Why Holistica Foundation and its focus on education?
The short story: education is in our blood and soul.
And, a long story short:
Everything started many decades ago, by the end of the 19th century, in November 15, 1886, when Mathias Heinrich Herkenhoff, my great great grandfather, left Germany at 26 years old and ended up in the south region of Brazil.
The Herkenhoff family in Germany were catholics and farmers. Mathias and one of his cousins left Germany seeking a better life. They were young and full of dreams.
In Joinville, Santa Catarina State, he had an itinerary library – among other activities.
Mathias got married and one of his children was Alfredo Herkenhoff, my great grandfather. He was raised by German parents in Brazil, so music, extensive reading and world culture were an everyday thing for him as he grew up.
Alfredo married Aurora Estellita Lins and moved from Joinville to the southeast – Rio de Janeiro in 1924 – and a few years later, in 1927, moved again to seize an opportunity to have a better life, that time to a thriving small town named Cachoeiro do Itapemirim – hometown of the famous Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos.
Cachoeiro do Itapemirim by that time was growing fast – it was the second city in Brazil to have public lighting – so Alfredo had the idea of starting a tech school to supply the market with qualified personnel: Escola de Comercio Alfredo Herkenhoff – Alfredo Herkenhoff’s Commercial School (free translation).
The “School“, as it became known, grew fast and was responsible for the professional formation of many people, for decades.
Alfredo and Aurora had 10 children. Lucilia was the oldest and she was my grandmother. The whole Herkenhoff family lived inside the School grounds.
My grandmother married Jader Coelho – obviously my grandfather – and the couple also lived for a while inside School grounds.
The big and ever growing Herkenhoff family kept growing and growing and Lucilia gave birth to my father Mario – the birth itself happened at the School’s patio!
My father was raised amongst books, literary works of all places, professors, teachers, music – my grandfather Alfredo was a musician (he played the violin and before starting with the School he also founded a Music School in Cachoeiro).
My father’s house was the School after all, so learning and teaching were his everyday life.
As a young adult, Mario went to Vitoria (Espirito Santo State’s Capital), to start College. He graduated in business management and his class was the first one in the field of all Espirito Santo State by that time (1970’s).
A few years after graduating Mario and Solange – my mother – came to the US so my father could pursue his MBA (Master’s in Business Administration).
That’s when my own story begins.
I was born in Buffalo, NY in the summer of 1974, and stayed in the US until around 3 years old. After that my parents went back to Brazil where I was raised – I spent sometime abroad studying (Paris, France) – but that’s another story for some other time.
My father was an University professor and businessman so you can imagine that schooling was a very important aspect of my life.
I was a good student, loved to read and I made many good friends at school. Going to the University was almost an automatic life choice for me, so I went to the same College my father graduated from and where he used to teach (not anymore – he retired a few years ago).
As you can see, dear reader, education, books and reading run in our veins, fill our souls. I wonder if Mathias won’t have had that Itinerary Library, if the Herkenhoff Clan would be so closely connected to education as we all are…
The public education situation in Brazil and what we decided to do about it
My father’s company, Herkenhoff & Prates (my first job at the age of 13), specialized in building, applying and analyzing standardized tests using top-notch technology.
As you can imagine, we know the numbers and the Brazilian Public School system from inside out and the reality is tough. You can learn more about it here.
But, just to summarize it, Brazilians are 260 years behind in reading compared to OECD countries.
As my great grandfather, my grandfather and my father before me, I also was a College Professor.
Education runs in our family veins. We think a good education is key to a better life for everyone.
That’s why I decided to aim my volunteer efforts at giving this chance to as many poor students as I could.
My father, one of his 9 siblings, a friend of ours and I managed to create a plan to solve the Brazilian educational gap using our expertise in education, project monitoring & evaluation, digital technology and Brazilian culture in general.
The idea was to have something so fundamentally simple that could be replicated in a ripple effect to allow for real life transformations.
That’s what we have been doing at Holistica Foundation. We develop and deploy social educational projects that sow seeds of literacy all over Brazil.
We have a system that is helping many once non-readers to become passionate readers.
When you decide to give us a gift you are enabling us to bring the passion for reading to as many students as we can.
Thank you for your kind support.