Mis recuerdos en Feyda – Testimonio de Richard Fields (segunda parte)
Being a teacher and having two months holidays every year was always a wonderful opportunity to travel with your family to various locations around the world. For many Summers Mary and I had travelled with our three girls to America and England and enjoyed the many experiences we encountered there.
In 1990 we decided to expand our interests and to experience a new culture, climate and the challenge of a foreign language. Meeting a past pupil who had spend some time teaching English in Spain encouraged us to apply to a Spanish Agency involved in this type of work.
It was providential that the person I contacted was a mutual friend of Fr Felix and I and it transpired that he was in Ireland recruiting teachers for his Summer Courses in Spain. Rosemary Quinn the founder of CES and who co-ordinated the Feyda Courses in Ireland arranged a meeting for me to meet Felix in St Paul’s College, Raheny, Dublin the day before he returned to Spain.
Meeting Felix was very informal, friendly and it was obvious that we had many things in common. The result of the interview was that Felix invited me to come and work with him in Spain and that my wife and family were welcome to come along, to be involved in Feyda as teachers and support him in his work and in his mission.
Preparing for this adventure was very exciting as we had never been in Spain before and the thought of spending two months immersed in a new culture with guaranteed sunshine was something we could not wait to experience and live.
Travelling as a family was like winning the lotto and we knew our daughters would be enriched by this opportunity and occasion. When we set out for Spain at the end of June 1990 it was a novelty and rare opportunity at that time for people to travel abroad and we were the envy of everyone who wished they could change places with us.
Prior to our departure for Spain, Felix had advised us that Mary and I would be teaching in Teruel for July and in a place called Venta de Banós in August. Both these locations meant nothing to us and we could have been going to the moon for all we knew. Booking the plane tickets, packing our bags, looking up maps to find out where we were going was an adventure in itself. Computers, Google Earth, Sav Nav’s and even Ryan Air were unheard of or only in their infancy of invention. To get to Spain, Felix advised us to travel to Valencia to spend a night in Godelletta and to travel to Teruel at 10 30 the following day. We arrived in Valencia in the early hours of the morning to be met by the young Carlos Loras who had little English and an Irish family of five with absolutely no Spanish.
After initial welcomes and greetings we all packed into Carlos’s car plus numerous bags and made our way in the dark to the college in Godelleta. Everyone slept soundly after the long and strenuous journey in a corridor with bunk beds to be awoken by the sound of the cock and the sun shining through the open windows.
We knew we had arrived safely and the landscape, colours, sounds and smells told us we were in Spain. At breakfast we were welcomed and introduced to Joaquín Loras and his wife Azucena. They made us very welcome and their interest and friendship to us was sincere and kind and I knew we had made a wonderful choice in coming to Spain and I knew the experience would enrich all our lives.
After breakfast Carlos had to drive like a formula 1 driver to get us to the Bus Station in Valencia to catch the Samar Bus to bring us to Teruel. We arrive just in time to catch the bus that would bring us to our destination and acclimatise us to the Spanish way of life and customs.
For the next 19 years Teruel was to become our home from home and we came to love the place and feel part of it. It was here our three daughters Helen who was then 13yrs, Sarah 10 yrs and Mary Therese 3 years, were to spend their Summers making new friends, learning the culture and customs of Teruel and Spain. This part of their personal development helped them to grow, understanding and appreciating language, and the difference and richness of other cultures and customs.
Mary and I enjoyed the school and teaching English as a foreign language. The children responded to us in a very positive way and they knew they were making progress in oral and aural English because they knew they were been taught by two qualified and experienced teachers who were interested in what they were doing.
What struck me at that time in the school, there was no organisation, methods or plans for teaching English. Discipline was not a priority. Everybody did their own thing and the students often dictated what the teachers were to do. We got through the month and enjoyed the experience and made many new friends. We were impressed by the commitment and creativity of all the Monitors especially Raquel, Florence and Lourdes Romea who still remains a great friend of our family to the present day.
When we finished at the end of July we made our way across the country to arrive in Venta de Baños (Palencia), just in time for the course starting in August. This location and centre was completely different from Teruel. The Teachers, the Directors, Pedro, his wife Silvia and Monitors were very friendly and welcoming.
