UNORCAC/ASEAC Scholarship Program in Cotacachi
“It’s just a dream,” says Carlos Alta, president of the teachers’ association, “but I think we can complete it.” He wants to be able to grant scholarships to 100 deserving high school students next year. And he will probably realize this dream. Only about 30% of the indigenous children in Cotacachi get an education past the sixth grade.
The scholarship program is only three years old. The first year it assisted 10 students. Supported by an organization of 20 local teachers, UNORCAC, which is the local indigenous group, and funds from a Chicago group, the scholarship program is going strong, but they need more help. Kenji Tabery is the acting coordinator of the program.
Carlos Alta wants to accomplish several things with the scholarship program, other than help high school students be able to finish high school.
1. Preserve the cultural indigenous identity
2. Foster intercultural activities. Right now there is a pen pal exchange with students in the United States.
3. Form local ecological clubs to address water, trash and environmental issues and bring awareness of these issues to local, national and international attention
4. Form directives for social issues and create social activist groups
But most of all, Alta says, “My vision for this program is to form leaders and leadership workshops. We will sign up students today.”
Pro-Ecuador was invited to the annual scholarship program, where 28 of this year’s 30 scholarship recipients were present, along with their parents and the sponsoring teachers. The program lasted several hours, during which Carlos Alta laid out the program goals and directives.
Gary presented $200 to Alta on behalf of Euni, a Canadian, to sponsor one high school student for one year. Gary told him that the local expats are very interested in the program and happy to be able to participate in the furtherance of education in Cotacachi. Our website will put the word out about the program so donors can contribute. Carlos passed the money on to one of the teachers, telling us that the money would be used 100% for the student.
Alto brought the 28 students to the front of the room and they formed a long line. One by one they introduced themselves and named the village they are from. There were kids from La Calera, Azaya, San Pedro, Chilcabamba, and many other nearby towns.
A number of people took turns standing up and speaking. The sister of one scholarship recipient told the audience that she and her older siblings didn’t get to go to high school at all. She is so grateful that her younger brother has this chance to go to school and get an education, a good-paying job.
Caroline Bloodworth from Virginia and her husband Orburn went with us to the program. He said, “This gives us an opportunity to open our hearts, so we thank them for the chance to help.” Caroline said that perhaps her grandchildren back in the states could talk to their classes about raising money for the scholarship program.
Her granddaughter is graduating from high school this year. Her homeroom adopted a charity, Heifer International, and raised money for it.
There are many ways that cultural interchange can take place between North American and South American students. We can organize exchange programs so that students can visit each other’s countries and do volunteer work.
North Americans can learn much about the culture, work ethic and farming methods practiced in Cotacachi. Treating both sides as equals with something of value to be learned from either side of the world will go far in boosting the self esteem of students here, rather than treating them as charity cases.