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Juan Víctor Fajardo ’09 — Venezuela

Social Change-Maker

Juan Víctor Fajardo ’09 knew when he was at Swarthmore that he wanted to one day return to Venezuela.

“I have always been aware of how much work is needed here,” he says. “There’s just so much that needs to be done to guarantee basic human rights and a decent life for Venezuelans.”

Fajardo manages a social program that supports private schools in Caracas’s poorest neighborhoods. The program, Crecer en Venezuela, or Growing Up in Venezuela, partners with an elementary school and signed a second agreement with a high school in February.

“Given the severe economic situation in Venezuela—hyperinflation, people not getting paid enough, very low wages—the situation makes it very difficult for private schools to operate in poor areas,” Fajardo says. “We’re trying to figure out how schools can become sustainable.”

Fajardo took a circuitous path to nonprofit work, first earning a master’s in journalism from New York University. “I never thought I’d be working in the nonprofit world,” he says. “I always thought I’d be writing about this, mainly, but this work makes me feel useful in this crisis. It’s not difficult to have an impact here, because wherever you look, there’s an opportunity for a social business or an entrepreneurial solution to a social problem.”

Enrolled in an MBA program at the IESA School of Management in Caracas, Fajardo continues to work as a journalist, including as a freelance editor for an English-language magazine, the Bolivian Express.

Fajardo, who majored in philosophy and minored in Latin American studies at Swarthmore, credits his time at the College with helping him develop what he describes as an intellectually honest way of approaching problems.

“Ultimately, what motivates my work is the idea that providing education to underprivileged students is key to a democratic society,” he says. “Through my life, my generation, we’ve experienced [in Venezuela] a breakdown of the legal and institutional basis of democracy. I want to live in a democratic society, and this is what I ultimately work for through this very powerful tool of education and critical thinking.”

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