Monday, August 15, 2011

bringing us joy

"Today brings us much joy!" UAC-CP president Msgr. Juan Vargas told students, faculty, and family and friends gathered last Friday for the 2011 Nursing Department graduation.  Bishop Vargas explained that it's a notable moment when the College community can celebrate the acheivements of UAC-CP graduates. "Today," he said, "we are proud that you will now go out and serve the people of Bolivia in the spirit of the mission of the College."

UAC-CP Nursing graduate Sonia Soto Silicuani is pictured with her parents following the graduation ceremony in Carmen Pampa last Friday.

Last Friday was one of the moments when we are reminded of why we are here, when we can see and celebrate the fruits of our labor.  Sitting in the front row of the church, my camera in hand, I watched as young men and women from the Nursing Department received their pins (and, for the women, their caps). For me, it was a particularly proud moment, as most of the graduates I recognized as first year students from my time at the College as a volunteer eight years ago. 

With tears in his eyes, graduate Paulino Siquita Ramos hugs a well-wisher following graduation ceremonies for the UAC-CP Nursing Department.

Like any other graduation ceremony, several different representatives of the College and the Nursing Department spoke about the significance of what it means to be a graduate of the UAC-CP. "We expect that you will go out and serve your people," Bishop Vargas reminded graduates. "Never forget that being a nurse isn't just about administering medicine. It's also about service--treating people with dignity and respect.  In fact," he added, "that will be perhaps one of the most important parts of your work."

Nursing graduate Paulino Siquita Ramos (pictured above) spoke on behalf of the graduating class. "First, I thank God; I thank God for having given the idea to start a college for young people who have no other options to go to college. And," he continued, "I thank Sr. Damon for her initiative to make this idea a reality."  He went on to thank all the people who made that moment, of graduating from college, possible for him and his classmates.  He remembered UAC-CP faculty and staff, classmates, volunteers, and donors.  And, in particular, he asked the crowd for a round of applause to thank the families of UAC-CP students. The church erupted with joy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2 de agosto: remembering the role of education past and present

Every year on the second day of August, children, adults, and the elderly from about six neighboring communities all gather in the village of Carmen Pampa to celebrate the "día del campesino." It is a day recognized exclusively in Bolivia's rural area that pays tribute to the agrarian reform that occurred nearly 60 years ago as a result of revolutions by indigenous people demanding equal rights and access to things, such as education.

Today, community leader Gregorio Chamiso spoke to a courtyard full of people at the local K-12 high school.  Wearing a royal blue shirt and a sash the colors of the Bolivian flag, Don Gregorio talked about the significance of this day within the context of indigenous heritage.  He also talked about the important role of education in the history of the local communities and reminded people that it is education that promises young people a better future.

Don Gregorio Chamiso, graduate of San Francisco Xavier High School in Carmen Pampa and father of three children, is an advocate of education.

"Today," Don Gregorio said, "isn't just about August 2nd. More than anything, today is about our continued struggle to ensure education for our children, so that they can have a better future.  Because education is what sparks development and prosperity."

After his talk, I thanked him for his inspiring words. He asked that I make sure his sentiments of gratitude and respect reached UAC-CP founder Sr. Damon Nolan, who Greogorio mentioned in his speech and recognized for her role in bringing quality education to rural Bolivia.

Carmen Pampa community members march for the 2 de agosto celebration.

Some of the youngest members of Carmen Pampa share an ice cream cone as they wait their turn to march.

School children and community members from neighboring communities stand at attention as they sing the Bolivian national anthem.