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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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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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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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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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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Tandana wins Nonprofit Eclipse Integrity Award for outstanding ethics in community service

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Dayton has selected The Tandana Foundation as the winner of its 2020 Nonprofit Eclipse Integrity Award, which is its highest honor for ethics, honesty, and integrity. Continue reading “Tandana wins Nonprofit Eclipse Integrity Award for outstanding ethics in community service”

Two personal stories illustrate the value of community

By committing to create and nurture intercultural relationships, Tandana recognizes the value of community as a major driving factor of our work.

In Ecuador, the stories of two members of Tandana’s staff exemplify the way in which experiencing community -whether new or familiar- provides an incomparable opportunity for growth. Continue reading “Two personal stories illustrate the value of community”

Birthdays mean special celebrations with Tandana!

No matter how people like to celebrate their birthdays, it’s always nice to be recognized on the day you were born. Since coming to The Tandana Foundation, in January 2019, I have been able to celebrate many birthdays with my coworkers, host family, and friends in Ecuador. Continue reading “Birthdays mean special celebrations with Tandana!”

Tandana’s founder receives this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award from The Wellington School

In recognition of the impact of her international service efforts and her impact on the school, Anna Taft, founder of The Tandana Foundation, was recently honored with the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award by The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio. Taft, who graduated from Wellington in 1997, was the fifth member of the school’s alumni to earn the award. Continue reading “Tandana’s founder receives this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award from The Wellington School”

Tandana’s Theory of Change based on its experience and history of positive outcomes

Many organizations use Theories of Change to map out the series of steps and interventions that lead to their long-term goals and desired social changes. Typically, a Theory of Change is based on causal linkages and informed by instrumental logic. It is often associated with the attempt to control human affairs as though we were making something. The temptation to bring the mode of fabrication, or “making,” to human affairs is perennial, because of frustration with the unpredictability, irreversibility, and anonymity of action; however, if instrumental logic controls what we do, we are obliged to accept any means to given ends, the justification of violence, the loss of meaningfulness, and inevitable failure, because the actual course of events is bound to be full of the unexpected. Continue reading “Tandana’s Theory of Change based on its experience and history of positive outcomes”

Its not work, it’s a lifestyle

I had been walking among indigenous communities and people of many different hues for some years when one day, on the slopes of the Tayta Imbabura, I crossed paths with a Yachak of the Kichwa Otavalo nationality who told me: “You have to plant seeds, wherever you step, wherever you go. You have to plant seeds. Always leave something of you wherever you go, and let others plant seeds in you wherever you go.” Continue reading “Its not work, it’s a lifestyle”

From hacienda to commune to cooperating farm families

Jose Sanchez is an indigenous farmer who grew up working in the fields of a newly formed commune and was optimistically helping organize the former share-croppers that had been liberated from huasipungo, ‘serfdom,’ in the 1960’s. He lives in Cotacachi, a town of 8,000 located a few miles from Otavalo, and with his wife maintains and manages (at a low salary) a beautiful guest house owned by an absentee landlord long resettled in Quito. His mother is still the owner of a small cornfield in the lands of the former hacienda, but it is not mechanized and doesn’t produce much crops or income. The net result of the ‘liberation’ of the sharecroppers is that they, as before the 1960’s, do all the work and yet remain quite poor. Continue reading “From hacienda to commune to cooperating farm families”

I learn to become more human while working to benefit others

My name is Veronica Pazmiño and, for around five years, I’ve been in charge of the scholarship program for The Tandana Foundation. Tandana for me is an opportunity, because I’m not just working with students, also, I’m supporting families, communities, and creating strong relationship with communities around Quichinche Parish in Ecuador. Continue reading “I learn to become more human while working to benefit others”

What I’ve learned about creating beneficial volunteer programs

Intercultural volunteer programs are an integral part of The Tandana Foundation’s work and serve our mission of supporting the achievement of community goals and addressing global inequalities through caring intercultural relationships that embody mutual respect and responsibility. In the blogosphere, on college campuses, and increasingly in the press, critics of transnational volunteering claim that such programs can be detrimental to host communities or at least less positive than they seem. Some of the criticisms are valid to the extent that they apply to some programs that are irresponsibly conceived. Others misunderstand the purpose and miss the great value of intercultural volunteer programs that are organized well. Continue reading “What I’ve learned about creating beneficial volunteer programs”

Tandana’s founder explains the importance of organizations taking a personal approach in new thesis

