Student Residence

Eusebio y Maria at their desk

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The steep slopes of the beautiful Sorata Valley are sprinkled with small clusters of simple homes where subsistence farmers eke out a living. Many of these tiny communities have no high school nearer than Sorata, which may be as much as 6 or 8 hours walk away.

From 2006 through 2018, the BQE-Bo Student Residence "Hogar Estudiantil" offered a home away from home for up to 24 students. In addition to a safe place in town that gave them easy access to high schools, they had three nutritious meals a day plus snacks and the academic support and guidance their parents were unable to provide.

Benito and the lam his village raised to pay for Benito's schoolingThe student residence in Sorata was the fulfillment of a dream of BQEF scholarship graduate Benito Jallurana (right), who for 3 years made the 3½-hour round trip walk from his Quaker home community of Pallcapampa to attend school in Sorata. Benito was the first from his group of villages to attend university.  He wanted others from similar isolated communities to have access to secondary education, so he brought BQEF his dream, with the enthusiastic support of his home community.  Friends in Ireland, the U.S., and other countries financed purchase of the building and pay ongoing expenses. 
Manuel's simple, very rural home. Note the fish suspended for drying, and the simple rainwater catchment system.One of our student residence graduates was Manuel, who lived in a community with no public transportation. He left school early every Friday to walk 10 hours to his home village in the Yungas, tropical lowlands about 2000 feet lower in altitude. He helped his widowed mother farm all day Saturday, then walked the 10 hours back up to Sorata on Sunday to be ready for the school week.  When he was lucky, he  caught a ride on a truck carrying cargo over the very dangerous road.  After graduating, Manuel returned to his community, quickly became a community leader, and was elected mayor the next year.

Juanita and her younger brother Franco (not their real names) walked 6 ½ hours together each Sunday to the student residence in Sorata so that they could have access to secondary education. They spent the school week in a safe and supportive community with nutritious meals, academic support, educational enrichment and loving guidance. On Friday after school they walked home to help the family - tending the chickens, cornfield and vegetable garden.

When Juanita finished 6th grade, the last year available in her local school, her father came to the Hogar Estudiantil in Sorata to apply for her to enter at the start of 7th grade. On the morning that the list of accepted students was to be posted, he left home in the rain at 2:00 a.m. to be sure to arrive before the list went up. He wanted to make sure his daughter was accepted. Her name was on the list. Juanita hoped to enroll in a nursing course of study after graduation, intending to work in a small public health outpost near her home.

Albertina studyingThe students, whose career plans included teaching, architecture, and law, were clear about their  aspirations.  Most planned to attend university.  Rural Bolivians typically earn less than $300 a year, but college graduates earn $300 or more a month. So education changes lives dramatically - for the individual, the family, and future generations.

Aymara culture carries a strong sense of responsibility to one’s community. Just as Benito dreamed of the student residence as a way of sharing the benefits of his education, it is exciting to watch how these young people reached out to help others as a result of their education.

In late 2018, Evo Morales' government, which had worked effectively to improve education for all Bolivians, implemented new regulations that would have increased costs beyond our ability to support them. Sadly, the project had to be closed. Other local efforts have sprung up in its stead, benefiting materially and culturally from the groundwork BQEF and its partners laid.

This project, like so many other worthy projects in Bolivia, grew out of one of our graduate's passions and dreams. If you'd like to support other Young Adult Friends in Bolivia in getting the higher education that empowers them attaining their dreams, please click here to donate.