FUNDAP Executive Director
Justice, Charity and Hope. Around and within these words, the synthesis of what we have practiced for more than 35 years is embedded.
Dear reader, attached you will find the letter containing the Foundation’s 2019 Annual Report. I have thought about writing it in response to the question: If I had to articulate what words would encompass the thoughts, philosophy, and performance of FUNDAP, similar to the values that characterize Universities and are reflected in Latin in their emblems, what would they be?
My answer is: Justice, Charity, and Hope. Around and within these words, you will find the synthesis of what we have practiced for more than 35 years. The reality of all of our projects is immersed in and corresponds to our way of thinking in regards to the solutions we offer not only to the beneficiaries, but also to collaborators and society. These core principles are what I would like to elaborate on. Of course, all three have deep roots in Christian principles, which in the end is what frames the foundation of our beliefs in our lives, as firm and true principles.
Justice as a value is the moral principle that each individual who decides to live should be given what belongs or pertains to him or her. Justice is part of social, moral, and democratic values, and from there we derive its importance. It is a virtue that all individuals must put into practice in a coherent way in the pursuit of both their own wellbeing and that of society. What is hoped for is that each person that finds themselves in a state of injustice, will do whatever is in their power to correct the situation; including putting personal interests and resources at risk, for the purpose of correcting states or structures of injustice.
To achieve this, it is necessary that Justice be a value instilled by the family, reinforced by educational institutions, respected and protected by the State and its institutions, and implemented by society. The philosopher Aristotle defined justice as giving each citizen what corresponds to them according to their needs and that is where the principle of Distributive Justice started.
Justice is supported by one of its brothers, Respect, which is one of the most important moral values of human beings, as it is fundamental for achieving harmonious social interaction. One of the most important premises of Respect is that, in order to be respected it is necessary to know how to respect others or learn to do so. It is also necessary to understand others, to value their interests, and needs and this is where sincere friendships grow (to be a welcoming gaze, to give a helping and outstretched hand, to provide a word of comfort or a tender hug). In this sense, Respect must be mutual, and be born out of a feeling of reciprocity. Now, Respect must also be learned. Respect does not mean agreeing with everyone about everything but it is about not discriminating or offending others on account of their origin, ethnicity, gender, beliefs, or their way of life and their decisions, as long as those decisions do not cause harm, affect, or disrespect others. It is what allows us to truly look each other in the eye. Respect is also being tolerant of those who do not think the same way as you. Respect is also being tolerant of those who do not share your same tastes or interests, or those who are different or have decided to be different. Respect for diverse ideas, opinions, and ways of life is a supreme value in societies that aspire to be fair and guarantee a healthy coexistence (all human beings have value).
We are all different, which enriches our social environment and, therefore, we cannot pretend that everyone is the same. Everyone should feel free to express themselves without having others criticize or mock them. This is where we fall into Tolerance as the recognition of the differences inherent in human nature, the diversity of cultures, religions, or ways of life. Another great companion of Justice is Honesty that permeates all aspects of a person’s life; It manifests itself socially, but also in the intimate environment of the individual and in their personal life.
This means that Honesty is both external and internal, because of this, there must be a coherent behavior, where the individual’s actions are consistent with what they think, say, and preach. In an honest, transparent person, where there is no duplicity or deception, even the smallest acts are governed by honesty: taking responsibility for our mistakes, rectifying and correcting when necessary, being loyal, transparent, and sincere in our relationships with others; All of this is but a brief enumeration of the long list of actions where we can actively manifest our Honesty. In this sense, a socially honest individual remains attached to the principles of good work in all the acts that constitute their interaction with others: with their family, in their work, in their community, in their studies, before the State; they will also do it in their most intimate life, with their friendships, family and personal relationships; and equally in their personal life, that is, in those aspects of their lives that they are not obliged to share with others, such as their feelings, ideas, tastes, and interests. Ultimately, an honest individual is above all honest with themselves and, therefore, will not betray themselves and as a consequence, others will be able to trust them too. It is being authentic.
A sister of Justice is the Responsibility that is considered a quality and a value of human beings. Responsibility is the capacity of a person to respond to the commitments assumed of any kind, which demands the fulfillment of a duty or its performance in ethical, moral, and civic terms. It is a positive characteristic of people who are able to commit and act correctly. Responsibility is carried by each person with themselves wherever they go and they express it through their actions, obeying their own ethical and moral compass. The last level of Responsibility is, then, to help others to be more responsible. A responsible person is committed to the formation of others.
