Friday, December 11, 2009

nursing grad in the new york times

A few months ago The New York Times asked readers to submit photos that they believe show the importance of educating girls and empowering women. They published the photo I submitted of UAC-CP Nursing graduate Genoveva Orosco--a photo that I feel captures the confidence and the pride and the social and economic change that happens--often in just one generation--when people have access to education.

The photo published online in the New York Times Magazine shows Genoveva, in her nursing uniform, standing with her very stoic and traditional campesino parents on graduation day in Carmen Pampa, August 2008.

Genoveva, like many of her UAC-CP counterparts, could easily be one of the women featured in the now widely read and Oprah-touted "Half the Sky"--a book by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn that makes the argument for how women in the developing world have the capacity to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

One of six children, Genoveva is not an ordinary college graduate. She is the daughter of extremely poor potato farmers who barely finished grade school. She is a young woman who first came to study in Carmen Pampa in 2003--traveling alone, up to 12 hours away. She is a proud, indigenous person who, with little to no financial help from her parents, carved out a future by working weekends and summers* in order to pay for part of her studies (she also had a partial scholarship). She is the first of everyone in her family to graduate from college and work as a professional.

Genoveva on a recent visit to Carmen Pampa.

Genoveva is also a young woman who exemplifies the mission of our work here at the College. Today, one year after graduation, she lives in her home community of Sapanani (a town located about 20 miles from the Bolivian city of Cochabamba) where she works as the coordinator of a public health center. While the health center is part of a larger network of clinics funded by Fundación San Lucas, at her site she manages three other people. Her job, she told me, not only helps her to support her family, but she feels good about providing medical consultations for the people of her community.

Even though she isn't mentioned in Kristof's book, Genoveva goes down in my book as a testament to the power of education to transform lives. And because she now has a college degree, Genoveva has choices she never would have had otherwise...which means the sky--whether or not she holds it up--is the limit.

*For those of you who have been to the Volunteer House in Carmen Pampa, Genoveva helped paint most of it during summer vacation 2005.

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