Promoting Liberty and Economic Freedom

“We believe that the struggle itself is the instrument through which people get out of poverty.”
– Ismael Hernandez, FVI Founder

Ismael Hernandez leads and lives by the principles of effective compassion and personal responsibility. As the founder and executive director of the Freedom & Virtue Institute (FVI) based in Fort Myers, he promotes its mission to advance individual liberty, self-reliance, and human dignity.

“Our work from the beginning is based on a strong commitment to respect the poor and disadvantaged and recognize the full scope of their dignity as beings made in the image and likeness of God,” Ismael says. “They are not simply mouths to be fed and bodies to be clothed, but persons called to become active participants, instead of passive recipients of magnanimity.”

Ismael is a native of Puerto Rico and holds a master’s degree in Political Sciences. He calls coming to America “a transformative endeavor” and has become a noted expert on effectively serving the poor and race relations. He founded FVI in 2009 to help educate citizens on America’s founding principles of limited government and individual freedom, and to uphold the ideas of human dignity and personal responsibility that result from having free will.

“Placing the poor and underserved at the center of action, they become protagonists of their own stories of success. Instead of remaining as scenery in the drama of our good intentions,” Ismael says, “they long to flourish and activate their capabilities. The Institute accepts a secondary role as faithful witnesses walking alongside them.”

The Freedom & Virtue Institute battles the issues of poverty and race through interactive training. Their goal is to create movement toward economic freedom through simple, practical, meaningful, measurable, and replicable projects. FVI Effective Compassion Training is geared toward a paradigm shift in meeting the needs of the marginalized. Churches and non-profit organizations are taught how to assist them by assessing their real needs and supporting entrepreneurial vocation with an attitude of service and witness.

FVI Self Reliance Clubs for students extend throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. In Florida there are nine active clubs, two in the Bonita Springs area.

“These clubs cultivate virtues such as hard work (versus laziness), thrift (versus immediate gratification), initiative (versus passivity), and self-responsibility (versus blaming others),” Ismael says. “The idea is that students learn to become responsible and productive members of their communities. Moreover, they actualize the gifts that God gave them, thus honoring God.”

Self-Reliance Clubs are used in schools to help students learn entrepreneurial skills including how to open their own bank accounts and manage money. “Students living in impoverished communities work, learn, and earn,” Ismael says. “It is a joy to go there and hand to them their earnings for each year. Christian volunteers also have the opportunity to come along-side students to serve as role models and mentors.”

The Freedom & Virtue Institute is one of First Church’s most recent mission partners.

FVI founder Ismael Hernandez is a regular lecturer with the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI, and has spoken at The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and many other organizations. He is author of the acclaimed book Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America. Ismael has also written for various newspapers, Crisis Magazine, World Magazine, and The Washington Times.

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