In summary: Justice as a fundamental value is materialized, if it is accompanied by Respect, Tolerance, Responsibility, and Honesty, as habits and characteristics of life.
Justice and Charity are so united that the one supports the other. Charity has its roots in Mercy. Mercy as a value is the virtue of encouragement that leads human beings to be moved by the suffering and misery of others. Mercy is a kind attitude that one person shows to another who is going through a difficult time, it is being empathetic to the misery of others. It makes us realize that we live for others, by “listening” and saying “you are important to me.” It is to look upon others with affection and love, which allows us to know better, and thus also to want to be better. “The human heart has a huge coefficient of expansion. When it loves, it widens in a crescendo of love that overcomes all barriers.” Without mercy, instead, we lose perspective and depth: we minimize others and the value of their dignity.
Examples of works of Mercy are: visiting and caring for the sick, giving food to the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, giving lodging to the pilgrim, clothing to the naked, teaching the uneducated, consoling the sad, helping to relieve human suffering, and burying the dead. In short, Charity is generousness and selflessness, seeking only the good of others. It is the utmost expression of generosity. A charitable person is one who thinks of others before themselves and who is capable of loving by giving of their heart —which is the most valuable part of a human being— to the service of others.
The importance of Hope in people’s lives is undeniable. On the one hand it is the engine that pushes us to try to achieve what we set out to do and on the other it is the last thing we should lose in the face of adversity. When hope is lost or difficult to reach, life becomes an arduous battle against obstacles. Hope is what gives us optimism to continue our struggle every day. Providing hope or new opportunities to those who find themselves in great difficulties is a task that bears its reward in seeing how things can change, even though it may appear that there are not many reasons to think that the future could be different. It gives a person the understanding that what he or she aspires to can be effectively achieved, even with the expectations that one might have originally had. Hope changes lives.
Justice, Charity, and Hope: three easy words to write, but at the same time they are ways of life that require constant effort from us all and represent the synthesis of what the Foundation is all about. I wish to share some phrases that someone very close to us shared with me and those phrases have made a huge impact in my sense of purpose in this line work. (I have added my own thoughts to these phrases).
What I see around us, what stands out is that apparently there is no sincere interest in helping others, we see them as not being our problem, that someone (we do not know who) will come to solve things. In other words, there is no sincere understanding of the suffering of others. Characteristics that we also find in many that are called “development organizations,” which basically do not have the motivation, nor do they feel the natural, deep responsibility to do —something serious— for others, hence the great failure of the humanitarian aid in the world.
The big question would be, what can be done? My only answer is that which has set FUNDAP apart from the beginning, which is to lead by example in everything we do: by way of transparent administration, the care that is taken in selecting the collaborators, the care of the material assets that are available, being responsible with expenses, seeing these organization as a company focused on development, and finally that the programs that are undertaken, must really respond to the needs of opportunities of the people and be sustainable. In other words, we strive to be very creative like great entrepreneurs.
These thoughts stem from the fact that many times, personally, I have been frustrated by what is done or rather not done in the world of philanthropy —you meet many people who do not really prioritize learning or seeing how to contribute to create a better society— but they work on this for personal reasons. It is unfortunate, but at the same time, one also encounters various treasures along the way, which make it worthwhile.
I also share the pain of seeing how people do not consider it their responsibility what happens to others. Our challenge at the Foundation is to demonstrate precisely that, that we care about what happens to others, and by setting a good example, we can make more people really get involved in solving the problems of the most forgotten. The truth is that what hurts me the most, is that I can see that deep down, a majority of us do care —people who are really apathetic to the pain of others are very few—. And what an irony that we are in this situation when we do care about others. If our willingness to help is clouded by the thought, “I cannot change anything,” when we see in each one of us a great potential for development then that potential would be wasted, so therefore, the channel for people who want to help and make a difference is called FUNDAP.
The challenge is great, and perhaps the summary would be; love others with your heart in your hand, and the answers and results will follow. Of course, all this has to do with the personal principles and values of those who direct these initiatives.
My conclusion is also that in the end, as overwhelming as it all seems, we have to focus on small things —on the direct relationships that we can affect, because no matter how small a person or action may be, I think that society as a species, is like a giant fractal (a term that refers to investing in something and receiving in return a sum multiplied several times as return)— and if we create beauty in the little things, it will be only a matter of time before it is reflected in a larger scale.
The channel for people who want to help and make a difference is called FUNDAP.
Jorge Arturo Gándara Gaborit
Quetzaltenango, March 2020.