Mano Amiga: On a Mission to Bring Kids out of Poverty

Alvaro grew up in a poor area of Bello, Colombia. Nobody expected him to grow up to be much but now he’s 22 and in medical school. Why? He was a graduate of the first class of Mano Amiga Bello Colombia (2008) where he got comprehensive schooling and formation. He doesn’t want to let down the people who sponsored him through school.

Alvaro is just one of many students in Mano Amiga (Helping Hand), a network of Regnum Christi schools designed to break the cycle of poverty. The goal is to transform society by providing a high level of education to children who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

This network of schools began in 1963 as a result of the Cumbres Institute, the first school of the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico City, in which parents wanted to offer the same education that their children received to other children who did not have those possibilities.

Currently, Mano Amiga is a network of 21 schools with 14,283 students, and 1,180 employees and collaborators. Of the 9,450 who have graduated high school, 91% have continued on to university studies.

Sandra Olivia Herrera, elementary school coordinator of Mano Amiga Morelia, said, “This school I wanted to work in. I wanted to do something that really transcended for the rest of my life and I believe God wanted me to be here. Mano Amiga cares about the person, helps them to discover themselves, but in addition it makes them know the potential that they have as people. I have not known a more extraordinary place that changes the lives of teachers, students, families and society.”

The educational model is the same Regnum Christi uses everywhere: Integral Formation™. It develops four aspects of the person: spiritual, intellectual, human and social. They also help students find greater motivation for continuous learning and ongoing development of their competencies as a challenge and lifelong adventure.

During the 14 years of the training, from the time the child enters pre-school, until high school graduation, this model aims to achieve the student’s goals of personal development in the short, medium and long term and that extends to throughout his life as an adult member of the community.

Brenda teaches elementary school children at Mano Amiga Santa Catarina. There are many good teachers there but Brenda has a special connection: she was there in kindergarten when it opened in 1989. Hurricane Gilberto destroyed her family’s home so her family – including all 9 kids – also got temporary housing at the time from Mano Amiga. She feels like being a teacher is her way to give back.

“Being in a Catholic environment is important to me,” Brenda says. “And I want the children today to have the opportunity I had.”

It is supported by charitable donations from individual with 5,059 sponsors giving monthly. For Georgina Huerta, a monthly donor of Mano Amiga Morelia, Mano Amiga is “a way to return all the privileges you have, to know that I can make a difference in one particular person’s life.”

In the US and Canada, Catholic World Mission offers several ways to give. You can sponsor a child like Alvaro was sponsored and Georgina did. Or you can give a general donation.

Beyond just being a school, Mano Amiga offers other services to support the community: sports academies, leadership development clubs, parent training courses, courses of values, specialized programs and many other continuing education options are offered.

Mano Amiga hopes to transform society with social programs working towards justice and moving people’s hearts. Recently, the AMA (Amigos de Mano Amiga) was formed for those who want to participate in social action. It’s a network of people who go against the grain by expanding love and surrender on evil and selfishness and that unite with each other to fight organized crime, inviting others to Join and contribute their talent and time.

Leticia González Berúmen, a 6th grader at Cumbres-Alpes School in Torreón, noted, “Participating in AMA has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It fills me with joy to know that I have been part of this great project that truly transforms lives: theirs and ours. I am sure that they will transmit to the world what I have learned during these years of studies that: loving [play on words of “AMA” in Spanish] is the best you can do.”

More information is available online in English and Spanish.