Dear Friends and Supporters of The Chijnaya Foundation:

As a new member of the Board of Directors of The Chijnaya Foundation, I attended my first annual meeting of the Board in January 2017. My introduction to the Foundation came via a letter much like this one. When I read that the Board included Ralph Bolton and Paul and Polly Doughty, I knew that the Foundation’s work would be of the highest order, for I had known them and their anthropological research in Peru for many years.

Following my first Board meeting and hearing about the previous year’s activities and accomplishments, I was eager to go to Peru to check out the reports and see for myself. I returned from a two-week visit to the Altiplano in February, impressed and overwhelmed by what I found. We visited thirteen communities involved with the Foundation and in each community, we met with villagers to learn about their concerns, hopes, and needs. It was a remarkable trip because of the privilege we had to see first-hand the impact of projects funded by the Foundation thanks to the generosity of its supporters. I am delighted to have this chance to give you a snapshot of our programs and to thank all of you for the support you have given the Foundation for its work in Peru.

The Foundation has programs in health, education and economic development. The work is grounded in a philosophy of integrated development with sustained involvement in communities committed to ending poverty. This means that the Foundation supports a diverse set of projects within each community with an emphasis on self-help, community empowerment and on-going engagement and evaluation of project outcomes.

We witnessed this type of multi-project and sustained involvement throughout our visit. In each community, we heard about projects previously carried out or underway, as well as plans for new projects identified by the communities. Invariably, villagers spoke with pride and gratitude about the benefits derived from our rotating funds microcredit program, the savings program, the youth scholarships program, and their plans for the future. Meetings often concluded with traditional Andean hospitality, the sharing of a meal of roasted potatoes and cheese, quinua pudding, fried fresh trout from Lake Titicaca, and Inka Kola.

Allow me to offer a small sample of the projects we inspected. In La Union, a herding community located at 13,500 feet above sea level, we saw the new portable alpaca shelters designed by villagers with the assistance of Engineers Without Borders in collaboration with the Foundation. Used during the rainy season when the alpacas are moved to higher pastures, these temporary structures protect baby alpacas from freezing weather, snow, hail, and predators. Baby alpacas have a high mortality rate and these shelters vastly improve their chances of survival and the well-being of the herd. They improve the economy of herding families in remote mountain communities.

In the community of Tuni Requena, we inspected the hay baler purchased last year with funds from a loan arranged by the Foundation. We met one of our scholarship students who assisted the community with the financial calculations needed to assess the viability of the baler project. The baler is rented to members of Tuni Requena and neighboring communities to harvest barley and alfalfa. The profits from this village enterprise will enable the community to repay the loan of $12,500 in four years.

To complement the microcredit program and to promote financial independence rather than dependency, the Foundation has launched a group savings program. Our savings educator, Rosmery Montesinos, has successfully organized savings groups in seven communities. We watched her in action in La Union. Well-known and respected, she takes groups through each step in the process, explaining the savings group concept and teaching the groups about basic financial practices. Each recipient of funds explains how the funds are to be used. Without such a savings program, it would be impossible for most villagers to acquire sufficient funds to achieve economies in their purchase of seeds, small equipment or other necessities. With sufficient funding to support Rosmery’s work, we anticipate major expansion of the self-help savings program in the coming year.

I was delighted by the number of women attending community meetings and by the frequency with which they spoke, often in their native language, Quechua. It is not unusual to find women serving as the president of their community or savings association. Clearly both Dr. Maldeca Aragon, head of our dental program, and Rosmery Montesinos, have gained the confidence of the women in these communities. Women who do not speak in public meetings often discuss concerns with Maldeca and Rosemary in private settings. This gives the Foundation added insights into the needs of women and children who make up a large percent of the population in isolated rural villages from which many men have emigrated to the cities on the coast in order to make a living.

A highlight of the trip was meeting with students who have received a Foundation scholarship. These young people are often the first in their families to attend either a University or an Institute. Part of the application process requires the students to identify a project they would like to undertake in their home communities. We currently support 54 students with grants of either $800 for those in a university or $500 for those attending a technical institute. This year 28 women and 26 men are scholarship recipients. The students we met were serious and committed to careers and training that should be both personally rewarding and beneficial to the region. Their fields of study include education, veterinary medicine, obstetrics and nursing, computer science and technology, auto mechanics and electrical engineering, among others.

The students have formed an association to link themselves to one another as a way of providing support for the challenges they face as they adapt to university life. Their association is called, “New Dawn” (Musoq Rijchary). At their meetings, students discuss the projects underway in their communities and sometimes decide to combine efforts across communities. From our perspective, it appeared that the student group provides a vital support link for first generation students and helps to explain the high rate of persistence and completion for our scholarship holders. We found it impressive that so many communities expressed their profound appreciation for the scholarship program during our meetings in the villages.

In Ccotos, a lakeside village, the Foundation supports projects in two family associations engaged in rural tourism. The rotating funds provided to these associations allow them to improve their facilities and attract more tourists. This activity enhances the incomes of these farmers. Further to the north, we visited ceramic artisans in the town of Jose Domingo Choquehuanca. Here the Foundation works with artisans to improve productivity and to adopt new technology to protect their health, while generating more income.

It was clear from our visits to communities in the Chijnaya network that the Foundation is achieving its goals. The Foundation places high priority on improving the financial situation of poor families through increased production. The “Chijnaya Model” of microcredit is extremely successful in raising family incomes. With your donations, we create rotating funds that are managed by the communities with ongoing advice from our Project Director in Peru, Jhuver Aguirre. The amount of money in these community-owned funds is now over $170,000. With additional funds, we could expand this program.

Thanks, once more, to everyone who has donated in the past to the Foundation’s work. Your help is essential to the Foundation’s success. To those who have not contributed, please consider becoming part of this effort. Our trip to see the Foundation’s work first hand convinced us that this is money well spent. Donors can be confident that their money is being used wisely and as promised.

With best wishes – saludos y abrazos,
Susan C. Bourque

P.S. The Foundation encourages donors to come and see our work for themselves. In September, Ralph Bolton will lead a group visit to the region. I encourage you to consider joining the trip. I believe you will be enlightened and gratified by the experience. Even if you can’t make the journey, please consider a gift to the Foundation. Your support is getting to those who need it most, alleviating poverty and promoting empowerment. Contact us to join.

Biographical note: Susan C. Bourque (PhD, Cornell) is an Andean specialist whose first research in Peru was conducted in the 1960s. She is co-author of Women in the Andes, a seminal book on gender. Dr. Bourque is professor emerita at Smith College where she also served as provost and dean of the faculty. She has a strong interest in women’s educational issues.

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