Another year has gone by, and the Cañari women’s scholarship program is stronger than ever. As I reported last November, of the eight women who started five years ago, all have graduated. Four previous graduates bring our total to twelve Cañari women who have completed their university studies and become professionals, thanks to your generous help!
Graduations also mean we can offer new scholarships, and this past fall six young women began receiving support, plus one continues from last year. They are studying full time in two state universities, in veterinarian medicine, nursing, accounting, public health, medicine, forestry, and political science. Each woman receives a monthly stipend of $90 or $100, depending on her university, to help cover fees, room and board, travel and other expenses. (President Correa’s government eliminated tuition in state schools in 2012, making our dollars go further.) All must live away from home while studying, and most degree programs last five years. We also provide $500 for thesis and graduation costs, so I figure our yearly support for each woman averages about $1200, an amazingly low cost for a university education.
We have no administrative costs, other than this mailing, so every dollar goes directly to the women.Let me introduce you to some of our new scholars:
(l to r) Esthela Chuma Delgado, Vicenta Pichazaca Guamán, Mercedes Loja Lema, Transito Zhinín Pichasaca, Mariana Chuma Acero, Mecedes Guamán
Perhaps the best news is how well our graduates are faring in the real world, given a job market in Ecuador not that different than in the U.S. Carmen Loja, a graduate of University of Cuenca with a degree in business adminis-tration, is the new director of a branch of the oldest savings and loan credit cooperative in Cañar. She heard about the job on the radio, presented her carpeta (resume), was interviewed by members of the coop, competing with several others, and won the position. She now heads up the credit union in her hometown of Suscal.
María Chimbo, a graduate of University of Riobamba as a CPA, also landed a job with a credit union. You might remember she lost her husband, Juanito, in a motorcycle accident last year, and she is sole support of her son, Atik.
Verónica Paucár, one of our earlier graduates, was hired by the local branch of the Banco de Azuay, in customer service, where she sits at a desk in the main lobby. You can imagine the thrill I get walking into town to do my errands and seeing these confident, bilingual women at their jobs, attending to clients in Quichua or Spanish.
Pacha Pichasaca, our dentist, is finishing her rural year of service and will be looking for work in the region or opening her own practice. Obdulia Castro, with a degree in education psychology, was hired by her hometown high school as a counseler. Luz Alvarez had trouble finding work in her degree field of nutrition, so took a job at a remote school in the Amazon region, teaching science. Magdalena Guamán, in eco-tourism, was hired by the province of Chimborazo to help communities develop their tourism potential.
Our program is adapting and advancing with changing times. In 2012 the committee voted to support our graduates in master’s degree programs, beginning with the order of graduation. Three women have applied and been accepted: Mercedes Guamán in law; Verónica Paucár in business, and Alexandra Solano in education. These are low-residency programs lasting two or three years, requiring the women to travel to Cuenca or Quito once a month for weekend classes. As in the U.S., our graduates find they need more than a B.S. or B.A. to get ahead in their careers. Alexandra, for example, is teaching high school math, but with a degree in agronomy she cannot keep her job more than three years without an advanced degree in education. Mercedes found that as she competed for national positions in indigenous justice, her lack of a master’s in law kept her in second place. Veronica, although pleased with her job at the bank, wants to go further.
Another change coming in 2013: we are offering one or two scholarships to young women just out of high school. Until now we have required that applicants complete one year of university before they apply. Now, with President Correa’s education reform measure that high school graduates must take an exam to determine if they are prepared to enter university, we feel we can offer this new type of scholarship. This is an experiment that we will evaluate in 2014, along with the master’s program.
Finally, if any of you are not on my Cañar Chronicles list to receive monthly updates of our life in Ecuador, and would like to be, please send me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2013 I’m starting a blog to make the chronicles public, so you should hear from me sometime in January. The mountain gods and satellite broadband service willing, I hope to post more than once a month. My book, Our House in the Clouds: Building a Second Life in the Andes of Ecuador is in production at University of Texas Press, and will be published in March 2013. Those receiving my chronicles will hear more about this as it gets closer.
In the meantime, a huge thanks to all of you who have supported the scholarship program over the years. Every woman knows that it is you – friends, neighbors, family, contributors, champions – who make their education possible, and each one feels a personal connection to you. They, and Michael and I, welcome you to visit Cañar, and our house in the clouds – any year between January and July.
We are proud that the Cañari Women’s Education Foundation is now an official 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, which means your contributions are tax deductible. Please make your checks to the new entity (CWEF for short), and you will receive a warm thank you letter with your IRS receipt.
Judy Blankenship, Secretary, Cañari Women’s Education Foundation, 2020 SE Ash Street, Portland, OR 97214