The opportunity to pursue higher education can be an important factor in whether people are able to pursue their dream jobs. That opportunity has been a long-time in the making for 35-year-old Elvia Magdalena Muenala López, a recipient of a scholarship from The Tandana Foundation in Ecuador.
In the letter below, hear from the nontraditional university student about how the scholarship is opening doors to landing her dream career as an educator in her community.
Today, many people across Mali are living in a climate of concern, mistrust, and sometimes open conflict amid terrorism and violence. Hundreds of school-age children have fled their homes with their families and sought refuge in cities and towns. Even in the relative safety of the towns, they are experiencing incredible challenges, including the ability to continue their education.
In exchange for financial support for their education, recipients of The Tandana Foundation’s post-secondary scholarships are required to contribute their skills in the form of service to benefit their community. For scholarship recipient Fernando Lascano, community service is at the forefront of his mission to become a lawyer.
In the letter below, Fernando shares about his University journey, along with thanking Tandana and his sponsors for enabling him to pursue his dreams through education.
After being held virtually for two years, The Tandana Foundation’s Summer School program in Ecuador returned to in-person instruction this year. Among those happiest to be back in-person was Hank Fincken, who has taught a theatre course to students during seven iterations of Tandana’s Summer School.
The village of Dani in the Bandiagara District of Mali has 240 students spanning six grade levels and three teachers assigned to deliver their education; however, there is no elementary school for the students and teachers in Dani. As a result, the teachers have to find space wherever they can to conduct their classes and educate their students outside a classroom environment.
Last year, The Tandana Foundation welcomed 18 motivated and inspiring students into its first cohort of students in the Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D. Scholarship Program in Mali. Made possible by a generous gift from Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D., the new scholarship program helps students from rural Mali learn professions that are very needed in the rural communities, such as healthcare and agrofrestry.
The school in Andjine, Mali has three teachers assigned by the government, but the number of students in first through sixth grades at the school keeps growing. Salimata Karembe, who is from Andjine and trained as a teacher, began volunteering to help the school. Now, she is contracted as a local teacher for the third and fourth grades. The Tandana Foundation covers half of Salimata’s salary, while the parents pay the other half, so that she can continue at the school. Salimata also participated in Tandana’s women’s literacy and leadership programs and is a great role model for the students.
My full name is Cindy Belen Perugachi Sinchico, and I am from the community of Yambiro. I am studying advertising at the Tecnica del Norte University in Ibarra. I am 19 years old, and I am of indigenous nationality (Kichwa). With all my heart I hope that you and your whole family are doing very well, and also that all your dreams and goals become possible because with the help of God everything is possible.
Hello everyone, I am happy to say hello in this new year. I want to say that I have been studying virtually for three semesters, that is, since the pandemic began. It has not been easy at all, but I have gotten used to it. In 2021, I finished one semester in April and started a new one in June.
My name is Fernando Javier Lascano Trujillo. I was born in the community of Gualsaqui, which belongs to the Quichinche Parish in Ecuador, where nature, animals, and the unique landscapes make each of us live deeply grateful to the Pachamama (Mother Earth).
The Tandana Foundation recently welcomed 18 motivated and inspiring students into its first cohort of students in the Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D. Scholarship Program in Mali. Made possible by a generous gift from Dr. Ash B. Varma, M.D., the new scholarship program helps students from rural Mali learn professions that are very needed in the rural communities, such as healthcare and agrofrestry.
During the global celebration of The Tandana Foundation’s 15th anniversary, several inspiring individuals involved in the organization’s programs were invited to share their stories with the hundreds of virtual attendees in the audience. The following is the transcript of the speech given by Hawa Yalcouyé, coordinator of the new Dr. Ash B. Varma M.D. scholarship program in Mali.
As our commitment as a foundation is to help scholarship students, we have been opening the doors of the office so that students can come and use The Tandana Foundation’s internet and computers to do their homework.
Thanks to a grant from the All People Be Happy Foundation, The Tandana Foundation was able to support the elementary school in Saredina in creating a school garden in 2020. The school garden provides many benefits: the garden allows students to earn an income that they can use to purchase school and first aid supplies; enriches students’ educational experience and nutrition; and builds market gardening and project management capacities among students and teachers. In addition, the garden will also improve access to education for students from rural communities.
Below, hear from staff and students from Saredina Elementary School and community members about how the school garden is positively impacting learning and working experiences and the village as a whole.
For the past six years, Tandana Summer School students in the theatre course taught by Hank Fincken have put on a play as a fun way to practice their understanding of drama skills they were introduced to throughout the summer. This summer, the course – and the play – were conducted virtually. In a series of Facebook posts, Fincken provided status reports of their work to make the play a success, including the challenges posed by Zoom and what he and the students learned from the experience. As he tells students, “Theatre is a team sport that needs no losers.”
At the end, be sure to check out the play that Fincken and the students performed. It was performed in Spanish and has English subtitles.
Last year, furniture built by participants in the Kansongo carpenters workshop – a program supported by The Tandana Foundation – was delivered to the school in Andjine, Mali, via moto-tricycle. The special delivery was made possible thanks to the Bellbrook United Methodist Church, which helped fund both the tricycle and the furniture. Below, one Andjine villager talks about how important it was to find assistance acquiring the furniture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cristina Fuerez and her younger sister Margarita were born and raised in a traditional, mudbrick cabin on a small farm near the village of Panecillo, Ecuador. Small and dark, having only a single room without windows, plumbing or electricity, the house still stands high on a sloping parcel of hillside that their paternal grandfather managed to secure, in a two-year legal struggle. In the 1960´s, he was forced to walk the seventy miles to Quito several times to obtain the necessary legal papers, when Ecuador finally abolished sharecropping serfdom, known as huasipungo. Many of his indigenous neighbors didn’t manage it and lost the land they had occupied for generations. That grandfather’s spirited defense of his rights, despite obstacles, lives on in his granddaughters. Continue reading “Independence through education and determination”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, The Tandana Foundation has been supporting our community partners in Mali through conducting education about prevention measures, assembling and distributing hand-washing stations, and providing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to a hospital and local health centers. Members of the Tandana team have also recorded a radio broadcast with public health information that has aired across the Bandiagara District. Below three community leaders share the impact of this work and express their gratitude for the foundation’s support. Continue reading “The impact of Tandana’s COVID-19 response in Mali”
The Tandana Foundation organizes and supports a number of women’s programs in the Bandiagara District of Mali, including literacy, numeracy, and leadership courses and income-generating activities. The following blog contains a recent update from a literacy and leadership student who shares a story of what she was able to accomplish through participating in the courses. Continue reading “Newfound confidence and abilities”
A language is an important part of any culture, along with the identity of its people. The ability to speak, read, and write allows a community to communicate with one another and conduct business and everyday transactions. Despite being told otherwise, Sophie Sorgho learned that Tommo So, a language spoken by the Dogon people of Mali, has great value thanks to her participation in literacy classes organized by The Tandana Foundation in her village. In the following, Sophie shares her story.Continue reading “Tommo So – a language of unimaginable value”