Mary Anne Müller Prieto

Fundación Origen
Year founded: 

Fundación Origen improves the quality of education for youths at risk in Chile by providing training in agriculture, sustainable development and peace leadership skills.

Focus: Agriculture, Children and Youth, Education, Rural Development, Women, Youth, Leadership, Indigenous Communities
Geographic Area of Impact: Chile
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 5,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 1,850,000 (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 30%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Chile, 2007

Unequal access to quality education persists in Chile and constitutes a major challenge. The country’s education system exacerbates existing and growing social and economic divides, with the wealthy having access to top quality schools which exclude the poor. Fundación Origen, though its agriculture school, has demonstrated that quality education can be provided to the poorest sectors, breaking the poverty cycle, improving opportunities for individual students and transforming their families and communities.

Innovation and Activities
Mary Anne Müller Prieto founded Fundación Origen, and pioneered a revolutionary educational model for youth (ages 14 to 18) from low-income to socially vulnerable families who have been expelled from or dropped out of the traditional school system. The majority of these young people come from family situations often characterized by violence, drug addiction, unemployment and often, desertion by a parent.

Through Fundación Origen’s Escuela Agroecológica de Pirque (Agroecological School of Pirque), these students graduate with a technical degree in farming and a specialization in organic agriculture. Since its inception approximately 10,000 students have graduated from the school; the dropout rate is 0% and the teenage pregnancy rate is less than 1% (compared to the national average of 14%). More than 70% of students go on to universities or technical schools, and 75% of graduates work in the agricultural/farming sector. There are no episodes of violence and the school community does not tolerate any form of drugs or violence.

Fundación Origen also runs the Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development, which trains women and educators from private and public institutions on conflict mediation, and personal and organizational development. Further, it operates the Villa Virginia, offering hotel services for training, workshops, retreats, executive meetings, events and weddings. Fundación Origen also launched, in partnership with Natura, the School for Teachers in Sustainable Education, with a 5 year program aiming to train the teachers of 200 vulnerable schools in Chile and other South American countries.

Income from these activities, as well as the sale of its organic products (cheeses, marmalades, baked goods and honey) contributes to the operation of the agroecological school, while Chile’s Ministry of Education pays the teachers’ salaries and benefits, covering 70% of the budget. Fundación Origen is the first institution of its kind in Chile and one that the Ministry of Education hopes to emulate throughout the country.

The Entrepreneur
Born in Santiago, Mary Anne Müller Prieto comes from a family of landowners. She lived in Chile until the age of seven, when she was sent to a Swiss boarding school. On a visit to Easter Island after graduation, she befriended a local island girl whose father was an organic farmer. He taught Müller Prieto everything he knew about art and trade as well as a love for nature. Returning to Chile, she volunteered at a juvenile detention facility on the outskirts of Santiago, where she discovered her passion for education and helping rejected youth. Müller Prieto’s determined pursuit to follow her dream of setting up an agricultural school for at-risk youth, while learning from setbacks and mobilizing a diverse section of society to support her efforts, have helped her achieve what others would consider impossible.