Monday, April 19, 2010


In 2009 the College and Carmen Pampa Fund designed a new initiative: English and Ecotourism--Foundations for the Future. The objective of the initiative was to strengthen the College's English Program--with particular focus on the Ecotourism major.

Jessica Bellock works with a UAC-CP student in the Ecotourism Program.

Thanks to funding from Sieben Foundation, Carmen Pampa Fund was able to form a special task force of ESL experts and hire consultant Dr. Susan Bosher, Associate Professor of English and Director of ESL at St. Catherine University, St. Paul. Together, they have worked with faculty and staff at the UAC-CP to develop a comprehensive overhaul of the College's English Program. The inauguration of the new English curriculum was implemented this past February at the beginning of the 2010 academic year. And we're happy to report that after just two months, exciting progress is already being made!

Our work isn't finished though. In order to sustain the initiative and ensure its success, Carmen Pampa Fund is working with its academic partner St. Catherine University to recruit trained professionals who are interested in sharing their time and talents to help strengthen the College's English Program here in Carmen Pampa. Students at St. Catherine University also have the opportunity to do semester-long internships for credit.

Kyle Piispanan, David Flannery, and Ben Yoder-Henley--volunteers for the 2010 academic year. (Not pictured is Sarah Purcell)

But professional opportunities at the College are not just for St. Catherine University students. We welcome committed and hard-working volunteers with experience in teaching English as a Second Language. In the past we have welcomed students from University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Boston College, College of St. Benedict, South Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, etc. We also welcome retired professionals and professionals who are on sabbatical.

For more information about how you can be a part of this exciting new initiative at the UAC-CP, please visit Carmen Pampa Fund's website to review job descriptions.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Apthapi is a word in the local indigenous Aymaran language. Essentially, apthapi means "pot luck;" it's a communal event when people bring a type of food to share.

In the local communities, campesinos often spread aguayos (their colorful, woven blankets) out on the ground and then place their food offerings on top of it. Little by little, people make their way around filling their plates (or shirt tails) with the variety of items available for consumption.

UAC-CP administers gather together for an apthapi on Campus Leahy.

Apthapis are special events--ways for community members to come together, share, and often celebrate. Several months ago a UAC-CP graduate proudly showed me pictures from the time a very poor community he had been working with organized an apthapi for him. He said most of the apthapi consisted of all sorts of varieties of potatoes. "Though they had so little, I know they brought everything they had to share and they did it partly to honor and thank me. It was beautiful," he said.

In a similar spirit, yesterday the College's nearly 40-member administrative staff hosted an apthapi in honor of visitors from Carmen Pampa Fund--Ann Leahy and Tara Nolan, who were participating in the bi-annual Joint Planning and Oversight Council.

Gathered around a series of long tables topped with all sorts of food prepared by UAC-CP co-workers (potatoes, baked chicken, corn, salad, beef strips, rice, and Hugh's racacha cake), the College Director Fr. Freddy reiterated that, on behalf of the College, he was happy to have our visitors here with us and hoped they felt a part of the College's work.

Cecilia Carrizales reflects on the ability of the College to fulfill its mission with the help of people who provide financial support--like those who give to Carmen Pampa Fund.

UAC-CP graduate and long-time employee Cecilia Carrizales talked a little about how and why we all found ourselves standing there. After reflecting a little bit on the mission of the UAC-CP--to provide education and human formation to young people from Bolivia's poor, rural area--she pointed out that without the work and presence of everyone standing around that table, this "obra de Dios"--"work of God," as students and locals often refer to the College--would not be possible.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I wasn't here when El Alto* native Maribel Villca arrived at the UAC-CP in 1998. So I can't tell how much of her solid character she formed during her time at College. But I do know that she's not the typical image one might have of an indigenous woman living in a developing country--she is a strong, self-assured, and very determined woman.

She's a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister. She's also a business owner. Maribel is a recent graduate of the UAC-CP's Veterinary Science Program and the only certified veterinarian in the Municipality of Irupana, South Yungas.

Maribel stands in the doorway of her Veterinary Clinic holding her bound thesis project.

It's been a long journey--both literally and figuratively--for her to arrive at the place she is now. Though she had finished her studies at the College several years ago, her thesis still stood in the way of her college degree. And when she and her husband, Porfirio Kapa (UAC-CP '09) moved their family back to his hometown in Irupana so that he could manage a rural farm worker cooperative, she was forced to make frequent 24-hour round-trip visits to Carmen Pampa to meet with her thesis advisors. Many times last semester she would stop by my office to say hello--always exhausted, but determined to finish.

Maribel with her daughter Daniela before the final defense in December. "It's important to me that my daughter be here today," Maribel told me. "I want her to know that her mother is a professional."

"What pulled you through?" I asked her during one of her visits to my office last Fall. "What has kept you motivated?" She pointed to many key people who stood by her side--particularly her husband and her brother Eddy.**

She also named her scholarship. "My scholarship is what allowed me to study at the UAC-CP; without my scholarship I would not have been able to finish my studies and graduate. ...I'm so grateful for my scholarship and to the people who make the long-term commitment to provide us with scholarships, because I understand it is a personal sacrifice for people to support us for many years," she said. "In the end," she continued," I hope scholarship donors know that their investment, their commitment to standing with us as we trip and fall along the way, is worth the investment. I believe my life is proof of that."

Maribel, her husband Porfirio (UAC-CP '09) and their children: Daniela, Jonathon, and Nataniel stand in the plaza of Irupana--a town in the South Yungas.

Though it's her husband's hometown, Maribel has made a name for herself as a female professional--the only one in Irupana. "As women, we are tired of being stepped on by men," she told me. "We want to be just as good or better than them. That's what education gives us. And now," she continued, "we are seeing the results. Here, I am respected for my profession."

Her respect and appreciation has grown. A few weeks ago I had lunch with a former UAC-CP student who mentioned that he had heard of Maribel's success. "They were talking about her and her business on the radio," he told me. "It wasn't advertising, they were just saying how great it is to have someone in the pueblo who is a trained professional who is willing to go out to the communities and attend to animals." It was exciting, he said, for him to hear about the success of one of his classmates.

Though the successful defense of her thesis last December officially made her a college graduate, Maribel has one last thing she wants to do before moving on. In May, she will don a cap and gown and walk up on the stage of the Catholic University of La Paz to receive her diploma in front of a packed auditorium. Per her request, I assured here I'll be there to see it happen. "I wasn't so sure I wanted to do it," she confessed when I visited her recently in Irupana. "But Eddy [her brother] said I deserve this; I deserve to have this moment."

*El Alto is the large city on the altiplano that borders Bolivia's capital city of La Paz. It is an overwhelmingly poor area that is home to more than a million people--most of whom have come from the countryside to the city in search of a better life.

**Maribel's younger brother Eddy Villca is also a UAC-CP Veterinary Science graduate.

You can help support women like Maribel with a gift to Carmen Pampa Fund. Click here to transform a life through education!