Our goal is to raise money for Manuel Velazquez Walker so that he can follow his dream of attending Memorial University to complete a Bachelor of Commerce Degree.
Manuel is an international student from Argentina who has been living in Newfoundland since 2018. He completed grades 10 through 12 at Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John's and graduated this year. Manuel first visited Newfoundland in 2017 on a trip with ten other Argentinians. Since then he has known that this is where he wants to spend the rest of his life. Manuel loves his native country more than anything, but with the terrible economic situation in Argentina and the inferior education system, Newfoundland is the perfect place for him to live. However, his parents have depleted their resources and could only help him financially until this year. The situation in Argentina is getting worse and his parents can no longer afford to keep him here. Manuel wants to attend MUN in September to begin his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He and his parents have some money saved for the first year but it will not be enough. With the upcoming tuition increases which take effect in 2022 it will not be possible for him to stay. Manuel not only wants to go to university here, his dream is to stay in St. John's and to live and work here.
Manuel’s ancestors came from Newfoundland beginning in 1886 when Bill Downer left Fogo and was shipwrecked in a storm at Staten Island in the Straits of Magellan, Southern Argentina. Over a period of more than thirty years Bill established a ‘piece of camp’ (farm) and became a skilled gaucho and sheep farmer on the Argentinian pampas.
Margaret Anne Elliott (Downer) of Fogo was Manuel’s great great grandmother and a widow. In 1914 she married and returned to Argentina with Bill Downer and her three children, Will (Manuel’s great grandfather), Eliza and Daisy, to live and work at the sheep farm, Las Horquetas.
Over the years these home-sick Newfoundlanders became successful sheep farmers in Argentina. Writing letters to friends and relatives in Newfoundland kept them in touch with their homeland. No one was more prolific than Eliza Lewis, Manuel’s great aunt, and the matriarch to an increasing number of younger clan members in Patagonia, Argentina. Eliza communicated for several decades with Mary Scammell and her daughter, Elizabeth (Scammell) Reynolds and others living in Newfoundland.
The lives of Eliza, Bill Downer and the others have been captured in the film, Letters from Eliza (2002) by David Quinton which you can watch on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqHu2-epjc , and the book, Lands of Fire: Fogo to Tierra del Fuego (2012), written by Don Downer. To learn more about Manuel's story or to obtain a copy of this book please send a message to the organizer of this fundraiser by clicking on the contact button below.
Members of Manuel’s family, including his mother Susy, travelled to Newfoundland for the making of Letters from Eliza, and a number of other cousins, aunts and uncles, have visited since then. One large group, mainly from San Julian, came to Newfoundland in 2017, visited Fogo Island and erected a plaque at Eastern Tickle to commemorate the family’s connection to Newfoundland.