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!

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