A chance at higher education for Kichwa children

by Highland Support Project
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children
A chance at higher education for Kichwa children

According to the World Health Organization data, Ecuador has been one of the hardest-hit nations in Latin America to the impacts of COVID-19

Jorge Wated, who heads a government task force charged with collecting and burying bodies in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the outbreak, said that in the first 15 days of April, 6,703 people had died from either COVID-19 or natural causes. Previous to the coronavirus outbreak, he said, the monthly figure was around 1,000.  

The Riobamba and Chimborazo region has posted 74,013 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 5,313 linked deaths as of July 19th, according to the World Health Organization.  

In the current conditions, schools are closed, and International English teaching volunteers are prohibited from traveling to Ecuador.   Therefore, it is not possible at this time to continue the programming as designed. 

Guadalupe Ramirez and Ben Blevins from the Highland Support Project visited the Chimborazo region in March for coordination with the Rotary Club of Rio Bamba for an irrigation project with the community of Chismalte.  In that visit, a discussion started about forming a model of education based on the "free" school movement that explores liberating pedagogy with practical skill development to enable Indigenous people to stay on their land, in their community, and with their culture. 

Right now, there are so many variables with how the epidemic is going to unfold, and it is not possible to develop short term plans for adapting.   We are going to temporarily close down this project as we dialogue with partners about the best strategy to address discrepancies in access to education for Indigenous communities. 

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Guadalupe Ramirez and Ben Blevins, directors of the Highland Support Project, visited Guamote, Ecuador, during the first part of March. The purpose of the visit was to formalize planning with Dr. Luis Alberto Tuaza Castro, professor at the National University of Chimborazo, to formalize the planning for an Indigenous University to serve the ninety-eight percent of young adults not served by higher education.

The Institute's purpose is to provide relevant education and training, enabling Indigenous young adults to stay on their land, in their community, and with their culture. The current system of higher education does not focus on the relevant skills, opportunities, or values of the region.

In Ecuador's highly stratified and unequal society, Indigenous youth face many obstacles from obtaining higher education. One significant issue is the inappropriate qualifications required for admission to the University. For example, a portion of the entrance exam is English proficiency, while there is limited English instruction provided in Indigenous regions. Furthermore, entrance exams developed in Chile and adopted for an urban population are not culturally appropriate for Highland communities.

The vision of the Institute is to provide quality education and training for the majority of youth that otherwise would not have an opportunity for the development of critical thinking skills, culturally relevant intellectual development, and practical skills to be productive contributors in their communities.

A significant issue with the current education model is that the skills and world view are not appropriate for the realities of rural communities. To fully utilize the education, students typically have to move to a city or immigrate to the United States. Rather than educating students to improve their communities, students are trained for jobs that do not exist or norms of behavior that make them aliens in the lands of their ancestors.

Currently, Dr. Luis Alberto Tuaza Castro has organized colleagues from Universities to provide weekend classes for young adults that do not qualify for the Univesity. The objective is to provide services to the majority of students that would never be able to attend a Western education institution and provide them with directed education that enables them to live well in the place where they choose.

This pivoting of our programming focus represents a listening process with community leaders concerning their real goals and objectives for their communities. The foundational questions concern the value of an education and world view that forces young people to reject their culture and their community to obtain a life whose value requires a radical change in world view.

Over the next few months, we will be developing the logical framework and sustainability model to provide education in community health, popular education, Indigenous world view, construction, practical engineering, entrepreneurship, and civics.

We thank you for your support as we continue to innovate and invest in transformational programming to break cycles of dependency and marginalization.

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Beloved donors, 

My name is Vania and I have joined the Highland Support Project staff to take on Project Management and Outreach Coordinator roles for Ecuador. I am excited to take on these roles and keep updating all of you as we continue to make progress!

You, our selfless donors, have supported us in our efforts to teach English to children in Ecuador and I’d like to update you on some recent changes. In order to advance education efforts, we focused on attaining work visas for English teachers but unfortunately, the visas were denied by the Ecuadorian government. This means that our current project was not feasible and, regrettably, our work and report update was delayed because of this issue. We deeply apologize for the delay and will assure you are receiving current information going forward.

HSP is excited to announce that we will be shifting our focus towards a new opportunity: water accessibility projects in Chismaute, Ecuador! The water project will focus on irrigation systems to further HSPs mission of healing through food and community-based empowerment.

To offer a little background on this project, Chismaute, Ecuador is a hilltop community that was a result of the ‘encomienda system’ where native people were forced into labor by colonists. The last encomienda was not broken up until the late 1990s in Ecuador and when it was, workers were finally given land of their own. Unfortunately, this land was on mountain tops that didn’t have proper irrigation. As a result, they were unable to grow food and couldn’t feed themselves or their families.

Fortunately, the community is situated between 3 peaks that funnel water year-round into a high-volume river system and serves as a steady water reserve. The community has a water pump but needs to run piping to the mountain to establish an irrigation system for agricultural pursuits. This will make it possible for families to thrive on the land and not worry about food insecurity and give the 1,200 community members a chance at escaping poverty.

Once again, we cannot thank you enough for supporting our project and making it possible for us to keep empowering these communities.


Thank you for your unwavering support,

Highland Support Project

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Hello from the highlands!

The summer has been a time of much growth and reflection as we prepare for the upcoming school year here in Chimborazo. We have begun working with two women's organizations in two of our partner communities to put together a livestock co-op for the parents of students. With a portion of your generous donations from the previous year, combined with resources pooled from the women of the co-op, they were able to buy a number of cuy (guinnea pigs) which they bred to sell, and with the profits, have bought a few sheep to breed, with the end goal of moving up to pigs and eventually cattle for each of the women in the co-op. They are testing this as a pilot program to teach other community members better livestock care and provide another source of both nutrition and income for the families of our students! It's amazing to see so much grow out of the seeds planted over the past couple years.

As for the English and arts program, this year we have 5 volunteers signed on to teach in 4 different communities; our biggest faculty yet, and double the number of schools reached in the 2018-2019 school year! Our deepest thanks go out to all you who have walked with us in this time of growth and development. Your support opens new doors to a generation of children who will have more options than ever before, and helps build agency and resilience within and alongside communities fighting for a brighter future. We can't wait to see what growth this work will bring moving forward.


Aaron Stapel

FYYChE Vice President

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As the end of the school year draws closer, we have the chance to reflect on another year of growth and learning. The students of Balda Lupaxi have now had a volunteer for 3 years, and our network of community partners has now grown to 3 schools in 3 separate communities. Thanks to your support, this summer we will hold a first run of our Tri-lingual Summer Arts program, where children from surrounding communities will have the opportunity to enrich their knowledge of Kichwa culture and arts while gaining language skills necessary for higher education. 

As always, our primary goal is to sustainably grow and nurture existing relationships and reinforce what we have, so our plans for this upcoming year are just that. We will be maintainig our partnerships with the schools in Balda, Cebadas, and Guamote, and any donations recieved that exceed those needs will be put toward a program to provide glasses to students with visual imparments. From all of us at FYYChE and all our partners, thank you so much for your support. We truly could not do any of this without you.

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Organization Information

Highland Support Project

Location: Richmond, VA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @HighlandPartnrs
Project Leader:
Aaron Stapel
Richmond, VA United States

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