Dear Friends: It’s been another year, and I’m happy to report that the Cañari Women’s Scholarship Program is going strong. Twelve graduates are working in their professions and twelve are in the midst of their studies. As scholars near graduation, applicants are lined up to fill their spots. For the near future, we plan to keep the program at ten-twelve active students, as that number is easily manageable and allows us the month-by-month contact that is so important to support the women and service the program.
Here we are at our last meeting in June. Not everyone was present, but to give you a sampling…on my left, back row is Vicenta, our first scholar in gastronomy. In her fourth year, she’s doing internships in hotels and tourist sites around the country. Next to her, in the white hat, is Maria, in her third year of tourism at University of Cuenca, and then Dolores and Maria Esthela in nursing, and Nelva in communications, Mercedes in accounting and Paiwa in civil engineering. Bottom row, a few past graduates.
Above is Juana Chuma, who graduated this year ago as a veterinarian – our first! Juana’s thesis research with campesinos and milk production in a region south of Cuenca earned her a contract with the University of Cuenca after graduation. She reports she is also working weekends at a private veterinary clinic in Cuenca.
We are also pleased to present the first physician to graduate from our program. Luisa Duchi Patiño finished her internship in Riobamba and is now working for her año rural at the Hospital Luis Martinez in Cañar. After graduation, all medical school graduates must complete a year of government service in rural areas. Since Luisa is married and with a small child, she was lucky to be assigned to Cañar, where she has strong family support. (With her parents in photo below.)
A new scholar, Zara, is studying accounting in the far-off province of Bolivar. With the government’s 2008 law that makes state schools tuition-free, students are offered places according to their test scores, not according to where they want to study. Some, like Zara, end up in provinces a good distance away – the only option being to wait another year and repeat the test. But the advantage to these scholars is that they venture further from home, get to know other regions of Ecuador, and often expand the Cañari gene pool by marrying indigenous men from other provinces.
Some parents and grandparents such as Zara’s are illiterate. As I watch them carefully write their signatures, learned in literacy classes, I’m reminded that in only three generations poor Cañari women have moved from a life of subsistence farming to that of lawyer, doctor, nurse, nutritionist, accountant, dentist, veterinarian, ecologist, architect or engineer. The Cañari Women’s Scholarship Foundation supports women in all those fields. THIS is real social change, thanks to donors like you.
The success of CWEF depends on a highly responsible board in Cañar, just re-elected for another two years. We meet every three months to discuss each student and consider new applicants. The comite includes (from left to right), Verónica Paucar, just finishing her MBA (with our support), Mercedes Guamán (lawyer, early graduate, with her niece Rosa), yours truly, Segundo Guillas, husband of our first graduate, Alexandra Solano (agronomist), and Maria Esthela Maynato, our accountant/treasurer and manager of the program when I’m away. But, I should add, the comite would do just fine without me. (Long-term sustainability is a theme for another letter, but we do have a beginning plan.)
At the annual all-scholarship meeting, we bring together graduates and present students for a sort of inspiration/motivation/thinking-about-the-future gathering (and now let’s have lunch!). Graduates tell stories about everything from their struggle with racism in the classroom to problems with childcare while studying. They also tell about their new lives as professionals, not just the benefits of respect and a good salary, but also how they balance work and family life.
That little cutie on the right is the carefully planned addition to the family of Pacha Pichisaca, who graduated in dentistry several years ago, earned a specialist diploma (with our support) and established her practice in Cañar before having Harvir. Her daughter Naomi is eight (below, in pink jacket, with Tamia and Saiwa, other second generation girls) and her husband Juan has just completed his Master’s in music. I think it’s fair to say that the children of our women will not depend on scholarships to attend university.
Again, a huge thanks to all of you for supporting the Cañari Women’s Education Foundation, an official 501(c3) nonprofit, which means your contributions are tax deductible. We have no administrative costs other than an annual snail-mail mailing, so every dollar goes directly to the women.
If you prefer to pay by check, please make to CWEF and send to Charlotte Rubin, 2147 NW Irving St. Portland, OR 97210. For the first time in twelve years, Michael and I are changing our Cañar schedule to November – May. Charlotte is a local CWEF board member who has managed the Portland foundation finances for many years.
You can also donate through PayPal by clicking the DONATE button below (useful for our Canadian and UK contributors, as our bank charges a $20 processing fee for foreign checks.)
I’ll begin my Cañar Chronicles again in November. If you are not on my email list, please let me know at email@example.com and I’ll add you.
Fond regards to all, Judy Blankenship