To begin at the top – here we are in May 2023 after our first full scholarship meeting in three years. And this was not all of us! We now have thirty graduates, four with master’s degrees, one in Mexico with (almost) a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine, one doing a dermatology specialty (in Russia!), and one newly minted Fulbright scholar at the University of Illinois in Chicago. More on these amazing women later.
Before we get to the newbies, I want to tell you about this year’s three graduates. Two women got their degrees in economics at the same University of Chimborazo (UNACH) in Riobamba. Sara Duy sailed through four years without a pause, met her husband online, had a baby, and graduated in July 2023. I love her group photo below as it captures the great importance of family support in our program. Riobamba is normally more than four hours by bus, and the road has recently been closed by a landslide, forcing an even longer trip. I count eleven family members at Sarita’s side as she graduated.
Like Sara, Nube Sumba also sailed through her courses in economics with high grades, and was so anxious to get a job that she began working with a financial cooperative in her community even before her degree was awarded. So, her mother came to tell me the news and brought me this hand-knit poncho with Nube’s name stitched around the edge. During the years that Nube was in Riobamba, her mother came faithfully every month, bringing fresh cheese, eggs or other offerings from her garden or animals. The poncho was her final gift. Felicitaciones Sara and Nube!
Aracely Quishpi has a different story. She started her studies in 2018 at the University of Carchi, about as far north as you can go and still be in Ecuador. The distance made it hard for her to attend meetings, so when her coursework was done, and she was required to write a thesis – as are almost all the students – we lost touch. In January this year, I was surprised to run into her at a crafts fair in the park in Cañar. “Yes, I finished! I graduated in ecotourism; I have a child and I’m building a tourist lodge in my home village of Sisíd.” Congratulations Aracely!
Among the present scholarship women in the photo below, several will graduate in 2024. From left to right: Elizabeth (accounting), Kuya Killa (accounting), (me), Lucia (education), Jessica (agriculture), Elsa (environmental engineering), Vilma (accounting), Tannya (education), Nataly (economics), Estrella (veterinary medicine). Not shown are Pacari (business administration) Lourdes (medicine) and Sara (architecture). That brings our current number of scholarships to twelve, the perfect number we like to maintain to manage our program effectively. As our scholarship program approaches its 20th anniversary in 2025, I thought you’d like to hear news of some of our early graduates and of our first (and hopefully not the last) Fulbright scholar.
Pacha Pichisaca (far right). Our dentist – Michael’s, mine, and many others in the community. She graduated in 2011 and since then has completed several specialties, including orthodontia. Braces, or brakets, are newly popular in Cañar and Pacha has added two additional chairs to her clinic in town. Being a Quichua speaker also brings her many patients from the country.
Carmen Loja (2011, business admin) has created her own community tourism project with two other women from her village. Kinti Wasi hosts student groups from Amigos de las Americas, a prestigious program for teens in the U.S. She invites us all to visit at: https://www.facebook.com/kintiwasi.ec
Mercedes Guamán, lawyer and Alexandra Solano, agronomist, two of our earliest graduates, both members of our local foundation committee.
María Theresa Chimborazo (2020 tourism). In a sweet connection, she has the job managing the community tourism lodge in Sisíd Añejo, where I take the Lewis & Clark College students from Portland each year to spend three days learning about the Cañari culture and visiting heritage sites. I will be there again in March 2024 during my short trip to Cañar.
Paiwa Acero graduated from the University of Cuenca in 2021 as a civil engineer and worked for two years in municipal potable water offices in Cañar while applying to Fulbright for a master’s degree. What followed was an 18-month process that involved intensive English courses to pass the TOEFL exam; intensive prep courses for the GRE exam, and much more. She made it as a finalist and in September 2023 began her master’s in environmental engineering at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Our local committee is as active as always. In 2023 we finally completed the byzantine process of becoming a legal non-profit foundation in Ecuador. This is an important step in making the scholarship program independent of our traditional base in Portland. We can now legally open a bank account in Ecuador, apply for grants, and accept contributions from local organizations and businesses.
CWEF is an official 501(c) 3 nonprofit, which means your contributions are tax-deductible, and every dollar goes directly to the women. You can donate through PayPal through the DONATE button you find below. (Next year I hope to have a Venmo link.)
Many thanks, dear friends for your continuing support. Best wishes for this year and in 2024. (Some of you will also receive a paper copy of this letter. Let me know if you’d prefer virtual only at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(To end on a personal note: this year will be the first time in 18 years that Michael and I will not be going to Cañar. In September, Michael landed in the hospital for two weeks with a complicated lung/pleural infection. Although he’s doing better, he has a long recovery ahead. But we hope to go sometime in 2024. However, I will make a short trip end of February for work, to meet with the scholarship committee and take care of the house and other details. My plan is to continue my Cañar Chronicles, beginning in January. So – stay tuned!)