EdNews January 2002


Dear Friends,

Most of you know that two young Bolivian teachers, Cecilia Paco and Loida Cutipa, visited US Friends for more than seven weeks this summer. They spoke to more than half a dozen groups, as well as numerous individuals, about Friends and Friends schools in Bolivia. Their trip was financed through a number of sources, the largest bulk channeled through the Bolivian Fund at Pendle Hill. Each of them has written a report of her trip (in Spanish), which they delivered to me in person when I saw them in Bolivia in November. I will be glad to send you a copy.

In October-November I went to Bolivia with the Quaker Study Tour (two weeks) and at the end of the QST I spent another week in La Paz tying up loose ends and talking with some Bolivian Friends about Quaker education and about relations between US and Bolivian Quakers. The visit of Loida and Cecilia did a great deal to acquaint eastern Friends with Bolivian Friends. A year ago there were few of us who knew that there are 40,000 Quakers in Bolivia, and sixteen schools sponsored by the two largest of the nine or ten yearly meetings. Of course these visits and discussions did not take place in a vacuum. The missionary work of Central and Northwest YMs, the continuing and increased presence of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), and the development and health projects of Quaker Bolivia Link (QBL), the Quaker Study Tours—all have helped establish contacts and open doors, and all have a valuable role that they continue to play. But there is a desire for more communication, a desire that was strengthened by the visit of Loida and Cecilia, and education is one key.

Four things have impressed me vividly as I have visited Bolivia and as I put forward these thoughts: the numbers (40,000!) and spirit (sparkling eyes, with praise and thanks to God) of Bolivian Friends, the agony and determination through which they seek to make education part of their spiritual work and their upward climb, the poverty of our own US acquaintance with all this, and the fact that a dollar buys about twenty times as much in local goods and services there as here. Each of these four facts seems initially unbelievable, and the opportunity presented by the four together strikes me a quite extraordinary.

The focus of my discussions in Bolivia was on enriching relations between US and Bolivian Friends through focusing on improving Bolivian Quaker education. Education is seen as a means to richer relations with US Friends, being both a joint activity and a requirement for communication. With those aims in view there is a thirst both for more education and also for strengthening skills in English and in the use of computers and the internet. In my discussions with Bolivian Friends there have seemed three principal ways to proceed toward these goals: helping to finance university education, arranging for exchanges between their schools and ours, and helping to strengthen Bolivian Friends secondary schools.

Two committees are being formed in Bolivia, one to coordinate the scholarships and one to coordinate the projects at the secondary level. Bernabé Yujra has put in much time coordinating this effort and has even found a possible office for the work in Bolivia. How can we help? Scholarships? Teachers exchanges? Student exchanges? Support for administrative coordination? Teacher conferences or workshops? School buildings? Establishing personal relationships? All of these things are possible, but we need to explore carefully how they can most effectively be established in the context of existing organizations and relationships. Money sent in the absence of a reliable structure is apt to go astray, and a structure that competes with others is not likely to enhance the overall relations among Friends.

As a a first step I prepared a five-page summary of the concern (the opportunity), including background information, as a basis for consulting with other Friends, and a shortened version focused specifically on post-secondary scholarships. I then met on January 6 with Purchase Meeting (NYYM) and on January 9 in Philadelphia with a diverse Friends who have connections to Pendle Hill, FWCC, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Friends Association for Higher Education (FAHE), Friends Council on Education (FCE), and QBL. Purchase Meeting agreed in principle (but with operative details left to be worded out) to establish a Bolivian Scholarship Fund; that is an encouraging step forward. The meeting in Philadelphia was encouraging with respect to the overall vision and especially about possible exchanges of teachers, but the main conclusions were that none of those existing organizations is in a position adopt and coordinate the program and that a great deal more work needs to be done on the details before the vision is viable and fundable. Therefore a new group needs to be formed, which could operate either under the wing of a meeting or as an independent 501(c)3 corporation.

So what can you do to help? First and foremost, let me know if you are willing to be part of the core group that will work on developing the work on Bolivian Quaker education. If you are willing to consider such a commitment, I will send you copies of the material now available. Second, we ended up $600 short of covering the expenses for the visit of Loida and Cecilia last summer, and if you are able to make a tax-deductible contribution to help, your check should be sent to Pendle Hill (earmarked "Bolivia Fund"). Third, until there is a more specific organization to support Bolivian Quaker education (and even afterward, I hope), you can support the work of QBL, Pendle Hill, FWCC, FAHE, and FGC, out of which and in cooperation with which this vision grew. Fourth, you might join the next Quaker Study Tour (June 20 to July 7) and see things for yourself.

Please include your snail-mail address if you wish a copy of the reports of Loida and Cecilia. I will also be glad to send you more information about QBL or QST.

My work on these matters has been very rewarding. When Bernabé Yujra wrote to report on the formation of a committee in Bolivia, with representation from both major yearly meetings, he not only thanked me for my initiative but also added that he personally had not thought that there could be such a positive response on the part of INELA and Santidad on a project where they would work together. There is a real thirst for education among Bolivian Friends, and the spirit with which Friends there spoke to these ideas transcended the politics of yearly meetings in an inspired way.

With wishes that "that Light and Spirit which was before Scripture was given forth" may bless your life, I am

In fellowship,

Newton Garver