The programme in the school depended on each teacher to plan and prepare his/her class with no direction or supervision from anybody. When the Course finished I spend some days with Felix and his family in Ribaforada which we enjoyed immensely before returning to Ireland.
Before leaving Spain, Felix asked me, would Mary and I consider taking on the responsibility directing the English Course in Spain, with responsibility for recruiting teachers, planning the programmes, teaching methods and setting targets to challenging the students with greater emphasis on oral and aural English.
After due reflection we accepted the invitation and were delighted to do it. Thus began the development of the Feyda Courses in Spain over the next 18 years that saw only teachers who were trained and highly qualified employed by Feyda. A very strong relationship and respect that lasts to this very day developed among the Irish and Spanish teachers as they co-operated and supported one another over the years.
Here I would like to acknowledge the loyalty and commitment to Feyda by so many Irish teachers who returned for years and helped to promote the ideals and ethos of Feyda. A special word of gratitude to Ronan Cotter, Kieran Canning, Niamh Slattery, Helen Fields, Cormac Green, Jose Esteban and many others.
The majority of the Irish teachers over this period were excellent and committed to Feyda and what it stood for. The name of Feyda was highly respected by parents and school authorities and they were aware that children attending a Feyda Course were going to be well catered for and the programmes provided in the Feyda Schools were of a very high standard.
As a result, their children’s English improved and a love for the English language was fostered. Also the programmes provided by the Monitors after school were excellent and delivered in a secure and safe environment, influenced and motivated by the Catholic ethos. This is what parents wanted for their children during the Summer months. The Course developed at such a rate that in 1999 we had 76 teachers, in 2000 we had 81 teachers and in 2001, 73 teachers.
I must acknowledge the huge influence Feyda had on me. Why did Mary and I return to Spain year after year? What was the grace that attracted us back? What inspired me to go to Honduras with Felix to witness the human and financial support Feyda sent to help and lift up those on the margins?
In 1990 when I was in Teruel the work the Monitors done with the Students was amazing. The creativity, the innovation, music and how the children were encouraged to discover and develop their faith was something that made a profound impression on me. To observe young teenagers express their belief and put it into action inspired me to do the same at home here in Ireland.
In Teruel I used to love been present with them during this sacred time. Influenced by this many of the Monitors, Teachers and students were prepared to volunteer for a period in Honduras and Bolivia working and giving their time working with the poor and those on the margins.
Dia de los Padres was also a special occasion when the parents arrived to meet their children half way during the Course. It was always a joyful and happy occasion. The Mass, the singing, the Irish teachers playing Irish music and Mary Therese doing Irish dancing and the Concert afterwards in the Teatro was special, with wonderful gifts and talents on show. For many years this was the atmosphere in Feyda Courses throughout Spain.
When visiting the various Colleges and Centres it was great to meet the Monitors, Teachers and students and to see the common bond and Christian ethos that existed between the other Centres and friendships being developed.
I would like to congratulate Feyda on celebrating its 35 years. During this time wonderful and miraculous things have been done and achieved. Many people have been influenced by the different people they have met who have had a profound influence in their lives.
In South America especially in Honduras and Bolivia many people have been lifted up to experience a better quality and way of life. Feyda Adoptions have been responsible for helping orphan children to live good and productive lives with a loving family and at the same time bringing great joy and happiness to so many couples. It must be acknowledged the part played by its Founder, Fr Felix, who was inspired to set it up for the good of young people 35 years ago in Baracaldo. His leadership, loyalty, commitment and spirituality have been the motivating factors that have sustained Feyda during good and difficult times for the Organisation.
Another person who deserves recognition and gratitude is Javier Chento who has journeyed with Felix on this road. He also has been an inspiration and dedicated person who with his talents and gifts has led Feyda with faith and given himself wholeheartedly to its ethos. Fr Felix and Javier could not have achieved what Feyda has achieved over the years if they were not surrounded by so many motivated and committed supporters who volunteered their time, energy and interest developing the various sections that make up Feyda and spreading its ethos beyond Spain.
On behalf of myself, Mary, my family and the Irish Teachers I congratulate Feyda for reaching 35 years of spreading God’s Kingdom of love on earth and having a huge influence for good in people’s lives and in society. I wish you many more years of blessings and grace in the service of other. Que Dios te bendiga.
Dick Fields (23 April 2011)