The Quaker village of Pallcapampa is committed to educating its boys and girls, but the 90-minute walk to high school, and two hours back, has been a serious obstacle. So an internado (supervised student residence) was established near the public secondary school in Sorata in February 2006, with 13 students staying in a safe and supportive environment during the school week.
In March 2007, the Internado moved to a larger, healthier building, a move made possible by very substantial gifts from Irish Friends.
For 2009 there are 20 students, 13 boys and 7 girls. For most of these young people, it is the first time they have been able to attend school without walking several hours daily, the first time they've had guidance and support with homework, the first time they have slept in a real bed with a mattress, and the first time they've been able to count on 3 good meals a day regardless of the weather, the harvest, or family hardships.
Plans are underway for adding a bakery, which will provide work opportunities for the students as well as potential income.
This "Internado de Pallcapampa" is the fulfillment of a dream of former BQEF scholarship student Benito Jallurana, who made the 3½-hour walk for 3 years. Benito recently completed his university degree in alternative education with a specialty in administration of rural internados. He is now part-time administrator of the Internado.
Several of this year’s new students live a day’s ride away from this nearest secondary school. Public transportation to remote villages consists of standing room in the back of a 4-wheel drive pickup over narrow and sometimes treacherous dirt tracks, and may only run 2 or 3 times a week.
But for 16 year-old Manuel, there is no public transportation. So he leaves school early every Friday to walk 10 hours to his home village in the Yungas, tropical lowlands at about 2000 feet lower altitude. He is the youngest of several children, the only one still at home with his widowed mother. He helps her farm all day Saturday, then walks the 10 hours back up to Sorata on Sunday to be ready for the school week.
David, at 14, had not completed 5th grade when his mother sought to enroll him in February. She has had no fixed home since the death of her husband several years ago. She travels continuously selling products from town to town and village to village. This made school attendance spotty for David and his younger sister and gave her serious concern for his future. When she and David learned of the Internado, it seemed the answer to their prayers. Eusebio managed to persuade the teachers to take the highly irregular step of accepting him in 6th grade on 3 months probation, also getting a waiver of the school uniform requirement until his mother could manage to save up the money for it. Then he, Benito and a couple of university friends took on the challenge of tutoring David, especially in math. Now a serious student, David has completed the probation successfully and is never without a smile.
Each month a different stranger has appeared at the door bringing David’s mother’s contribution to his support. In order to cover his school supplies and incidentals, Eusebio persuaded the owner of the Residencial Sorata tourist hotel to take him on as messenger. Each afternoon he spends a few hours handing out leaflets to tourists, running errands and sitting in the lobby waiting for a task. In mid-June, his mother came for a brief visit, bringing him the money for his uniform and new shoes. His grin is now broader than ever.
The students, whose career plans include teaching, architecture, and law, are clear about their career aspirations and their commitment to attend university. The average Bolivian's income is one-fifth that of the average Mexican's—often less than $300 a year in rural areas—but a college graduate earns $300 or more a month. So education changes lives dramatically - for the individual, the family, and future generations.
Aymara culture carries a strong sense of responsibility to one’s community. Just as Benito dreamed of the Internado as a way of sharing the benefits of his education, it is exciting to imagine these young people reaching out to help others as a result of their education.
A donation of $25 pays for food for a student for a month; $650 supports the full cost of operation for a month. Please click here to donate.