From Alicia, with Love
Alicia Lucasi joined us in the US for our annual board retreat in October, leaving behind her husband of less than two months to do so. (Thanks for being so understanding, Rene!) Minga Claggett-Borne asked Alicia what difference BQEF had made in her life, and the lives of others, and this was her response:
My father met Newton Garver in 2002 and Newton explained how he started the Bolivian Quaker scholarship program. We spoke in Spanish and he impressed upon me how important it was to learn English. I wasn't convinced, since I was still having problems writing correct Spanish. (My native language is Aymara.) Newton was also the first person I met who had a vision to connect Friends in Bolivia and the US. The biggest barrier to visiting between those Friends, in my opinion, is the languages.
During my first year at the university in El Alto, everything was a whirl, with different schedules and culture and language. Newton seemed to intuit my fears and feelings while starting the university. That year he gave me 200Bol. ($30) and told me to register at an English-language academy.
I didn't understand why Newton was so insistent that I learn English. But he had such confidence in me as I launched my university career that I decided to learn English without understanding why.
Jesus de Machaca is where I came from--it's a small village 100 kilometers from El Alto. My father could only support me with $30 a month and that just paid for transportation to the university. Cost of living prices were increasing. I was shocked by the clothes, and learning how to negotiate on public buses, and preparing different food. In my village, I used to dress in a simple way. Sandals most days, shoes were for special events. I had to learn to dress in presentable clothes suitable for a young lady in the city to not be discriminated against. I had to learn to use the TV, and I had never before used a computer.
I accepted the BQEF scholarship and it was the first time I'd received such support. The first month I received $50 and it was a tremendous relief: I finally believed that my dream could be reached. I could now focus on my studies without financial worries. The scholarship was so important: it changed my life. I graduated in 2007 in Education Administration, after 4 years with a BQEF scholarship.
I started working at the BQEF office in 2009. I have worked helping scholarship students write letters and reports, and helped counsel them when they are homesick or can't study. I've worked with the high school students at the Student Residence in Sorata. Last year I was asked to orient and guide Quakers coming to volunteer at Bolivian schools.
I love challenges. In my job at BQE-Bolivia they ask me can you do this or will you help me with that. And I just say in Aymara “Jisa!” Yes, even if it’s hard, I can learn how to do it.
I love this work because of the connection between young people in Bolivia and US and UK Quakers. When Bolivian students have sponsors we feel like we have a family in another country. We support each other. Our dream is someday to meet face-to-face to tell them how they changed our lives.
In 2012 and 2013 I traveled to many Yearly Meetings in the US to explain about Bolivian education. Finally, over these 10 years, it has become clear why I had to learn English.
The scholarship does not just offer financial support. It also makes a huge difference just knowing other Friends care. I will work out of this spirit and help support others coming up in my family.
In addition to working three or more days a week for BQE-Bolivia, I teach educational policies and curriculum now [at a rural campus] in Chaguaya, a part of UPEA, the same university where I studied 7 years ago.
BQEF has been so important to me and I see how it continues to be important for all the students I’m working with now.
Alicia Lucasi (as told to Minga)