Cotacachi / Cotacachi Indigenous / Ecuador Education / View from the Roof

A View From the Roof: Divine Hand Revealed in Scholarship Fund-Raiser

By Gary Phillips

Sometimes, when things don’t work out, I fuss and stew, bemoaning my bad luck.  But most of the time, if I can just have a bit of patience, assuming the posture of an observer instead of a “harmed participant,” things have a way of sorting themselves out, sometimes even as if by magic.

Last week, Linda and I experienced first-hand what could only be called divine intervention. Let me tell you the story…

For several years, we have been working with a local teacher’s organization, the Association for Environmental Educators of Cotacachi (ASEAC).  The purpose of this group is to generate scholarships for qualified indigenous high school students and teach them how to be good stewards of their land and their community.   Basically, it’s a leadership program.

You can read about the program here.  There’s also a video of the program here.  If you’d like to donate, click here.

It has been a somewhat frustrating experience, as in the past we haven’t been very successful in generating donations from Cotacachi expats.  That all changed in a big way last week.

More than $10,500 pour into the scholarship coffers within a 24-hour time period.

It all started with two meeting notification letters sent out to the expat mailing list by Paige Fisher, the local Peace Corps volunteer who works with the program.   The letter was a call to all expats to attend an informational meeting with Scholarship students and parents.  The purpose of the meeting was to inform the expat community of the nature of the program, and hopefully encourage them to donate.

I decided to “assist” Paige’s letters by composing my own letter two days before the meeting.  My letter was filled with more information about the importance of the program and the huge opportunity it presented for the expat community to become involved with the locals.

Well, as luck or fate or destiny would have it, my letter did not get sent out, even though I thought it did.   Linda and I arrived just before the start of the meeting at 9 a.m.  Nearly 100 indigenous children and their parents were patiently waiting for the expats to show up and only three expats were in attendance.

I managed to reach by phone two others whom I know normally support these gatherings and they hurried to the gathering.  Paige was nearly in tears.  “Do you think more will come?” she asked.  I doubted it and told her so.  My first impulse was some anger and frustration at the expat community as to be so crass as to not attend such an important meeting.

Then I asked the expats in attendance if they had received my letter.   “No, it wasn’t in my email box,” they replied.  Then my anger and frustration shifted a bit to the person who was to send out the letter, wondering why it hadn’t gone out.

Paige managed to salvage the meeting by going on as if everything was okay, but everyone was disappointed.   After the meeting, Linda and I went to Serendipity restaurant for lunch and who should I run into but the person who was supposed to send out my email.  “I thought the letter went out,” I queried.  “Didn’t it?” he asked.  “I sure thought I sent it out.

“Well,” he said, “I guess this falls into the category of s…t happens.”

By now, I was beginning to realize that there was some kind of higher level setup taking place. So I went home to my computer and re-composed the letter to include what had just happened.  A hundred indigenous waiting for expats to show up, Paige with tears in her eyes, a vitally important program short of money, etc.

Then I called for a fund–raiser to take place at Eddie’s coffee shop in three days.  I think you can guess the rest of the story. 

Thirty-nine couples and individuals showed up and donated $9,100.  In the meantime, Paige received a donation from the email for $1,400, which brought the grand total raised to $10,500!  This coupled with the $1,600 we had raised two months earlier brought the grand total for the year from expats to $12,100!

Paige was ecstatic. The little coffee shop was full for nearly two hours.  It was a delightful party.

I quickly sent out a note to everyone on the mailing list telling of the results, and word spread like wildfire around town.  It was a true “happening,” in the best ’60’s sense of the word.  Something magical happened and everybody knew it.

When the President and Treasurer of ASEAC came to pick up the money and deposit it, they were incredulous!

The bottom line is that this year, 65 Cotacachi indigenous students will be attending high school.  Money is almost in place for next year to fund all the students, with a new goal of having 100 scholarships for next year.

Can you imagine?  Our expat participation made high school a reality rather than a dream.

These kids are the future leaders of Cotacachi, perhaps even of the country.   What better way for us expats to show our appreciation for being able to live in this incredible place than to help finance the youth of the indigenous communities to get an education?

Linda and I have always believed that the best investment we can make for our future here in Ecuador is to help this scholarship program continue and grow.    And it’s such a small amount, just $200 per year to completely change the life of a deserving child.

We are so grateful and proud that the Cotacachi expat community rallied to the occasion.

On the 8th of September, all 65 students and their parents, along with the donors will meet together.  The students will receive their money, the parents will sign a letter of commitment to provide an additional $100 to support their child, and the “padrinos” or program donors will meet the child that their money will support.   You can be assured it will be a happy occasion for all.

The mayor of Cotacachi has been invited to attend to address the group.

I truly believe that the events of the past week have dramatically changed the dynamics of the intercultural relationships in Cotacachi.  And that the future for everyone who lives here will be much improved by these actions.

And that’s today’s, View from the Roof.



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  4. Have a look at this sixty minutes episode about Khan Academy, the resource may be some help in educating children in your area:

  5. Margie Burst says:

    what a great story…….yes I do believe it was divine intervention!

    and i absolutely support sponsoring these kids to go to school as a worthy cause ! what better way to improve relationships in the community ! bravo for your effort to get people together to make the cause known!