Visit Report of Ueli Frei, Medellín, Colombia 21. - 23. Nov. 2016


Local Contacts:

  • Dr. Alirio Jaramillo, Enterpreneur, President
  • Ing. Octavio Peláez, former scholar, President CESE, (alumni association)
  • Ing. Juan Esteban Arroyave, former scholar, member CESE
  • Norckzia Navarro de Ortiz, scholarship administrator
  • Sandra Valencia, scholarship administrator and secretary

Places visited and events attended:

21.11.2016 Dinner and introductory conversation with Alirio and Octavio
22.06.2016 Meeting with 10 scholars at EAFIT (with Alirio, Norckzia, Sandra, Octavio and Juan Esteban)
Meeting with 12 scholars at Instituto Pedro Justo Berrío (with Alirio, Norckzia and Sandra)
Dinner meeting with 6 alumni (with Alirio, Octavio, Juan Esteban and Sandra)


Once again this short stay in Medellin proved to be a most impressive visit to yet another FE country organization (after Peru in June 2016). It included extensive conversations with both the local country committee members as well as with a current and past scholars. As already mentioned after my visit to Peru this stay in Medellin confirms earlier impressions that our participation in this organization is both an important responsibility as well as a huge privilege.

Primary objective of my visit was to become familiar with the local organization, and to identify those country specific particularities that have the potential to be replicated in the other countries of FE.

Since 1996, FE supported more than 210 scholars in Colombia and hence, most certainly has a decisive impact on their professional and human development. Without the generous support of FE none of the past nor the current scholars would have had the necessary funds (approx. USD 30’000) to pay for this first-class education at the Instituto Pedro Justo Berrío and/or at the University EAFIT, definitely two of the most renowned and well-respected private education facilities in Medellin.

Under the most competent and engaged leadership of Alirio Jaramillo, supported by an ideally composed local country committee (topic leaders and former scholars), a large group of scholars and alumni has been created. Peers and friends call these group members respectfully “los Suizos”.

It clearly appears that the local committee has all local tasks under control and manages local affairs with an admiring engagement…and this since 20 years!

Contrary to FE practice in other countries, this program includes, with Instituto Pedro Justo Berrío (IPJB), also a first class primary and secondary school. This allows for an early recruitment of young kids with very high academic potential and hence, to give them a most appreciated opportunity to overcome their often very fragile and tenuous social and financial situation at home. Providing an excellent academic performance, some of the IPJB’s scholars continue in the FE program and move on to study at EAFIT.

The Instituto Pedro Justo Berrío provides completely equipped workshops in areas such as mechanics, car repair, electronics, IT, etc. This allows for a first class preparation for future challenges in their professional life.

The scholar selection process is supported by both schools in the program. This allows for an even higher probability of selecting the most successful candidates, both in character and academic performance. The best proof of this is the almost 100% success rate of our scholars.

During the meetings with our scholars and alumni, these fascinating individuals talk about their achievements and plans, often under tears but always gratefully. All of them are fully aware of the fact that all of this was only possible thanks to the generous support from FE. Their gratefulness is the best compensation for all of us working for and in support the organization.

All previous scholars belong to the alumni association CESE (Corporación Educación Suiza-EAFIT) and, as such, support each other in their daily challenges. Further, they collect funds amongst its members to finance at least 2 new scholars of FE per year (i.e. USD 60’000 p.a.).

It became obvious to me that the FE team in Medellin lives up to our mission with dedication, enthusiasm and time pursuing the goal to giving young talents from low-income families a deserved chance to leave their difficult past behind and to become well educated and successful professionals as well as valuable membes of society.

I would like to finish this report by wholeheartedly thanking all our local friends, Alirio, Norckzia, Sandra, Octavio and Juan Esteban for their time and effort in making this visit so memorable and special.