November 29, 2016 Print

Vision Empresarial founder Antonio Calí with his family in Guatemala.

Many of the world’s poorest areas are plagued by the socialist mindset that it’s necessary to redistribute wealth in order to cure poverty — in the process leaving less for everybody. In Guatemala, though, a former socialist named Antonio Calí began a new journey five years ago when he heard a radio broadcast from Atlas Network partner Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM), reports a profile in the Acton Institute’s PovertyCure magazine. Calí’s worldview was transformed by the explanation of how economic freedom and entrepreneurship generate new wealth, and he has since founded a think tank, a for-profit school for children, and a firm to fund new micro businesses in the municipality of San Juan Comolapa.

Atlas Network will be hosting Calí, along with his school’s business partner and UFM graduate Lorena Palmieri, at a free New York City holiday party event on Thursday, Dec. 8, to speak about their experience empowering impoverished communities through freedom in education.

Calí’s early success with his microenterprise firm Vision Empresarial (Business Vision) not only generated capital for him to invest in his educational initiatives, its small loans also helped food kiosks expand their capacity, allowed fabric vendors to purchase stock in advance, provided mechanics with updated tools, and assisted families in modest home improvements.

“Antonio took the money from Vision Empresarial and re-invested it in a new venture: education,” writes author and filmmaker J. Caleb Stewart in his PovertyCure magazine profile. “He opened a for-profit learning center with a focus on early childhood education. When asked about the for-profit model, he explains that ‘parents who pay are invested — they follow up, hold the teachers accountable, ask questions, make sure the child does their homework — they want to see their resources work for their family’s future.’”

Although only 74 percent of Guatemala’s population is literate, Stewart reports, all of the children in Calí’s school “devour books — some at a click of nine per month!” This plainly evident record of success has only inspired further community participation in Calí’s educational efforts.

“UFM disciples refer to the first ‘force’ as the liberty movement — the popular embrace of the idea that free people and free markets are the best means to solve the numerous problems that face modern societies,” Stewart writes. “When properly applied, the ideas of the liberty movement force looks to recognize a person’s qualities over their background. That it is such a remarkably egalitarian philosophy is one of the features that first attracted Antonio away from the inherently decisive socialist outlook of his younger years.”