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The History of FANA

An Exceptional Woman

The history of FANA is, above all, the history of a woman: Mercedes Rosario Pineda de Martinez. Mercedes was born in Cartagena. Her father, Mr. Pineda who was governor of the city, is one of the individuals who has marked contemporary Colombian history. It is certainly he who gave to Mercedes her openness toward others. During her student years, Mercedes traveled extensively throughout the world.

In 1961, she married Arturo Martinez Gomez. As with most couples, they looked forward to creating a family. Unfortunately after two miscarriages, this desire remained unattained. The couple discovered the possibility of adopting and turned toward Canada, as adoption was extremely difficult in Colombia at that time. They soon welcomed into their home a little girl, Maria Lucia, born in 1968. Four years later, the Martinez couple made another request for adoption, this time in Colombia. They were soon blessed with a second little girl, Elena.

Mercedes and Arturo’s wonderful experience inspired them to take care of abandoned children and to offer the same joy of adoption to other childless couples. In 1972, the couple welcomed several abandoned children into their own home and, with the help of their parents and friends, they succeeded in providing a home for these children.

Since that time, Mercedes has worked relentlessly to protect and defend the abandoned children of Colombia. In the face of the growing needs of her home, she undertook several major campaigns, in her own country and traveled extensively throughout the world to find the needed support. Mercedes was invited for an audience with the Pope. Touched by the work of this woman, he decided to send the Grey Sisters of Charity on mission to FANA.

From that moment through 1996, the community of the Grey Sisters provided constant and critical support to Mercedes’ work.

The work Mercedes has accomplished is universally recognized today as witnessed by the numerous medals and awards which have been conferred upon her:

  • 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 Montreal
  • The National Solidarity Award of Medellin, State of Antioch
  • The Protection of Youth Medal by the French Ministry of Justice
  • The Presidential Medal of Honor by the President of Colombia

FANA, Since the Beginning

The FANA project came to life one evening in September 1971 during a discussion involving Mercedes and a few of her closest friends, who remain today members of the Board of Directors. In the beginning, they had no building other than their homes in which to welcome the abandoned children while waiting to identify an adoptive family. In order to provide a legal basis to their initiative, they undertook the necessary steps with the competent authorities.

It was in 1972 that FANA obtained the authorization to begin operations from the Ministry of Justice and the Family Welfare Institute (Bienestar). Mercedes remembers: “The first child to arrive in our foundation was a little girl whom we named Anita in honor of my mother who had opened her home to welcome the children. Many other children have followed since then…” The first real home was rented at the corner of Avenue 7A and 65th Street of Santa fe de Bogotá. Mercedes began by hiring the nurses and administrative assistants needed. A few volunteers came forward to house certain children.

The location soon proved to be too small. Through great effort and well-placed contacts, FANA was able to rent from the Department of Urban Development the house at #5-67 71A Street. Through a generous donation from the Dutch Christian Association, Mercedes purchased the adjoining house. FANA remained at this address for over 17 years.

The new building, inaugurated in 1995, is the third home of FANA. Located in Suba, a suburb of Bogotá, this large building permits FANA to welcome up to 150 children. It is especially well adapted to FANA’s evolving mission of increasing its assistance to underprivileged families.

FANA Today

FANA’s new building is large and spacious in order to house not only the children but also to welcome the residents of the neighboring community of Suba. The building, constructed of small red bricks from the region, has an overall surface of 6250 square meters and is located on a large parcel of land of 12, 500 square meters. The children are able to play in the shade of large trees that were carefully protected during the construction.

The new home is built on three levels. On the ground floor, the parking area, part of which is covered, gives the children a play space for rainy days. There is also an auditorium that is used for theatre performances, the showing of films and large celebrations of FANA.

The lobby is located on the first floor along with the cloak rooms and the security office. In this entryway, one will notice a beautiful stained glass window given by the Friends of FANA throughout the world. This floor is essentially made up of the medical facilities. It includes an area for check-ups, X-ray facilities, dental surgery and medical analysis laboratory.

The different medical offices open into an external hallway to provide access to residents of Suba and to an internal hallway for the children of FANA. Four classrooms, play areas and a room for the teachers are located on the first floor. The kitchen, bakery, dining rooms, laundry and clothing supply rooms are also on this level.

The administrative offices, including those of the Foundress, the Director, and the volunteers are located on the second floor. This floor belongs especially to the children for the nurseries, the older children’s dormitories, and the game rooms are all located here. Each room receives natural light thanks to the large windows that open onto the gardens. There are also medical facilities on this floor for intensive care and physical therapy.