When Sr. Damon founded the Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa in 1993, she said that the key to lifting people out of poverty was to give them options for their future.
Rosy and Isabel Apaza Catari, two sisters who study Education and Nursing at the College, agree.
“At the UAC-CP, it’s our decision—what our future is going to be like,” says Isabel.
|Sisters Isabel (left) and Rosy Apaza Catari.|
For Rosy, a 4th year Education student, and Isabel, a 1st year Nursing student, the ability to choose their life’s path is a blessing. Since their father passed away several years ago, their mother has sacrificed a great deal to send the two young women to school and give them these options.
“Our mother always tells us, ‘Don’t be like me.’’’ Rosy says. “She works hard, in sun and rain, so that we can support ourselves with our minds rather than working in the fields.”
In addition to providing an affordable choice for higher education, studying at the UAC-CP allows the sisters to be close to their family. They come from Coripata, a neighboring town in the Nor Yungas region, and often return home on the weekends to work with their mother.
“Her desire for us to get ahead is what motivates me to learn,” says Rosy. Isabel adds, “She often calls us to make sure we’re studying!”
As the first and second in their immediate family to attend college, Rosy and Isabel understand the importance of studying, graduating, and becoming professionals. While they have different interests—and live on different campuses (the College is made up of two campuses--one upper and one lower)—they share a common goal: to use their education to help people.
Rosy believes her schooling experience has been a privilege and wants to inspire young people in the region to know that they too have options for their futures. “Education is my passion,” says Rosy. “I want to make children laugh and learn to be creative. I want to teach them that they can do anything.”
Isabel’s desire to study medicine started at a young age. When family members got sick or hurt working in the fields, she didn’t like the feeling that there was nothing she could do to improve their situation. “I wanted to be able to help my family and the people around me get better,” she says. “In the Nursing major, we learn how to help people who need it most.”
Both women appreciate the theoretical and practical balance of their majors; it's a feature that attracts many students to the College. For Rosy, that means taking what she learns in her classes to other classrooms in the area, working with children to ensure equal access to quality education in the Yungas. Isabel loves being able to learn from doctors in hospitals across the region in month-long practicums each semester.
Outside of class, the sisters are active in campus life. “There are so many opportunities we can take advantage of here,” says Isabel. “We go to Mass, we sing karaoke at English Club, we participate in Mujeres Valientes...there is always something happening on campus.”
Mujeres Valientes, a women’s empowerment group that meets regularly to discuss themes like self-esteem, friendship, navigating stress, and leadership skills, has played a major role in Rosy and Isabel’s educational experiences. In addition to eating snacks and dancing Zumba, the gatherings inspire the women to continue fostering the qualities they’ve seen in their strong, independent mother.
“Mujeres Valientes gives us a place where we can be leaders and speak our minds,” says Rosy. “We understand each other as women.”
Isabel agrees. “I’ve learned to have more confidence in myself,” she says. “And we lift each other up as women, helping each other to be more confident as well.”
The College’s emphasis on the holistic formation of each student—academically, spiritually, socially, and emotionally—encourages students to empower themselves, to take their education back to their communities and improve their lives. Rosy says, “The most important thing I’ve learned at the UAC-CP is that I can do it. I am capable of achieving my goals, and I can do anything.”
“I know I am being formed as an individual here,” says Isabel. “I get to learn from people who are already professionals.”
At the same time, studying and living together with students from across Bolivia reinforces their passion to work towards the common good and the well being of all. “The UAC-CP teaches us to dedicate our life to others, to do our work with enthusiasm and not complain,” says Isabel. Rosy adds, “We want to go where people need help the most.”
After graduating, both women would like to enroll in a master’s program—for Rosy, in higher education, and for Isabel, in clinical psychology. Above all, however, they want to work to lift their mother and the rest of their family out of poverty.
“I want to see my mother’s face when I graduate,” Rosy says. “I do it for her.”