We're often asked by supporters and patrons, how exactly does our Recipe for a Thriving Community
work? Why are we so passionate about the combination of family planning and education?
and Maria Gabriela
Access to both family planning and educational opportunities has opened the door to a better future for these young women – a future that no one could have predicted when Maria Gabriela first started walking two hours down a trail every day to use the educational resources at our community center and then waited with Johana for erratic public transportation to attend the closest rural high school.
We have known both of their mothers, Selsa and Isabela, since we came to this remote rural valley over 35 years ago, when they themselves were young girls. In those days, most women were illiterate and began giving birth at the age of 14 or 15, bearing a new child every other year or so, foregoing even the meager educational opportunities that existed for themselves and their children. Maternal and infant mortality were a significant fact of life, and a surviving mother often had six or more children by the time she was in her thirties, with several miscarriages and infant deaths along the way. This changed as we worked to make family planning available to all interested women of reproductive age. Most women jumped at this opportunity and the valley norm is now 2-3 children per family, rather than the 6-8 when we first arrived.
Maria Gabriela's mother, Selsa, and her now deceased husband were functionally illiterate, though she does know how to sign her name. With six children, she sought us out for a tubal sterilization, and then focused on her children's education, becoming a responsible community leader as well. Four of her children finished high school with the support of our scholarship program, a proud and unprecedented achievement, given that they had to walk almost two hours up and down the trails every day, and then wait for public transportation to get to the nearest high school. With our support, Maria Gabriela went on to college in our nearby city of Cumaná, and graduated in nursing this year. She will be interning in our surgery program as a step towards finding her first job in the public health sector.
Johana's family comes from even further up this remote valley, more than three hours walking from the road. Over thirty years ago, Johana's grandfather, Darío, was one of the main movers in getting us to give reading and writing lessons to the largely illiterate campesino population, and he himself became fairly literate. Isabela, Johana's mother, also learned to read and write with us before she went on to school. She was one of the star recipients of our first (pre-foundation) grants of $100 a year for schoolbooks and expenses. Her family moved closer to the road when Isabela was an early teen, and she was able to go to high school, a real step forward. Isabela used our family planning program to define the size of her family (4 children), and has worked with our Foundation for years, running one of our subsidized school supplies outlets out of her home. Her two oldest children, Johana and her younger sister Estefani, have been among the best students in our scholarship program. Estefani is now in college with our support. Johana has just graduated in nursing, and begun an internship with our Foundation. In a partnership between the Foundation and the Ministry of Health, she is working in an adolescent center at a large public health facility, as well as training with our staff to present reproductive health workshops in local high schools.
Maria and Johana are pursuing their dreams with real discipline, contributing to and uplifting their community! They are strong role models, admired by their younger peers, mentoring others along the same path, and modeling the gift of education for coming generations. This is our Recipe for a Thriving Community
in action, investing - always - in people first, developing community across generations.
This poor rural environment is boot-strapping itself up through its own human resources, with a little help from its friends.
Please Be One of those Friends:
We count on our donor base, and this year we are asking all of our donors who are in a position to do so, to please donate a little more than last year, so that we can grow our scholarship program and not turn anyone away. Additional funds will be carefully spent to make sure that serious rural students have a chance to continue their education, a critical once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we want to offer to each and every eligible youngster. If you have not given before, please join us now!