Sunday, May 8, 2011

la fiesta de ayni

In the spirit of Ayni--the indigenous Aymaran practice of working together for the common good of everyone--Carmen Pampa Fund is hosting its 3rd-annual La Fiesta de Ayni.

La Fiesta de Ayni provides people who have long been involved in the success of the College the opportunity to reunite and learn about changes, achievements, and challenges in Carmen Pampa. The event also introduces the mission and vision of the College to people who are unfamiliar with Carmen Pampa Fund's work.  (Like, for instance, this five minute minute video from the first La Fiesta de Ayni.)

This year special invited guests direct from the College in Bolivia include UAC-CP Vice Director Dr. Hugh Smeltekop with several UAC-CP students and graduates.  Please join them in celebrating Carmen Pampa Fund's work to support the common good at the College in Carmen Pampa.

The event will be held June 23rd, at 6pm in the Rauenhorst Ballroom on the 3rd floor of the Coeur de Catherine building at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more information or to RSVP, please call Carmen Pampa Fund's office: 651/641-1588 or email:

Monday, May 2, 2011

maría francisca agramont

Thanks to Sam Steinberger who traveled the narrow, dusty and sometimes treacherous roads of rural Bolivia to interview recipients of CPF's Scholarship Partners Program at their homes during vacation. The following is one of Sam's stories from his journey.

Of the roughly 600 families in Alcoche and surrounding communities, María Francisca Agramont is one of five young people studying at the UAC-CP. At 21-years-old, she's entering her third year of Agronomy at the College. Her studies are funded with a scholarship from Carmen Pampa Fund.

In the courtyard behind her adobe brick home María tells me of the challenges she's had to overcome in order to study, the poor health of her parents, and the way she envisions helping others with the education she's receiving.

María's decision to study Agronomy is based partially on the vocational orientation as part of her Pre-University course at the College, but mostly on the need she sees in her community. "I live in a rural area and the community always needs, at the very least, somebody who can help out. Some people that live in the communities don't understand very well how we can improve yields."  Beyond using her education for others, she adds, "Also, I like it!"

Entering the UAC-CP was a decision based on the assistance available there and the suggestion of a cousin. Word of mouth was what first caught her awareness. "Everyone was always talking about how good the College was, and how economical it was, too." But her parents' health was in decline, so financially, attending the College was nearly impossible. "I couldn't study for financial reasons." she says.  Both her parents have spent time in the hospital this year, and as a result her family was unable to plan anything. Her mother continues recovering and her father is better, but still too weak to work. The resources at the UAC-CP offered hope. "I had a cousin studying there and he told me that I could study there; it was affordable. For that reason I arrived to Carmen Pampa and got the scholarship there."

Her story echoes the words of many scholarship recipients: "If I didn't have the scholarship, it'd be pretty tough." Carmen Pampa Fund's Scholarship Partners Program makes it possible for María to study. "It's always a huge help, because every month arrives and if you don't have a scholarship you have to be thinking about paying your tuition, your food. But the scholarship is a great help."

For María, obtaining an education is about giving back. She's exploring thesis topics related to the improvement of soils because she knows that is what her community needs. "For example, "she says, " one hectare we could harvest at least 50 quintales [of rice]. But now, with all the time that's passed, we can only harvest 30." She points out, "The farmers don't understand very well how to properly manage the land." Armed with knowledge of organic, María hopes to improve yields. "Almost nobody around here realizes that earthworms are a benefit for the soil, that they improve the soil."

After completing her studies at the UAC-CP, María plans to eventually return to her community. "My dream has always been to have a company so I can create jobs." She understands that the process will take time, but she doesn't lack motivation. "The field of agronomy should be a big help for other people."

"In order to help others, we should begin with what we're studying. That's why we study. Not just for ourselves, also considering others."