Friday, July 31, 2009

la asunta: parte dos

One of the coolest things about visiting students in their homes or places of employment is that I get to see them in their realm. I'm on their turf--the place where they are proud and confident; they are always excited to introduce me to their family or to show off their work. For me, it's a phenomenal opportunity to know our students in a way that I really can't know them at the UAC-CP.

Janneth Quispe, a UAC-CP thesis student currently working as an intern with ARCo in La Asunta, credits her Carmen Pampa Fund scholarship for allowing her to study at the UAC-CP.

For example, Janneth Quispe. I've known Janneth pretty much the entire time she's been at the UAC-CP. But during the two and a half days I spent in La Asunta a few weeks ago, visiting her at the ARCo offices (where she's doing a five-month internship helping farmers develop business plans), I gained a new appreciation of Janneth. I admit, she even surprised me a bit. I was wowed.

In a country that, especially for young indigenous women, doesn't have many opportunities for (higher) education or professional work, Janneth proves she is an exception. I couldn't help but notice that Janneth was solidly holding her own as the only woman in an obviously male-dominated environment. "You know," she told me later, "I'm a feminist...and I'm proud that the UAC-CP is a place for women...where women can go forward."

Janneth almost lost her opportunity to 'go forward.' "Actually," she confessed, "I was going to leave the UAC-CP." After her first year in the College's Pre-University program, she explained, her parents were having very rough financial times and, as the oldest of four children, she was planning to leave her studies to go work. The cost of the College, though minimal, would have been unaffordable.

Though she was prepared to leave, her classmates encouraged her to apply for a scholarship. "My friends told me to wait and see," she recalled. "They said 'You're a good student, maybe you will get a scholarship.'"

Janneth enters data before heading out for an afternoon (and evening) visiting farmers in the countryside. In the background is a giant map of La Asunta and all of the many communities in which she works.

In fact, to Janneth's surprise, the College awarded her a full scholarship from Carmen Pampa Fund based on academic success and financial need. It's a scholarship she's maintained throughout her academic career at the UAC-CP. "It helped me so, so much," she said. "And when I think that maybe I wouldn't have returned to college the following year...Who knows? I'll never know."

What Janneth does know is that she's going to graduate from college. Her thesis project, a study of the application of vermicompost on four varieties of garlic in the community of San Pablo (near Carmen Pampa), is in its final stages. When she's not working at ARCo, she said, she's interpreting data and writing her thesis. She hopes to present the first stage of her findings at the end of August.

When I asked her about her experience at the UAC-CP, especially now as she considers her work with ARCo, Janneth told me: "At the College, I have learned so many things. But I feel especially grateful for the training I received from my professors. The truth is, I am really capable of the work I do; I'm confident and comfortable with the person that I am. And," she said, "I think I would be very different if I didn't study in Carmen Pampa."

Because of her determination and her CPF scholarship, Janneth will never know what might've or could've been. Instead, Janneth Quispe will be one more name I'll have the pleasure of adding to our list of graduates.

1 comment:

sarah mechtenberg said...

I received the sad news yesterday that Janneth's father died suddenly.

When I interviewed Janneth in La Asunta for this blog posting she talked a lot about her family...specifically her dad. She said he always looked out for her--he always made sure he knew where she was going and when she was coming home; he inquired about her grades and her classes; he was looking forward to her graduation from college. He was strict with his children, Janneth told me. But she knew it was because he loved his kids and wanted a better life for them. She gave lots of props to her mom and dad for their hard work in helping her get to where she is today.