federation. Samuel went to the UWC from 2009 to 2011 and was awarded a scholarship for college in the U.S.; In 2014, however, he came back. I remember when he asked me for advice about returning home and enrolling in Estudios Liberales at UNIMET. Even though I had gone through the same, I didn’t know what to tell him except the clichéd “follow your gut”. His decision was already made. Samuel returned to Caracas and founded Iniciativa Hatillana he’s now a student leader and Metromun’s 2017 Faculty Advisor. Very few of our graduates have shown, so quickly and publicly, the value of our great education applied to public service.

There are many other UWC graduates in Venezuela right now doing tiny, yet extremely valuable work. For example, Elaine López, who went to UWC Norway back in 1997, is now a fashion designer with an environmental bent; you can watch her story at the last Pechakucha Night Caracas here. Those youth are activists, academics, directors of social programs and accomplished musicians even those who are abroad excel at their chosen paths.

You are reading this post today because we believe that supporting UWC Venezuela is a great, effective way to help the country. Together with the UWC school in the U.S. we’ve established a scholarship fund for three Venezuelans to study there this year. We’ve set up a page where you can read the profiles and stories of the Venezuelan UWC graduates helping with the fundraising (don’t forget to donate!).

We also have a fundraising for Francisco Perozo, a 17-year old young man, top 10 in our selection process this year and winner of a partial scholarship at UWC Dilijan, in Armenia. Check out his story and give us a hand.

It’s been a struggle to find donors (Avemundo started fundraising only last year) and we totally get it: it’s hard to think long-term when hunger, scarcity and the loss of political freedom hits Venezuelans every day. But investing in a UWC education is believing in a generation of young men and women capable of bringing hope for their families, their communities and their country and we will need them by the tons.

In these troubled times, only organizations like UWC provide opportunities for our young talent to hone their skills. We strive every year to select young Venezuelans who truly reflect the diversity of our country and who will not only take advantage of the amazing opportunity of a UWC education, but also be fully committed to the future of a land we dearly love.

It’s not just “giving back”. It’s a way of life.

In case you are interested in learning more about UWC or in helping to boost the project, here’s the necessary information:

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Two UWC noticeable Venezuelan cases:

  • Jose Alfonzo, from Guarenas, went to Pearson College UWC and graduated in 2015. He is studying Systems Engineering in the U.S.
  • Cesar Miguel Márquez, from Sarria (Libertador), went to Robert Bosch College UWC and graduated in 2016. He is studying Aerospace Engineering in the U.S.

21 COMMENTS

  1. I made several friends at University who had studied at UWC, I was very impressed with the program and the students who had been selected to attend.

  2. Great to know, thank you.

    A nitpicky thing, particularly since in the article you mention switching from journalism to political science:

    If you’re going to use an abbreviation (UWC) throughout an entire article, you need to establish really early on what it stands for and what it is. I for one had no idea this existed – I might have been living under a rock my whole life, sure, but you still need to contemplate that possibility.

    • Yes. Same iccurs frequently throughout CC writing. UWC has a (poor) Wikipedia artice, but I had to spend as much time figuring out that it is a high school International Bacc. Program as I did reading the article. Please, editors of CC, define acronyms and people’s positions in your articles.

      • First hit on Google, so forgivable, but I had to look it up too. It’s the WOA that we are facing man, the WOA. (War On Acronyms – YSK – You Should Know).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_World_Colleges
        “UWC schools and colleges offer two years of pre-university education (with the exception of the now closed Simón Bolívar United World College of Agriculture in Venezuela which offered an agricultural diploma), …”

        I don’t know about UWC, may be part of the globalization thing, or it may be good. But with the kind indulgence of the readers here, of politicos in Venezuela, of politicos world wide and the internet in general, especially the unheralded bits and bytes which make all this possible with their tireless efforts … I take the opportunity for another brief emphasis on the importance of the development of the agricultural sector of Venezuela.

        (Would you p-l-e-a-s-e change your webname here?? Please? Pretty please?? Please, please, please, please … que te parcece gringosized is like soooo … retro? Maybe La Tequena, or Tacita?)

  3. Thanks for your ongoing list of articles to help Venezuelans; surely among the many offerings everyone should find something that speaks to their heart and can be matched by their pocket! The previous one and this one, nailed it for me. 🙂 It would also be very effective if all the articles/options being published could be collected under a a top menu, something like “Make a difference for Venezuela” ; I realize when a new article/option is published, the other ones show under “Related Articles” but I think the additional visibility would help to sustain this effort longer term; God only knows it will be needed. Thanks folks!

  4. I graduated from a United World College, all the way back in 1996. It does bring a bevy of global opportunities, but more importantly, a truly global outlook. Some of my fellow classmates have gone onto important positions in Academia and Public Service.

    For some, it might be a quick route for a brain drain, and that is a genuine concern. That might have been the case decades ago (as a symptom of the national crisis, not as a flaw in the system). But as I’ve witnessed first-hand, the new UWC generations actually do return in a higher rate, more and more committed towards a new Venezuela. The selection process, which has strived to reach more and more young students across the country, aims to lift promising young persons to World-class heights.

    Today’s youth is far more impressive, and this program needs a lot of support. Scholarships grow scarce, so any help would be appreciated.

    ———

    Disclaimer: I do help Avemundo as a volunteer every year, as many graduates do.

  5. Agreed Lorenzo. Gringos in the states should be writing to their congressmen and women to approve sanctions NOW. Now is the time for sanctions. This will break the back of this government.

  6. It has been five years this month since the Chavez Government closed the UWC in Venezuela.

    Simón Bolívar UWC of Agriculture became non operational as a UWC in September 2011 as a result of actions taken by the Venezuelan government. In March 2012 classes resumed on the college’s campus under the new name of Universidad Politécnica Territorial de Estado Barinas ‘José Félix Ribas’. This was subsequently confirmed in a government resolution issued by the Ministry of Popular Power for University Education. The UWC International Board agreed at their meeting in May 2012 to accept its formal closure.

    Simón Bolívar UWC, located in Barinas State in Venezuela, offered a unique UWC experience to more than 1000 students. As UWC’s only vocational college, it provided a technical university level education to 18-21 year olds, both Venezuelan and international, focusing on Latin America and the Carribean. The three-year course was a 70% hands-on experiential education programme and equips students to work in agriculture and rural development. Its ‘learning by doing’ approach enabled students to gain practical experience in animal and vegetable production, mechanisation and farm administration.

    Community involvement was an integral part of both the curriculum and service programme and the college developed strong links with the rural farming communities surrounding it. First year students volunteered in local schools every week on areas as diverse as sex education, the environment, journalism and sports. During the second year, students worked with a local community to create and deliver a project. In the third year students worked in groups on a four-week internship in a rural community and then gained experience working on a commercial farm for 16 weeks.

    • Why is it so typical of socialists to undermine the sustenance of a nation, e.g. by closing down an agricultural education program? Juan, here, answered that a a while ago, a couple of months ago, by stating very well that the objectives of socialists is destruction of everything in their path.

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