Stories of Impact: Leocadia – Cuba

“I am a housewife and a pure ‘campesina’, but I am happy to share all my knowledge. As a member of this church, I’m always helping out where I can.” Leocadia, 70-years-old, has been working with the Orchard Church in the Seville Community to develop a plot of land purchased by the church into a small farm. Her own story is a testament to personal resilience and the importance of community support.

“When the Archbishop bought this house for the church, we always dreamed of having a vegetable garden to benefit the sick and economically challenged people in our community,” Leocadia explains. “It was a very bad piece of land because the former owners had a mechanic’s workshop. With God’s help, the commitment of Father Yosbel, and the great collaboration of the brothers of the Loyola Center, we have been able to make this dream a reality.”

For rural communities in Cuba, opportunities for economic advancement are found in farming ventures and agricultural networks. Small plots of land are used for subsistence farming and provide some additional income for communities that have little access to meaningful employment and are subject to the volatility of the Cuban economy. The Network of Loyola Centers, supported by the Jesuits and associated with the International Federation of Fe y Alegría, offer workshops to help these local initiatives flourish. Experts are working with local farmers to strengthen their economic and technical understanding, improving sustainability and output.

Leocadia, along with her niece and the support of her community, has been able to convert the abandoned plot of land into a flourishing small farm with a variety of produce. “We have planted a little bit of everything,” she says. Even despite the difficulties of cultivating this land, Leocadia is generous with all the farm produce. “When we harvest the crops, we share them because this is very difficult and we always have to help those who need it most (sick, pregnant, children)” she explains “but we also sell to the community at moderate prices, and so things are smoother.”

Another issue that the Sevilla Community farms have faced is plagues and insects which continue to threaten their crops. Rather than turning to harmful and expensive chemicals, the Santiago de Cuba Loyola Center is giving assistance to members of the SIEMBRA and COMPARTE agricultural network, which was recently launched in the country. This support takes the form of essential training and formation in organic remedies. “The pests have affected several crops, but the engineer always comes and advises us with this situation. They have brought us efficient microorganisms and tobacco, because we do not use chemicals, our productions are eminently organic,” Leocadia said.

Through the support of the Loyola Centers and the new agricultural network, 13 farmer producers and workers were able to receive guidance about ornamental plant production, pest control, and agroecological practices. These practices, along with an extensive formation in fundamental accounting, creating balance sheets, preparing budgets, and developing cost sheets, have helped them stabilize their production and increase their profits. The benefits of these programs stretch into many aspects of the lives of these rural communities, ecological sustainability, economic growth, and community development just to name a few.

Stories of Impact – Samantha

The Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Malawi responds to students’ diverse needs and helps them not only grow academically but also flourish emotionally and in a supportive community. The school, which offers boarding facilities, ensures that all students, especially girls and those who live in rural areas, can benefit from a quality Jesuit education. Over the past years, LJSS has expanded how it carries out the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis – care for the person – by strengthening its Health and Wellness Center and ensuring emotional health through a counseling program.

The Health and Wellness Center has been enormously useful in improving the physical health and well-being of the students. Through the center, LJSS provides health services onsite to the students with a timely and exceptional quality of service. Time has been saved because students are now able to access primary care within the school campus without going to the often overcrowded district hospital. Form four student Linly shared her experience saying, “… it is very important to have the clinic around school campus because illnesses are [diagnosed] faster than before when we used to travel outside for such services.”

Similarly, LJSS has sought to care for the mental health and wellness of all students by maintaining a professional counselor on staff. Samantha, one of the LJSS students has benefited from the counseling services. She explained, “When I was in form three, I realized that I needed someone to listen to me…I knew that I could voice my concerns without anyone judging me.” For many students, boarding at LJSS is their first experience of living away from family and their community. Students need extra support and resources on campus to help them navigate living more independently. Samantha shared that her counselor “helped me through the problem and listened to me carefully. I would recommend the counseling centers to anyone who needs help and needs to be listened to.”

At LJSS, inclusive education is not just a philosophy; it’s a commitment rooted in the belief that education is a right for all, not a privilege. As the school continues to champion the values of inclusivity, holistic care, and quality education, it remains a safe home for students, proving that every individual has the right to thrive academically, physically, and emotionally.

Stories of Impact: Stefany

From a single school on the outskirts of Caracas, Fe y Alegría has grown into a global network of over 1,500 education centers in 22 countries. This tremendous story is only made possible, though, through small acts of generosity by many.

And through these small acts, millions of lives have been transformed.

Lives like Stefany Hernández.

Stefany’s journey began in a humble neighborhood in Puerto Ordaz (Ciudad Guayana), where opportunities were scarce. However, she found hope and direction at Escuela Básica Virgen Niña de Fe y Alegría Puerto Ordaz. It was within those walls that her potential was recognized, nurtured, and propelled forward. Education gave her the ability to dream and to fight for her goals. Education illuminated a path that would lead Stefany to extraordinary heights.

As she grew, Stefany’s passion for BMX racing ignited, and she dreamt of representing her country on the grandest stage of them all – the Olympic Games. Undeterred by the odds stacked against her, Stefany faced every challenge head-on, fueled by the knowledge that education had given her the wings to soar.

Fe y Alegría provided Stefany with more than just academics; it instilled values, cultivated resilience, and fostered a sense of community. With the support of her teachers and peers, she gained the confidence to pursue her dreams relentlessly and in 2016 she won the Bronze Medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

All these years later, Stefany carries Fe y Alegría in her heart. From putting the Fe y Alegría logo on her jersey to promoting sports programs, Stefany always finds ways to give back. “I am a lover of Fe y Alegría education,” she recently said. “It is always the same love, good energy, it is a formation of honest, hard-working, strong and very Venezuelan people.”

But this journey doesn’t end with Stefany. Every day there are thousands of girls and boys, like Stefany, whose lives are transformed through the power of education.

Thank you for supporting our work with Jesuit partners like Fe y Alegría.