Friday, December 12, 2008

going the distance

You can't quite fully comprehend the miracle of the UAC-CP until you see where our students come from, until you experience the way they live and understand the great distances they go (both literally and figuratively) to be educated.

It took us one hour driving and one hour walking to reach this UAC-CP student's home outside the community of Juan Agua.

When I hear students matter-of-factly recall the multiple hours they walked to attend grade school and high school; when I hear their parents tell me that they themselves can't read or write because they never had the opportunity to study; when I visit their homes and see that they grew up--not only without books, but without electricity and running water (and so many other things that I consider basic necessities), I can't help but think that it seems quite improbable that many of our students would have ever graduated from high school, let alone college.

And yet, they do graduate from college. In fact, one young man just did this morning.

As I explained in my last post, I recently traveled to the faraway town of Apolo with UAC-CP student Edwin Zapata.* Together, Edwin and I spent three days visiting families of our students who live in and around the town of Apolo. We traveled by public mobility, private taxi, and on foot. We traveled down roads, across rivers, and over bridges that, at the time, all seemed impassable. We traveled, by my estimation, an average of 10 hours each day--locating families that live, by their estimation, up to 5 or 6 hours away from the town of foot.

Edwin walking in the countryside on our way to visit a family of a UAC-CP student.

We arrived at each home unannounced, but always welcomed (and always sent on our way with homegrown gifts: bread, bananas, beans, eggs, mangoes, etc). Invited into their one or two-room homes, I sat poised with a notebook and pen, a handheld voice recorder at my side, and Edwin nearby to serve as my Quechua interpreter.** And I listened as mothers and fathers explained why they believe education is the key to transforming their lives.

Every student at the UAC-CP has a story. In the coming days I hope to share some of the stories they shared with me during my visit to Apolo.

I visited the house of UAC-CP Education student David Paredes. I was welcomed by (L to R) one of his older sisters, David's niece, his mother, Maria, his nephew, and his brother-in-law.
*Apolo is located so far away from the College, in fact, that by my calculations it actually takes me less time to travel between Carmen Pampa and Minneapolis than it does for students to travel back to their homes in Apolo--which explains why they seldom go home.

**The majority of people, primarily older people, in this area of Bolivia speak only Quechua, the indigenous language spoken by the Incans.

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