MFI was incorporated on December 29, 1994, in the state of Virginia and is exempt from United States federal income tax under section 501(c) (3) of the IRS code. Its purpose is to improve and promote academic excellence, social amelioration, to provide job opportunities for the poor thus alleviating poverty in the State of Magdalena in Colombia, South America. MFI offers scholarships to meritorious high school students who graduate at the top of their class and wish to pursue higher education but lack the financial resources for this objective.
The Magdalena Foundation (MFI) was founded by Dr. Alfonso Vergara, MD, who was born in Santa Marta, Colombia and emigrated to the U.S. in January 1959.He received his accreditation by the U.S. Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in1967, and earned his MD diploma in Spain in 1968. He did his Medicine Residency in Washington, D.C. from 1968-71, and practiced internal medicine in Northern Virginia from 1968-2001. In 1991, he created a "meritorious scholarship program" for low income students in Colombia and in 1994, he incorporated this program as the Magdalena Foundation, Inc.
In 1999, Haroldo Suarez, who was then a staff member of the International Monetary Fund, became acquainted with Dr. Vergara's work. Since he was born in Santa Marta, he became interested in this work and he joined the Board of the Magdalena Foundation. In 2000, he was selected by the Board to become the new President. Dr. Vergara remained as Vice President. In December of 2000, after a very successful year of fundraising, principally through two brunches, MFI was able to award 26 scholarships for the period January-December 2001.
On his first visit to Colombia to award MFI scholarships, the President determined that there was a need to revamp the program. During 2001, a sociologist, Ms. Alba Varela, Moreno, who had an extensive career in human rights initiatives, was invited to become the Program Director, for MFI in Colombia, and a small directorate composed of a lawyer, a doctor, and a college professor was established to help with the program. Also in 2001, the MFI Board decided to sponsor successful scholars throughout their entire study program instead of the one-time grant. And in 2003, the Board further refined the program to disburse the money on a semester basis to ensure that the scholars were monitored appropriately.
MFI scholars are supported and guided by a Colombian, sister, non-governmental organization, FUNDEHUMAC (Human and Community Development Foundation), co-founded by Ms. Alba Varela M. who became the president, and Haroldo L. Suarez, the vice president. FUNDEHUMAC provides the students with workshops and seminars that help develop their social and personal skills that enable them to become part of the solution of the problems that affect their communities. Under this initiative, students work in social and humanitarian activities with people less fortunate than themselves. They teach reading and writing to elders, tutor children and work with displaced and indigenous people in various capacities.
In 1915, World Arc, an international sailing club with headquarters in London visited Santa Marta and made a contribution to Fundehumac. This group returned in 1916-19, and continued supporting our program. In addition, The Marina of Santa Marta also provided support to finish the building of the mentoring center.