2019 1st Quarter Newsletter
Dear Family, Friends, and Supporters:
Hello from Detroit! I am back in Michigan for a short period of time and have news to report to you. Much has happened since I wrote to you last Fall.
I am pleased to announce that in October and November of 2018, the Maria Lida Foundation offered its first introductory and basic English course to adults in Alausí! This was a very exciting milestone for us, as many stakeholders in Alausí stated that they would like the opportunity to learn basic English to better communicate with tourists who visit the area. In addition, they believe that learning this skill will help them to either gain employment in the tourism industry and/or provide better customer service to tourists in Alausí.
To promote the course, I visited the local restaurants, hotels, stores, schools, and government offices. In addition, thanks to the help of a friend in Alausí, I was able to promote the class on a popular radio station in the city! This process was difficult at first for me, as I am still not completely fluent in Spanish. However, I enjoyed it very much because it challenged me to learn how to communicate what the Foundation is offering, in Spanish and without a translator.
I used to have a perfectionist point of view where I thought I had to have everything figured out to the tee before taking any action. I’m still convinced that is vital to perform due diligence, prepare properly and plan before starting something. But I am also learning that it is equally important to act promptly when opportunities arise rather than delaying while you plan and possibly missing a good break. If I waited to find a translator, I would have missed the chance to spread widely the message of our Foundation in Alausí. One cannot allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. I’ve also learned to laugh at myself. My Spanish may not be perfect, and I may even have a funny accent in Spanish. Nevertheless, people can understand what I am saying, and they seem to appreciate that I am trying!
The pilot English course lasted approximately five weeks with over 30 hours of instruction. It was offered through scholarships from the Foundation in which all participants had to apply. On average 15 students regularly attended and completed the course!
Due to the very positive response we have gained from the initial introductory class, the MLF is now offering a second follow-up course in Q1 2019, with another introductory class of new students soon to follow. The participation rates and comments from the students/community are very encouraging!
Thank you very much to our Board of Directors for your guidance in helping me to start and successfully complete this important first initiative. Credit also goes to the English teachers for offering great instruction and the San Francisco de Sales school for providing facility space for our program at a very modest cost.
Finally, I’m very grateful to our students and teachers for being the first to believe in our program and having the courage to try something new. It is my prayer that our education initiative inspires our teachers and students to have their own dreams about Alausí and their lives. I believe that God has a bright future ahead for Alausí and her people!
As many of you know my husband is a member of the U.S. Military and was recently promoted to the rank of Major. For most of 2018, he was deployed overseas as a part of his military service, finally coming home in December.
My husband, not being one to rest too long at home, attempted in the first week of January to climb the Chimborazo Volcano as a fundraising activity for the MLF. The Chimborazo is a snow-capped volcano that is over 20,500 feet high! He was prevented from climbing to the very top because of adverse weather conditions. But knowing him well, I am sure this will only be a temporary setback and he will be back to climbing mountains and/or volcanoes in Ecuador in no time!
Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement while my husband was deployed and I was launching MLF in Ecuador. We are blessed to have so many people in our lives supporting us through these major life changes and milestones.
First Donor Visit
In early January, the MLF hosted its first donor trip in Ecuador! This was an exciting milestone as it gave us the opportunity to share the beauty of Ecuador and the important work we are doing in Alausí with our supporters. During this visit, our supporters visited Quito, the Chimborazo Volcano in Riobamba, Alausí, and Cuenca. In Alausí, our supporters met with our students, teachers, and local partners, took the Nariz del Diablo train ride, climbed the beautiful Danas Mountain, explored the city via tour, and spoke with local business owners.
Thank you very much to Patrick O’Neill (the President of our Board of Directors), Rick Hardwick (a strong supporter of the MLF), and Jim Roach (one of our Board Members) for making the trip to Ecuador! I had a wonderful time exploring Ecuador and beautiful Alausí with you and hope to host you again sometime soon!
If you are interested in visiting Ecuador to experience the country and see the important work we are doing in Alausí, please contact me at email@example.com. The MLF plans to have various supporter trips throughout the year and we would love to host you!
WashU Consulting Project
As reported in our last newsletter, the Foundation has been partnering with the Olin Business School’s Center for Experiential Learning (“CEL”) at Washington University in St. Louis (“WashU”). This partnership, which began in the Fall and recently completed, was a valuable opportunity for the Foundation. The CEL assigned some of the best MBA students at WashU and a very top-notch faculty member to work on our assignment. The students and faculty all traveled to Alausí in January to learn firsthand what the MLF is trying to do in Ecuador. The team met with our students, teachers and local partners, helped MLF form strategies for 2019, spoke with local business owners, took the Nariz del Diablo train ride, and explored Alausí.
In late February 2019, Patrick O’Neill, Rosemary Meza (Vice President of the Board) and I traveled to WashU in St. Louis to receive the final presentation. All of us from the MLF were very pleased with the results produced by the MBA student team. The final product and its recommendations will significantly help the MLF, in many specific ways, as we seek to grow our mission in Alausí.
To the CEL leadership team, WashU Olin Business School students and faculty members, thank you very much for your efforts and for your fine work on behalf of the MLF!
New Board Member
In my opinion, one of the best results emanating from the involvement of the WashU team on this recent project was that it aroused the serious interest in our work of the team’s top faculty member, Professor Hillary Anger Elfenbein. Professor Elfenbein is a highly regarded professor who took the time to spend a week with us in Ecuador as the faculty member of the WashU team.
As a result of her learning what we are doing and trying to accomplish in Ecuador, at the conclusion of the trip to Alausí, Professor Elfenbein graciously offered to join MLF’s Board of Directors. The Board leaped at this opportunity and unanimously voted to welcome Professor Elfenbein, commencing in May 2019. Welcome to the Board, Hillary! We cannot wait to work with you as we move forward.
I am pleased to announce that in early 2019 the MLF recruited Ryan Kersten as its first Alausí Program Director! Ryan has experience and passion in international development including past work overseas with USAID. He has been a valuable member to the team and has helped us continue our work on the ground, allowing me to focus on fundraising, MLF’s strategy, and creating partnerships. Ryan, we are so grateful to have you on board and know that you will greatly contribute to MLF’s growth and success!
2019 Annual Fundraiser
MLF will host its second annual fundraiser event on Saturday, July 6th, 2019 in Clarkston, Michigan. Please save the date and stay tuned for more details!
As always, thank you all very much for your interest and support of the Maria Lida Foundation! This has been an amazing life experience and I am so blessed to have the support of my family, friends, and colleagues.
If you are able to make a monetary donation to the Maria Lida Foundation, please do so at https://www.marialidafoundation.org/collections/contribute.