Saturday, July 25, 2009

embassy visit

It isn't every day that we have traffic jams and body guards here in Carmen Pampa.  But it isn't every day that we have a visit from the top U.S. Embassy official, either.

This morning, an entourage of SUVs arrived at the College's upper campus--Campus Leahy. In addition to USAID officials, they brought Dr. James Creagan, the Chargé d' Affaires, a.i., at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, who is, for all practical purposes, serving as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia (though, officially, we have been without an ambassador for nearly one year).

Bishop Juan Vargas, Fr. Freddy del Villar and Dr. Mary Norris (Director of USAID's Office of Integrated Alternative Development) look on as Dr. James Creagan meets with Carmen Pampa native Amadeu Aliaga, manager of the UAC-CP's meat factory.

Our special visitors made the three hour journey from La Paz to Carmen Pampa to see first-hand how the UAC-CP, with financial and technical assistance from USAID, is a working model of successful, sustainable development in the Yungas--the mountainous rural area northeast of Bolivia's capital city.

Lidia Cuevas, Director of the UAC-CP's Nursing Department, talks about the College's focus on practical experience. She is pictured with Nicolás Quenta, former governor of the Department of La Paz, Jose Luis Beltran, UAC-CP Agronomy Director, and Msgr. Juan Vargas.

The contingent started their tour on Campus Leahy. Near the new dormitory project, UAC-CP Director Fr. Freddy del Villar talked about the history of the College. He reminded all of us of the time, not so long ago, when there was no possibility for a young person from the rural area to study at the college level--the time when there were literally, and figuratively, no roads leading out of Carmen Pampa.  

Fr. Freddy told our special guests about how Sr. Damon Nolan, working with the local Diocese of Coroico and the Villa Nilo Sub Central (governing Aymaran nation), built the impossible: a college for poor, young people from the rural area. Sixteen years later, here we stand, Fr. Freddy said--on one of two campuses of an internationally recognized college that educates approximately 700 students a year and has more than 200 graduates currently working in their field of study (in fact, UAC-CP graduate Pamela Rocha who now works with USAID also attended today's visit). 

Of course the group toured the College's laboratories, library, meat factory, and coffee plant. But I was most happy to see Dr. Creagan take the time to literally sit down and talk with a group of UAC-CP students. Casually, the students each introduced themselves and talked about their areas of study and plans for the future. "What I have learned from these students," Dr. Creagan later said, "is that they have the desire to return to their communities, to improve their zone."

Aurelio Catari asked that I send special greetings on his behalf to Sr. Damon. "I worked very hard alongside Sr. Damon to make sure education would be available to people in the countryside. The College is a work of God."

A few leaders representing various institutions within the Municipality of Coroico also joined us for part of the day. They all expressed their appreciation for support received from USAID and talked about the importance of working together in the future.  

"I don't think there is a more noble cause than education," said local farmer and community leader, Aurelio Catari. "We are the only college in the Nor Yungas. Before the UAC-CP, we had no opportunities to further our studies after high school. But now," he continued, "the College provides a future. I want to thank USAID, Sr. Damon Nolan, and all the people who support the College to make education possible."

Dr. James Creagan and Fr. Freddy del Villar pose for a picture at the College's coffee plant.

"I am really impressed by what you have here and what you are doing," Dr. Craegan told a group of USAID and UAC-CP representatives before lunch. "The College is small, but growing and I see a real future here. You are doing great work." He added that he would like to see both government agencies and individuals join forces to support the College.

While the road out of Carmen Pampa has been built, it has yet to be smoothly paved. Hopefully visits and testimonials from people like Dr. Craegan will help us secure funding and support so that we can offer our students the best education--so that we can fulfill Sr. Damon's original pre-road vision: to ensure that people live dignified lives and that less injustice and poverty exist in the world.

No comments: