Celebrating 15 Years of Intercultural Friendship: Confronting COVID-19

In recognition of The Tandana Foundation’s 15th anniversary, we are creating 15 videos featuring cherished members of the organization’s global family. Published in a series of 15 posts on this blog, these videos will highlight key aspects of Tandana’s philosophy, community partnerships, and impactful work that has been done, along with projects still in progress. The videos will serve as a meaningful way to reflect back on what has been accomplished in 15 years as well as provide insight into the Tandana’s future in the next 15 years. 

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The importance of the Gualapuro water project to its residents

For more than two decades the community members of Gualapuro, Ecuador, lacked access to clean drinking water. Without safe water in their community, many residents developed illnesses and had to buy drinking water elsewhere. However, the Gualapuro community never gave up on their dream of clean water. Finally, in December of 2020, the dream of safe drinking water came true upon the completion of a years-long project they worked on in partnership with The Tandana Foundation. In the following blog, four community members share their experiences before and after having clean water. At the end of the post, there is a video featuring many of the people involved in the Gualapuro water project.

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Changing minds and transforming lives through the Savings for Change, literacy, and leadership programs

Thousands of women have participated in the Savings for Change, literacy, and leadership programs, which are organized by The Tandana Foundation in partnership with villages across Bandiagara District, Mali. Whether it is contributing to savings funds, learning how to read and write, or exploring how to be a female leader, not everyone in the villages has immediately recognized the importance of having these programs available to women. Below, three women provide commentary on how the success of the participants is changing the way people think about the programs.

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A look inside Tandana’s virtual ESL program

Learning a new language can be difficult for anyone. There are so many new words to learn and conjugations to memorize. Nevertheless, everyone in Tandana’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program this school year managed to learn and teach one another about their different languages and cultures.

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Ash Varma: A passionate Tandana supporter and patron of education

The Tandana Foundation is immensely grateful to the many individuals who support its efforts in a myriad of ways. The following post tells the story of Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D., one of Tandana’s earliest supporters, who has given his time, ideas, and financial resources to assist the organization in achieving its goals in Ecuador and Mali. Education is a topic Ash is passionate about. His contributions include supporting the creation of a new scholarship program to help more students pursue educational opportunities and setting up an endowment to help fund an existing scholarship program.

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Celebrating 15 Years of Intercultural Friendship: Water

In recognition of The Tandana Foundation’s 15th anniversary, we are creating 15 videos featuring cherished members of the organization’s global family. Published in a series of 15 posts on this blog, these videos will highlight key aspects of Tandana’s philosophy, community partnerships, and impactful work that has been done, along with projects still in progress. The videos will serve as a meaningful way to reflect back on what has been accomplished in 15 years as well as provide insight into the Tandana’s future in the next 15 years. 

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Three perspectives on the Olouguelemo Association’s recent projects

Members of the 24 villages where the Olouguelemo Association operates in Mali are recognizing the successful work being done by the association. With support and guidance from The Tandana Foundation, the village-run organization continues to make progress on its environmental conservation projects, including reforestation, erosion control, and forest protection. The following post contains three commentaries from village residents about these efforts.

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Looking back on 23 years of special connections

As The Tandana Foundation approaches its 15th anniversary, I’m taking a look back at the experience that planted the seeds for its creation so long ago—my first visit to Ecuador in 1998. Twenty-three years ago, I traveled to Otavalo as a volunteer with Global Routes and spent four months in the community of Panecillo. Many of the people I met then have become important members and partners of Tandana, while experiences with community work then led to future projects that Tandana has been involved in with many communities. And, I was introduced to some traditions that I continue to enjoy. In honor of this anniversary, I decided to pull out some photos from that time and reflect on how those special connections have developed over the years.

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Ninari Chimba: activist and role model

Through its partnerships with communities in Ecuador and Mali, The Tandana Foundation has learned about many inspiring individuals who are also working to make a positive difference in the places they live. The following blog post tells the story of one of those individuals: Ninari Chimba, an activist for the advancement of LGBT rights and environmental protection.

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Celebrating 15 Years of Intercultural Friendship: The Opportunity of Education

In recognition of The Tandana Foundation’s 15th anniversary, we are creating 15 videos featuring cherished members of the organization’s global family. Published in a series of 15 posts on this blog, these videos will highlight key aspects of Tandana’s philosophy, community partnerships, and impactful work that has been done, along with projects still in progress. The videos will serve as a meaningful way to reflect back on what has been accomplished in 15 years as well as provide insight into the Tandana’s future in the next 15 years. 

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How friendship saves cultures

Despite the pandemic restricting the ability to see one another in person, students at Sharon High School in Massachusetts in the United States and the Jaime Roldos Aguilera Intercultural Bilingual school in Urkusiki, Ecuador, have still become friends – sharing their cultures, favorite activities, and pets with one another by sending each other videos and participating in regular Zoom calls.

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A stove that saves money and the environment

One of the Olouguelemo Association’s environmental initiatives was to start the local production and distribution of efficient cookstoves, to decrease the need for firewood and trees being cut down. The association, with support from the Tandana Foundation, began offering training sessions for representatives from each of the member villages to teach them how to make two kinds of cookstoves. They are now fabricating those stoves for sale in their villages, and over 175 stoves have been sold. In the following, an owner of one of the association’s cookstoves describes the benefits she has experienced from her new cooking device.

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A scholarship student successfully tackles a challenging semester of remote learning

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schooling in Ecuador switched to virtual formats. Students like Amauta Condorazo Quilumbango Espinosa, a Tandana Foundation scholarship recipient, had to adapt to this new way of learning. In the following letter, Amauta describes a recent semester at his university, including the courses he took and how he took advantage of extra free time to give back and help Tandana.

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A strong family committed to higher education and changing lives

When their youngest son, David, was five, the Cachimuel family moved to the Cotama indigenous community just outside of Otavalo. He played baseball and soccer with friends and swam in the nearby river.  The river – at that time crystal clear, but now seriously polluted by a factory – flows out of San Pablo Lake and cascades over the spectacular ritual falls at the famous craft village of Peguche. He attended a Catholic elementary school in Otavalo, learning from excellent secular teachers and attending mass on Sundays.  There was tension in the family, but shared affection remained strong. It was a happy childhood and a firm foundation for a thoughtful life, one centered on learning how to teach others to deal with the circumstances into which they are born.  Now 28, David has just completed a job in social work, counseling young people to continue their schooling; now he is looking for another job, working in a human resources department for a town or an indigenous community.

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Healthcare in Otavalo Canton, Ecuador

As a public health professional, I have always been interested in health care systems in Latin America, specifically with a focus on health disparities.

I have volunteered most of my life, while working full-time. I enjoy volunteering and have done so for many years. I had stopped for a while to reflect on my next opportunity, what I wanted to do next. Recently I came across The Tandana Foundation website and read about what they do and their mission. When I talked with Maria Jose, (the Ecuador Program Manager) I thought this was perfect for me as I would get a first-hand view of health care in Otavalo, the available resources, and types of care that the community receives.

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A dream come true: clean water in the community of Gualapuro

After many decades, clean water finally arrived in the community of Gualapuro, Ecuador. The following blog describes the long-time efforts to bring water to this community, including the partnership with The Tandana Foundation.

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Dogon dancing: an unforgettable experience

On April 10, The Tandana Foundation will be hosting a virtual venture exploring Dogon dancing and drumming in the Bandiagara district of Mali. Carol Peddie, Kelly McCosh, and Marilyn and Jack Krueger had the chance to experience the warm embrace of Dogon culture firsthand during Tandana’s 2012 trip to visit the villages of Kansongo and Sal-Dimi in Mali. Here we share remembrances of that trip from both our volunteers and local residents Moussa Tembiné of Kansongo, Housseyni Pamateck of Sal-Dimi, and Ada Kanambaye of Sal-Dimi.

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A dream come true through education

The following letter was written by Segundo Remache, a recent college graduate who received a scholarship from The Tandana Foundation. In the letter, he shares his thanks for the support he received, the important research he did as part of his thesis, and what he is able to do now after graduation. Since he wrote the letter, his thesis was officially approved. Congrats, Segundo!

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Overcoming traditional barriers – and a pandemic – to gain literacy, numeracy, and leadership skills

In 2020, 225 out of 294 women earned passing scores on their final exams in the literacy courses organized by The Tandana Foundation in Mali. At 76.5%, this number is slightly lower than the original goal of 80%, but it is still quite impressive considering that the women missed two months of classes due to the pandemic. Despite the challenges of the last year, both the students and teachers rallied to make the classes as successful as possible. In addition, 80 of the best students are now participating in women’s leadership workshops in 2021.

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Looking back on my unforgettable volunteer trip with Tandana – two years later

In 2019, Emily Piwowarski participated in a volunteer trip to Ecuador organized by The Tandana Foundation with her high school classmates from Arendell Parrott Academy. Now a sophomore studying chemistry and marine science at North Carolina State University, she took time to reflect on her memorable experience with Tandana in Ecuador.

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Celebrating 15 Years of Intercultural Friendship: Climbing Together

In recognition of The Tandana Foundation’s 15th anniversary, we are creating 15 videos featuring cherished members of the organization’s global family. Published in a series of 15 posts on this blog, these videos will highlight key aspects of Tandana’s philosophy, community partnerships, and impactful work that has been done, along with projects still in progress. The videos will serve as a meaningful way to reflect back on what has been accomplished in 15 years as well as provide insight into the Tandana’s future in the next 15 years. 

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Moussa’s trip to the United States of America: Part 2

Last fall, two members of The Tandana Foundation’s team in Mali – Moussa Tembine and Housseyni Pamateck – visited the United States on a multifaceted, cross-country trip. While in the U.S., they co-taught a college class, met with Tandana and local community stakeholders, and attended several of the organization’s events. Along the way, they shared the work in Mali as well as the country’s culture. This is part two of Moussa’s story about their trip and what he learned from his time in the United States.

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A village leader explains how Tandana’s approach is different, and why that’s important

From experience, villagers around the Bandiagara District of Mali have observed how non-profit organizations conduct development work. They have seen which approaches have been successful and which have not. In the following, one young leader explains how The Tandana Foundation’s approach – based on mutual respect, partnership, and community responsibility – has been successful in empowering villagers and bringing them together.

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The early success of the women’s enterprises in Mali

In 2019, The Tandana Foundation funded six women’s associations’ business proposals in the Bandiagara District of Mali. These women’s enterprises are now starting income-generating activities, including making nutritional seasoning balls out of néré seeds, raising sheep, transforming cotton into cloth and indigo dyeing. Below four women talk about the progress they have made with their income-generating activities.

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Belén and the Medical Clinics

Playing with cousins and neighborhood friends in the town river, a player on several basketball teams, her high school’s best chemistry student, and a traditionally clad member of an Andean dance troupe, María Belén Cachimuel’s early years suggested that she would use her many talents to become a versatile woman with a clear role in her community. She began by helping her family to make and sell crafts in the Plaza des Ponchos, a famous local handicrafts market.  At thirty, recently graduated from law school and learning the practical side of her profession on the job, she is fully living up to expectations.  Her long-term goal, though, was decisively shaped by the time she spent volunteering for Tandana’s twice-a-year medical clinics for underserved people in outlying indigenous communities around Otavalo, Ecuador.  

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How faith, family, and funding opens doors

Mónica López is a young woman with a strong faith in God, as evidenced by the t-shirt she wore to our interview, featuring a representation of the Lion of Judah. Like the Lion, her faith has given her the strength and determination needed to succeed. The following is Monica’s story, told in her own words, and excerpted from the interview.

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Tandana changes Nayeli’s life

Nayeli Anrango, a member of the Panecillo community, received medical care through Tandana’s mobile clinics in October 2018 after experiencing several epileptic episodes that caused seizures, falls, and loss of consciousness. According to the doctor that saw her, this was a case of child epilepsy and she needed to see a neurologist.

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Five thoughts on the Olouguelemo Association’s recent efforts

All the villages that are members of the Olouguelemo Association continue to reap the benefits of the association’s work. Recent projects have targeted reforestation, erosion control, and increasing water access. Below five residents from several villages around the Bandiagara District of Mali share their thoughts on Olouguelemo’s most recent endeavors.

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A shared philosophy of mutual support and learning

All program coordinators dedicated to social justice and civic engagement are faced with the challenges of community engagement and community building due to the pandemic’s social distancing requirements. How do you connect with others and make substantive change in your community without being able to interact with others or physically enter into a community? My response: we must expand our definition of community.

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Northern Ecuador: Clean water or the Plastic City?

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Part 1

After five weeks dedicated to getting to know the situation of the indigenous people north of Quito, and the ways they are working with government or foundations to strengthen the current situation of their traditional communities, we are finding that getting or retaining a supply of clean water is often crucially important.  The village of Gualapuro, and its 30-year struggle for this human right (which is now coming to a successful end thanks to fundraising efforts by their neighbors and to the Tandana Foundation) stands out in our minds. 

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Bringing global perspectives and multiple forms of knowledge to higher education

Thanks to sponsorship by the O’Donnell Visiting Educator Program and the Center for Global Studies at Whitman College, Associate Professor of Biology Leena Knight and Founding Director of The Tandana Foundation, Anna Taft (Whitman ‘02), organized a course titled Health in Ecuador and Mali: Pandemic, Race, Culture that took place remotely this fall for Whitman College students.

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Reflections from women members of the Savings For Change program in Mali

This year, there are 30 new Savings for Change groups that The Tandana Foundation has helped form in eight villages in the Bandiagara District of Mali. Most of the new groups have 22 members, one group has 27, and two groups have 30 with a total of 681 participants. So far, the groups have collectively saved $3,064.06. The 30 groups, involving 789 women, that started in 2019 held their fund-sharing ceremony after a year of saving. The total funds divided up were $12,269, with each member receiving between $10 and $11.

Below, three women who have joined SFC groups share their thoughts on the success of the saving and credit program in their townships.

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It was a success: Tandana’s first virtual summer school in Ecuador

To continue to support education in Ecuador, The Tandana Foundation worked especially hard this year to offer its annual summer school program despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A visit of a friend to America

Last fall, two members of The Tandana Foundation’s team in Mali – Housseyni Pamateck and Moussa Tembine – visited the United States on a multifaceted, cross-country trip. While in the U.S., they co-taught a college class, met with Tandana and local community stakeholders, and attended several of the organization’s events. Along the way, they shared the work in Mali as well as the country’s culture. This is Housseyni’s story about their trip and what he was able to take away from his time in the United States.

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Tandana’s program coordinator conducts important research into supporting Latinx college students study abroad

As part of her master’s in international education, Nicole Melendez, one of The Tandana Foundation’s program coordinators in Ecuador, completed a research project called “Supporting Latinx College Students Study Abroad.” Melendez specifically looked at U.S. students who identify as Latinx who are studying at post-secondary institutions across America.

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