Creating and leading The Tandana Foundation has been a great experiment, based on commitments to certain values and on hunches about how we can work together in positive ways. Over the last thirteen years, I’ve heard a lot about what this work means to people and seen its effects in communities, and all of these experiences have helped me understand better what exactly it is that we are doing together. I’m very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had during the last year to synthesize and articulate the philosophical foundations, the experiences, and the changes that emerge when we approach collective work in a personal way. I’ve gathered these thoughts and observations in my thesis for a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Skidmore College. Continue reading “Tandana’s founder explains the importance of organizations taking a personal approach in new thesis”

Reflecting on my time with Tandana, ready to tackle another great challenge

For nearly a decade, Susan Koller has been a beloved team member of The Tandana Foundation, helping to spread awareness of the organization’s mission and share stories on this blog and with the media. As Susan leaves Tandana to pursue a cause very close to her heart, she has composed this blog to reflect on her time with the organization and how its philosophies influenced her decision to pursue her next impactful endeavor. Continue reading “Reflecting on my time with Tandana, ready to tackle another great challenge”

Tandana’s global team

While the Tandana Foundation’s official headquarters is near Dayton, Ohio, its members are located around the world. From the mountains of Colorado to the highlands of Ecuador, across the Atlantic Ocean to rural plateaus of Mali, Tandana truly has a global team. Despite being separated by geography, the team is connected by a sense of purpose and commitment to carry out the foundation’s mission. Aided by Whatsapp chats, Zoom meetings, and countless email exchanges, the operations team successfully works together to support the communities it partners with in Ecuador and Mali. Read about some of its members below, including how they got involved with Tandana and what they like most about working for the organization. Continue reading “Tandana’s global team”

Caring, Respectful, Responsible Intercultural Relationships; Wisdom; Process and Goal: Part 10

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
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Caring and Compassion: Part 9

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Caring and Compassion: Part 9”

Respect and Responsibility: Part 8

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Respect and Responsibility: Part 8”

Experiencing gratitude and Greater awareness of what it is to be human: Part 7

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Experiencing gratitude and Greater awareness of what it is to be human: Part 7”

Sharing, Promise-keeping, Forgiveness: Part 6

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Sharing, Promise-keeping, Forgiveness: Part 6”

Unpredictable Outcomes and Self-Reflection: Part 5

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Unpredictable Outcomes and Self-Reflection: Part 5”

Live Encounters and Experiencing Difference: Part 4

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Live Encounters and Experiencing Difference: Part 4”

Moral Obligations and Meaningful Action: Part 3

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “Moral Obligations and Meaningful Action: Part 3”

First-Person Orientation and Reaching Out: Part 2

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 
Continue reading “First-Person Orientation and Reaching Out: Part 2”

Reaching Out to Others with a Personal Approach: Part 1 – The Tandana Foundation

The development project as an attempt to bring all societies “forward,” along a supposed continuum, is unjustifiable.  And yet there is much important work to be done that looks very much like, and is even called, “development.”  Without development theory as a guiding framework, why do we do this work?  I have tried to explain the philosophical underpinnings for Tandana’s work, describing how they led to the work we do, but even more importantly, to the way in which we do this work. 

Continue reading “Reaching Out to Others with a Personal Approach: Part 1 – The Tandana Foundation”

Moving Mountains– Literally

cancha REACH playingBy Shannon Cantor

I recommend that you travel to the highlands of Ecuador, to the small city of Otavalo. From the terminal—its own chaos of moving people, cars, and shouts—take an old, blue bus parked in the third row from the right-hand side, with a sign in the window marked “Quichinche.” Get off after about 25 minutes, when you reach the last stop. Walk half an hour, straight up hill, through cow fields and a eucalyptus forest. Only then will you find yourself in the community of Agualongo de Quichinche. Continue reading “Moving Mountains– Literally”

Respect and Responsibility Bring About Positive Change

A volunteer connecting with a villager in Mali

In May 2017, The Tandana Foundation held a fundraising event. Tandana’s Founding Director, Anna Taft, spoke at the event. Below is the text of her speech. Continue reading “Respect and Responsibility Bring About Positive Change”

Founding Director Explains Tandana’s Personal Orientation

In November 2016, The Tandana Foundation held a dinner celebrating its 10th anniversary. Anna Taft, Tandana’s Founding Director, spoke at the dinner. Below is the text of her speech. Continue reading “Founding Director Explains Tandana’s Personal Orientation”