Mutual Responsibility: Network Alumni Aid Students in Chile

On April 13, just a week after many in the Teach For All community gathered in Santiago, Chile for the Global System Change Conference, a large fire spread across the nearby city of Valparaiso, where Enseña Chile teachers work in five schools. The fire killed at least 15 people, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced over 12,000 residents of Valparaiso—including the families of more than 100 Enseña Chile students.

As soon as they learned of the fire, Elisa Goni and Judith Prinzmeier’s first thoughts were of their friend, Enseña Chile teacher Catalina Serrano, and her students, who live in Valparaiso. Elisa, an alumna of Empieza por Educar in Spain, Judith, an alumna of Teach First Deutschland, and Catalina met last year as participants in Teach For All’s Transformational Teaching Fellowship, and have been close friends ever since, despite the miles and time zones that separate them. After initially bonding over their mutual fondness for the work of psychologist Carol Dweck, the three have continued to exchange ideas about teaching, compare their classroom experiences, and update each other about their lives.

After the fire, Elisa and Judith immediately contacted Catalina. “She told us she was ok,” says Judith, “but 40 of her students lost everything. Then we asked her what they needed.”  Catalina explained that while the Chilean government and Enseña Chile were providing support to the victims of the fire, her students were in need of school uniforms—as were students in the other schools in Valparaiso with Enseña Chile teachers.

Judith and Elisa sprang into action, working with Enseña Chile staff members to launch an online fundraising campaign for the uniforms, and motivating fellow teachers to invite their classes to send encouraging letters and videos to the students of Valparaiso. The cross-network collaboration has inspired an even broader display of support, including the participation of several other alumni of the Transformational Teaching Fellowship and teachers, students, and alumni of numerous Teach For All programs.

“My kids could not believe it when I told them that people from different countries around the world were asking about them,” Catalina says. “It will be a long journey to reconstruct the city, but many people are helping.”

To help support the displaced students of Valparaiso, visit the campaign fundraising site. The drawing above, letters below, and the videos here and here were created by students of Empieza por Educar as a demonstration of solidarity with the students of Enseña Chile.