What is FANA?
What began as one couple’s personal dream has become a source of joy, fulfillment and a better quality of life for tens of thousands of people throughout the world.
Thousands of children have found homes and families over the past 35 years thanks to the work of FANA, an organization based in the suburbs of Bogotá, Colombia. The modern, three-story facility that houses FANA (the Spanish acronym for the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children) is a far cry from the Bogotá home of Mercedes Rosario Pineda de Martinez, where in 1972 she and husband Arturo took in several abandoned children, enlisted the help of relatives and friends, and found homes for the children.
The story began when Mercedes and Arturo learned it was unlikely they could have children. At the time, adoption in Colombia was extremely difficult, so they turned to Canada, where Mercedes had attended school. There, in 1968, they adopted their first daughter, Maria Lucia. Four years later, they sought another child, but this time in Colombia. They were able to adopt a second girl, Elena, but also were inspired to make the situation in Colombia easier for the many abandoned children and the would-be parents who longed for children.
From utilizing their own home to using a rented house in Bogotá, and then moving to a larger rented house, and eventually to the addition of the building next door, FANA grew. At the same time, Mercedes, the daughter of the former governor of the city of Cartagena, began working her way through government and legal channels to be recognized by Colombian authorities and to make the adoption process less cumbersome.
Along the way, she enlisted help from hundreds of volunteers, donations from charities and support groups, and even a mission sent to Colombia after she was invited for an audience with the Pope. By 1995, FANA was able to erect and move into its current facility on a three-acre site in the suburb of Suba. The results have touched so many lives in so many ways.
Adoptive parents from Colombia, North America, Europe, and Australia have been able to love and nurture children, something that might not otherwise been a part of their lives. Children from Colombia without a traditional family have received the opportunity to reach their full potential and know the love of a devoted family. Colombian birth mothers have received the prenatal and health services they need as well as valuable vocational skills from FANA. Foster children who are not available for adoption but need short-term or specialized care are lovingly supported in the state-of-the-art FANA facility.
FANA headquarters include a fully staffed medical facility for the children from the time of their births, including intensive care and physical therapy; living, classroom, and play areas (indoor and outdoor) for the children; support areas such as kitchen, bakery, dining room, and laundry; and FANA offices. There is dormitory space for the children, as well as a dormitory available for adopted persons who wish to return and volunteer to help at FANA.
Much of FANA’s support comes through the families who have adopted children from FANA. Friends of FANA groups have been created in many of the areas where the adopting families live. Those non-profit groups regularly raise money and donate equipment to FANA through events, and provide programs to help the children stay in touch with their Colombian heritage.
Hogar Marguerite d’Youville
To better assist young mothers in need, Mercedes Martinez founded the Hogar Marguerite d’Youville in 1979. The home welcomes 25 to 50 young pregnant women at a time with food, shelter, medical care, counseling, and job training. The women are referred to the Hogar by friends, by the Colombian welfare agency, or by hearing about it in the media. The Hogar is supported in large part by donations from Friends of FANA groups from around the world.
Young women at the Hogar follow a daily routine of classes, counseling, and job training. They are cared for through their pregnancies and are delivered at a local hospital in Bogotá. After their deliveries, they remain at the home while recovering. Many of these infants are relinquished for adoption, but some do return home with the mother, who has been cared for through the pregnancy and now returns home with better personal and vocational skills.
The Hogar is named after Marguerite d’Youville, a founder of the Congregation of the Grey Sisters of Charity in Montreal, Canada in 1737. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1990. The Grey Sisters of Charity served for many years at FANA, until 1996, providing dedicated support to the children and the young mothers.
Who’s Who at FANA
Mercedes Rosario Pineda de Martinez, founder of FANA
Mercedes Rosario Pineda de Martinez, founder of FANA, continues to serve as the leader and guiding spirit of FANA. Her vision and perseverance has brought FANA to a high level of professionalism in care as well as an extraordinary dedication to the well-being of the children it serves. A recipient of many honors, Mercedes was awarded the greatest honor in Colombia by receiving the Knight of the Order of National Merit in 2002 by then-first lady of Colombia, Nohra Puyana de Pastrana. Her other honors include:
- The Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada Award by the Mayor of Bogotá
- The Pro Iglesia et Pontifice Award by Pope John Paul II
- The Order of Merit by the Institute of Family Welfare of Colombia (Bienestar)
- The Saint Marguerite d’Youville Humanitarian Award by the community of the Grey Sisters of Charity of Montreal
- The National Solidarity Award of Medellin, State of Antioch
- The Protection of Youth Medal by the French Ministry of Justice
Both of Mercedes’ daughters now are involved with FANA. Elena Martinez Pineda Lopez serves as the director of FANA. She is a psychologist with a masters degree in clinical psychology and has worked with children and families in Chicago, IL and now in Bogotá. Maria Lucia Martinez is director of the Hogar Marguerite, the home for young women which is affiliated with FANA.
Many other people have dedicated much of their lives to the support of FANA’s mission. They include Marina Ramirez de Tono, Flor Angela Rojas, Maria Teresa de Maldonado, and Elizabeth Acevedo de Escobar. For many years, Sister Louise and Sister Marion from the Grey Sisters were familiar faces to many adopting families. There are hundreds of other staff members and volunteers who have worked tirelessly at FANA to provide the best possible care for the children and young mothers.
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