I never tire of seeing the faces of our graduates, and I thought you also would enjoy being reminded of (some) of the results of your generosity. Thank you!
I wish I were writing this letter from Cañar–we don’t leave until December 1–so I could describe what the “new normal” looks like. This fall our scholarship women returned to in-person classes after two years at home, struggling to carry on with their courses despite unstable Internet, cranky cell phones, and isolation from fellow students. Still, they did well. In 2022 we had three new graduates, bringing our number to twenty-eight, along with four graduates with master’s degrees, one in a PhD program in Mexico, and our first potential Fulbright scholar for a master’s in the U.S.
As for our new scholarship women, I want to tell a story related to Nube (above, right). She showed up at our house with her mother about five years ago, coming from a poor farming region more than an hour from Cañar. Nube was timid and hardly spoke. With a gift of fresh cheese, her mother explained that although illiterate, she was determined that her two daughters get educated beyond high school. We did give Nube a scholarship, and on the first day of every month – when the scholarship is paid in cash – her mother showed up at our house with fresh cheese or eggs. Meanwhile, Nube charged straight through university in Riobamba, with excellent grades, to graduate this year with a degree in economics. Her sister is now studying at the same university (but without our scholarship, as we award only one per family). Still, that’s multiplication! And Nube’s mother has achieved her goal of having two daughters educated as professionals. On their last visit, Nube and her mother brought their neighbors, Kuya Killa and her mother, who is sole support of her four children, one with a serious medical condition. Kuya (who also barely spoke) graduated high school three years ago and passed the university entrance exam with high marks, but the family could not afford to send her to university. After our talk, with her mother’s encouragement, Kuya completed all the paperwork to renew her test scores and was accepted by the university in Riobamba. She is now enrolled in our program, and in the next five years I look forward to watching Kuya bloom, as did Nube, into a confident young woman. These two young women would never have known even the possibility of a university education without word of mouth of our graduates and friends, and without your support. Thank you!
A few updates on our graduates.
Dr. Luisa Duchi reports that she is now clinic director in the community of Huayrapungo, where 90% of her patients are Quichua-only speakers. This community, site of an old hacienda about an hour from Cañar, is famous for not allowing visitors into their territory. Michael and I ventured walking there once, and quickly left. Luisa is our first physician, but we have another one close to graduation at University of Cuenca.
Carmen Loja (far left), (economics, 2011) has made a success of her a community-based tourism program, Kinti Wasi, in her village of MilMil. Along with her cousin and another partner, Carmen hosts high school and gap-year groups to learn the Andean worldview in “agroecology, gastronomy, architecture, ancestral medicine and spirituality”. And I see by the website that Kinti Wasi is an Amigos de las Americas partner for 2022. Congratulations Carmen! (She also welcomes individuals and small groups if any of you are contemplating a trip to Ecuador.)
Pacha Pichisaca, our only ondontóloga graduate so far, has expanded her dental practice, on the main shopping street in Cañar, by adding a second chair. She was one of our early graduates, and with CWEF support she continued with specialist courses in oral surgery and orthodontics. Each time I walk by, I glance up at her windows. After giving up on my dentist in Portland, I’m getting up my nerve to make an appointment with Pacha.
Finally, a dispatch from our first PhD graduate, Juana Chuma, who is at UNAM in Mexico, where she did her master’s (with help from CWEF). Earlier this year, she did a residency at University of Georgia, where she writes that her biggest challenge was understanding the southern English. She’s now back in Mexico working on her thesis, “optimizing the genetic selection of milk producing bovines in Chile,” (where she did a previous internship).
As you know, our foundation is managed in Portland, Oregon with a treasured treasurer, Charlotte Rubin, who takes care of contributions and banking. In Cañar, we are a busy committee who meets a few times a year to monitor the scholarship women’s progress, review new applications, and manage finances. But this year we had an additional agenda item: to complete our application for NGO status in Ecuador. This has been a multi-year project with lost documents, a change of presidents, a new ministry handling our application, and more. After a couple of marathon meetings in 2022, with the help of our lawyer in Cañar (Mercedes, far right, one of our first graduates) and our “man in Quito”– Segundo, husband of another first graduate (Alexandra, 3rd from right), we have shepherded our application through the byzantine process of becoming a legal non-profit foundation in Ecuador.
Here we are after a 5-hour meeting in May. The main benefit of our new status will be that it clears the way for Michael and I to leave our house and property to the program for an endowment. We made a proper will in Cañar years ago, which required six witnesses, several days, a lawyer, accountant, and $500. But no transfer of property for the benefit of an organization can be done without a government NGO designation. Flash: Today, I talked to lawyer Mercedes Guamán (far right) and she said she’d just received the final certification from the government. Hurrah!
To conclude: Cañari Women’s Education Foundation (CWEF) is an official 501(c) 3 nonprofit, which means your contributions are tax deductible, and every dollar goes directly to the women. Here you can donate through PayPal by using the DONATE button below. Many thanks for your continuing support and please stay in touch. I love hearing from you all. (You should see a new reply field below). Judy Blankenship