By Lucía Villaruel

 

Puyo, Ecuador – At CONFENIAE’s headquarters in Union Base, students of the Living School of the Amazon (EVA) gathered to conclude the 2023 school year, and inaugurate the next generation of students in 2024. . This event marked the closing of a first educational chapter, as well as the beginning of a new cycle of learning and growth for 34 Indigenous Amazonian youth of Ecuador.

EVA was founded by  the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Alliance and CONFENIAE who, through Uyunkar Domingo Peas and Maria Andi, have worked tirelessly to address the issues facing youth in Indigenous Amazonian communities. The mission of the school, in line with the principles of its partner organizations, is to provide quality education that transcends economic and cultural barriers to train the leaders of the future in governance, human rights and intersectional knowledge for the defense of the Amazon.

Thanks to the support provided by the project’s donors, each student had the opportunity to receive a full scholarship, covering the costs of education, lodging, food and certification, with an approximate value of $4,000 USD per student. This initiative has opened the way for young people to access quality education free of charge, which is a great step forward for Ecuador’s Amazonian youth.

In this new school year, students will not only receive academic knowledge, but also ancestral wisdom.  11 wisdom-keepers, both women and men, will participate and share their ancestral knowledge with this next cohort. Students will also be educated on issues such as economics driving extractivism and gender violence, amplifying their knowledge of the complexities involved in  the socio-political issues changing their territories.

The event was marked by a series of creative activities and emotional acknowledgements. The intercultural dance group of the new graduating class performed, , and sincere thanks were expressed to the education leaders of the 23 organizations that collaborated in this project.

The commitment to training does not end with the delivery of certificates; EVA is committed to continue supporting its students in their personal growth and community leadership. Teachers also benefit from this program, selected based on their ongoing commitment  to this mission. They are fairly compensated and offered travel stipends for teaching, as well as pharmacy and emergency kit expenses to ensure the continuity of this program.

In an inspiring speech by Uyunkar Domingo Peas, Board President of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Alliance, the importance of planning for the future was emphasized, thinking of the generations to come and remembering the lessons of past generations. Peas highlighted the need for unity and solidarity among organizations in order to build a better future for Indigenous peoples.

The event culminated with the presentation of certificates to the students, recognizing their 960 academic hours of dedication and effort. This moment also marked the beginning of a new journey for the young people, who were encouraged to fulfill their dreams and become future leaders in their communities.

The 2023 closing and 2024 commencement of EVAwas a testament to the commitment and dedication of all involved in this unique educational project. With a new group of students ready to embark on their learning journey,EVA continues to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for the Indigenous communities of the region.