News

Two Women, Three Prisons - Part I: Courage

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Magaly and Mabel share a quiet moment lakeside

Sociology graduate Magaly Quispe is a former BQEF scholarship student who initially visited San Pedro Prison for her thesis research.  While she was there, she thought about doing AVP and asked for permission from the people in the social department - who said “Yes!”  Magaly convinced some of the other local facilitators to come in and help with the workshops, including her friend Mabel Mena Fonseca (also a BQEF scholarship student), who started out by helping with logistics – snacks, supplies, etc.

Women and Political Influence in Bolivia

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Bolivia is the first nation in the western hemisphere where both houses of the parliament or legislature are now headed by women.  This kind of dramatic social progress further inspires our work in support of educating and encouraging women in Bolivia.  Six of the 20 members of Evo’s cabinet are women.

Not parity yet, but headed that direction.

eta: Bolivia ranks 35th globally for women in the national legislature, compared to, say, the U.S. at 71st. See chart here.

"It was one of the high points of my life."

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Sponsor Barbara Stanford and student Janelle Aspi share a post-music moment.

The Joys of Sponsorship

When my aunt died, she left my mother a small legacy.   We decided that the best way to honor her memory was to sponsor a couple of Bolivian students who shared some of her qualities—a love of music and a love of children.

After corresponding with our two students, I had the great pleasure of going to Bolivia on the Quaker Study and Service Tour and meeting them at a potluck the entire group of scholarship students hosted for our group.  Maritza greeted me warmly and tried to explain to me about her curriculum in linguistics and teacher training. Janelle came in later with her Christian Mariachi Band which entertained our whole group.  It was one of the high points of my life.

A Lifelong Love of Learning

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Nancy Mamani Aspi in front of her home

Nancy Mamani Aspi comes from a family committed to education – her father is a teacher, her three siblings have stayed in school despite challenges.

In high school Nancy received a music scholarship so she could learn guitar, charango, and music theory.  She still loves music and practices guitar in her free time. Nancy was also chosen while still in high school to represent the indigenous young people of the Department of La Paz in a congress of eight Latin American countries held in Guatemala. The theme of the meeting was “Peace”.

What Are These Kids Doing Up So Late? Working on Their Future!

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Albertina and a T-shirt with her original design, ready to sell to help pay for a field trip

Working till 2:00 a.m. to fill orders might not be every teenager’s first choice, but that’s what David, Juana and William decided to do (unknown to we adults until the next morning) on my last night in Sorata this past trip. They were silk-screening designs on T-shirts requested by recent Study Tour visitors from California, determined to complete as many as possible for me to bring back to the US. I delivered them at a group reunion the next week, to everyone’s delight.

Call for Volunteers

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Art therapy workshop 2007

In our very first year, students at Friends schools and colleges as well as other adults began asking to volunteer.  Now they range in age from middle-school students in family groups to retired professionals.  Volunteers help with school and adult ed classes (especially English), and come home amazed at the richness of their experience. In 2011 one family with three teens participated, a doctoral student spent a full year, and a retired teacher from the UK spent four months.

Not ready for the Andes just yet? We also need volunteers for document translation, regional committees, and spreading the word about this work.

Do you have time and talent to share in support of Bolivian Friends education?  If you’d like to experience the joy and growth of volunteering on behalf of Friends in Bolivia, please send us an email at office_ (at)_bqef.org.

Bolivian Grads Give Back, Sponsor New Student

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From reports by Juan Yujra, Bernabé Yujra, Rubén Hilare, Beatriz Apaza, and Abigail Medina

One Saturday this past June, 17 of the 77 graduates of the BQEF Scholarship program gathered for a reunion. There they met the challenge of helping the next generation.

During the reunion, the Scholarship Committee and Bernabé Yujra presented a challenge: to support the next generation of Quaker young people who have the same needs that they had as students.  As part of this challenge, he asked for commitments to help at least one scholarship student in the second semester of 2011.  

Meet Irma
The former scholarship students responded generously and provided contributions and pledges that now support the first scholarship student sponsored in Bolivia.

Blogging from La Paz

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I am back in La Paz for a few days so there is Wi Fi, I really am an internet addict!

I suffered a spot of "Bolly Belly" [??] yesterday, so the 4 hour public minibus trip from Sorata was a little uncomfortable as I was afraid to eat or drink in case!! However it soon passed and  I have had a great day in the city today.

This morning I went to a presentation on the Aymaran language and its status on the Internet. It was very interesting to compare the issues raised with those faced by the Welsh language. There are no Aymaran schools and Wikipedia is still not available in the language but there is plenty of radio and TV.  There are 5000,000 speakers of the language in South America. The students in Sorata are still determined to teach me some Aymara but I am very slow!

This afternoon I visited a Quaker school in La Paz and met the students who receive grants from the Bolivian Quaker Fund to continue their studies. They were a delightful, enthusiastic group and I hope to hold some English classes with small groups of them in November  - some have requested basic German too!

Blogging in from Bolivia!

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Well, I had really expected to be blogging every day, but there is no Wi Fi anywhere in Sorata and the connections in the internet cafes are very slow; so my first blog starts two weeks into my stay in Sorata.
I had a warm welcome at the BQE office in La Paz and I was glad to meet them after my two day journey from home. There was a strike at La Paz airport so I spent the best part of two days in the airport hotel in Miami – not a good start!
The journey by minibus from La Paz to Sorata was breathtaking. The last 40 minutes or so is a dirt track and I still can’t see how so much food, building materials and all the necessities for life in a small town actually get here along those roads.

I have arrived!

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DAY 1

Well, it took exactly two days to get to La Paz from Abergavenny. There was a strike at the airport here which meant that no planes  could land for 24 hours. 36 hours in Miami airport was interesting!!

After a short rest I hit the town. The location is breathtaking and the women really do wear traditional dress. The centre seems quite compact and I hope to have time tomorrow to look at some more places of interest. Most of all I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the Internado in Sorata. 

I am really excited now about meeting everyone. I am writing this in the lobby of the hostal as I wait for Ruben. Wi fi access is good here and I have at last worked out how to Skype.

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