Last week I had the opportunity to collaborate with a professional filmmaker and Vittana’s Vice President of Marketing on a documentary about the students we serve. We interviewed several students and their families in four different cities throughout Paraguay. From nurses and physical therapists, to teachers and graphic designers, I noticed a common thread—all are using their education to uplift their families.
“Education doesn’t start in school. It starts in the family, with the parents.” —Francisco Rodriguez, Vittana Student. Pictured here with his father.
Take Francisco and his father Valentin, for example. From an early age, Francisco dreamed of being a soccer star—the national
pastime obsession in Paraguay and most of Latin America. But as too often is the case, reality got in the way. Francisco began working in his father’s tire shop at the age of eight. It was hard and dangerous work, not the kind you would wish for any child—and not what Valentin wished for his son. He worked, sacrificed, and saved money to put Francisco through grade school. They couldn’t afford the private universities close to home, so he worked and saved some more to send Francisco to the capital city of Asuncion. There he could attend a more affordable public university.
With a $650 loan from Vittana, Francisco purchased the study materials he needed and finished his degree in Physical Education. He now works as a P.E. teacher for several schools in the region and as a coach for the local soccer club.
I asked him how education had changed his life. He said, “My life is different. Very different. My father has been doing manual labor for forty years… I saw the sacrifices he made since I was very young. Now it’s my turn to help them.” He went on to explain how his increased income makes it possible for him to pay his mother’s medical expenses. He is also using his income to help his siblings, nieces and nephews. I was impressed to find serving others, not himself, at the top of his priority list.
When asked what inspired him to persevere through challenges, family was the answer again. “My father is always number one because of the love he has for his family. He is a real warrior.”
Vittana aims to “Graduate A Generation Beyond Poverty.” But after speaking to Francisco and dozens of students like him, perhaps we should be speaking of generations—in plural form. When you lend to a Vittana student, you may think you’re helping an individual. And in a big way, you are. What often goes unseen, though, is the way that these students leverage their education to lift their whole family out of poverty. How’s that for a return on your investment?