Dear Friends: This year my meeting, Phoenix Monthly Meeting, decided to sponsor a Bolivian university student for three years, at $750 per year, through the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund. (See bqef.org .) This decision came after we seasoned the idea in our Peace and Social Concerns Committee and with interest from our First Day School. This expenditure – of an annual “beca” or scholarship – is now the largest item in our budget, other than property expenses.
We find that we are not only giving with this beca; we are also getting. First, we are getting the satisfaction of knowing that we are helping a young Aymara Quaker Bolivian to get a university education. This is different than helping just anybody. Bolivian Quakers are raised with strong adherence to our Quaker testimonies. Each becario (scholarship student) will become a valuable contributor to Bolivia and to the Religious Society of Friends.
Second, the children in our First Day School are getting to work with a project that connects them to other Quakers and to service. Our children have written to ask our becaria all about herself: What’s her favorite food? What’s the weather like? Does she like sports? They’ve learned some geography. They’ve learned from her letters and her photos about which teachers she likes, her family, and her meeting’s youth group. This project will fill two or three lesson plans per year for three years – long enough for the message to sink in: We’re friends, and Friends, with this student in Bolivia.
Finally, our meeting is getting a new feeling of closeness as community and as a member of the worldwide circle of Friends. We have committed ourselves as a meeting to an annual fund-raising goal. Together, we feel strong moral support for this project. Some say, “I can’t afford it,” but others give more so that we can reach our goal. This sense of closeness then extends into our new bond with a fellow Quaker who, although she may be from a different style of Meeting (most Bolivian Quakers are from the Evangelical church tradition), she shares our feeling of the power of the Spirit in our daily lives. Whether we call it God, good will, blessings, or gratitude, we – our becaria and our Meeting – are living proof that we are all One in the Spirit.
– Nancy Hicks Marshall, Phoenix Monthly Meeting (IMYM)
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