Cotacachi / Cotacachi / Cotacachi Indigenous / Ecuador Education

Cotacachi High School Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon

Last Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Gary and I arrived at the Unorcac student hall for the appreciation luncheon.  We found Paige Fisher, Peace Corp volunteer and the program’s lead supporter, anxiously waiting at the entrance.

She immediately asked us if more expats were coming.  The students and parents had come on time, too, a rare occurrence, but only three expats had shown up.

We assured her that Jack Moss had sent out the announcement letter Gary had emailed him a few days ago, plus her invitation, too.  But after 10 minutes with no other arrivals except more students, we called two expats whom we knew usually come to support these functions and they quickly took cabs to join us.

This made a total of only seven expats plus Joel Kaplan, who had graciously agreed to make a video for the kids and their parents.  We were disappointed at the turn-out, especially since so many students and their families had come to greet us and let us know how much our monetary support of them has meant. We went inside a bit sheepishly, wondering what might have happened to cause such a low response from our fellow expat community.

This is the fifth year that Gary and I have helped raise both awareness and funds for the most worthy program we know of in Cotacachi. We, too, are so very grateful for all the help we’ve received. Most of the funding comes from the U.S. and Europe, including a high school in Chicago that has raised money for several years.

Gary presented a check for $1600 at a meeting a few months ago, money that is designated for this coming school year. $1000 of this was a generous donation made by a man from Uruguay who found out about the scholarship program on our website and was moved to help. The other $600 was from two Cotacachi expats and from Gary and me.

Carlos Alta, a grade-school teacher and president of ASEAC, the ecological arm of Unorcac under which the scholarship program functions, was all smiles as usual.  He has been an ardent, loyal supporter of this program since it’s inception about 6 years ago.  He and Ruben, the program’s faithful treasure, were two of the founders of the program.

He gave a warm welcome and an overview of the program.  He is very enthusiastic about the colorful cards that the students make from recycled paper and showed one off.  The ecology club meets each week with Paige to make paper and paint.
Paige’s two years of  Peace Corp service is over next April, but she is thinking of returning for another term.  She also welcomed us and showed an early slide show of the program with students in their villages giving interviews.
Some of the boys in the program gave us a demo of paper-making. The program now has a commercial blender that makes the process much easier.  They wet the paper, turn it into pulp, press it through a screen and onto the wall, and let it stick there until it dries.

Then the paper sheets are cut, folded and painted with scenes of village life or decorated with dried flowers.  Some of the students are very creative and I bought cards to give at Christmas.
Linda Arney found a card she liked.  They are for sale for $1.00 each.

Last year the sister school in Chicago sold enough cards to send $1000 back to Cotacachi. Thus the scholarship participants were able to send 5 more students to high school.
Scholarship girls performed a traditional dance for us.
Mothers laid out a feast for all of us to share.

It covered two tables.

We dug in with fingers instead of forks. The huge pile of bread, beans, corn, potatoes and fruit was consumed in short order.
Our student gave us a lovely card in appreciation of our support.
Joel conducted interviews for his video.

We left feeling warm and fuzzy once again.  It is always a highlight to spend time with the sweet kids from Cotacachi who take part in this program.

They will be the leaders of this community very shortly.  They will be the teachers, members of the municipality, professionals, perhaps even the mayor.  They will be the ones who collect our taxes, make decisions for the community and raise the next generation of children.

With our help, we can boost the educational level, leadership skills and innate talents of those who will serve Cotacachi.  Education is the key to turning out young adults who have higher self esteem, better job opportunities and therefore, more of a chance at happiness, financial success and a  life well lived.

It’s my wish that all the children in Cotacachi and the surrounding villages have the chance to go to high school and beyond if they have that desire.   If that is also your wish, please join those of us who are doing our best to make the dream of an education come true for the deserving youngsters of Cotacachi.

Paige, Carlos and Ruben are always on the look-out for anyone who has an artistic talent or vocational skill they’d like to share. English teachers are very welcomed.  So step up and give a little.  You’ll get a whole lot back in the process.

Donations large or small are being accepted for the 2013 school year.  We’ve got 2012 covered for 65 student scholarships. The program started with only ten kids.

Paige is available to answer any questions you might have as to how the program is conducted and how the money is spent.

You can reach her

We are bursting with new ideas to improve our scholarship program–a foundation, fund raising ideas such as a gringo talent show or market booth for the children to sell their recycled cards, art projects.

Got any great ideas?  Please share them or comment on the ideas of others by scrolling down to the bottom of this webpage.



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  4. Linda Turner says:

    Hello Gary & Linda,

    I have been enjoying your newsletter for at least the past couple of years now. What a great program for the scholarships! I hope I can help too! I have made a trip to Cotacachi just once, so far. I stopped in at your office but you and Gary were out of town.

    I want to try and visit again, soon. I recently enquired about an apartment, but I have a small dog I may bring with me, so I’d like to find a dog friendly place.

    I hope to bring a friend who may be interested in looking at properties, as well, this next visit.

    I know from a reliable source that the Dalai Lama has said he expects he will incarnate, next time, in Peru. Peru is so much like Tibet! Yet, having visited both Ecuador and Peru, I have to say that the hearts of the people of Ecuador have been are among the most amazing. I am not surprised that His Holiness is equally drawn to Ecuador and the humble town of Cotacachi.

    May you all, truly, be blessed with the presence of the Dalai Lama!

    Much Light and Blessings,


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