To the friends of the Wishi Project,
Nine months ago this project was founded. It was founded based on the humble desire of a community in the middle of the rainforest, and on my impossible belief that this desire could be fulfilled. Today this dream is becoming a reality.
In one week we will be in Ecuador, beginning our work on the ground to establish a school for the children of the Wishi Community in middle of the rainforest. This school will give the invaluable gift of education – something that the community has always dreamed of providing for their children, but never had the resources to realize. There will be a school building with fully equipped classrooms and ample supplies. There will be a professionally certified bilingual Shuar-Spanish teacher. There will be a space for the community to gather and share their knowledge and talents that have helped them to survive for centuries. There will be a formal framework to help them to preserve their rich language, culture, and lifestyle. And perhaps most importantly, the families will no longer have to decide between staying unified together in the community, or leaving to provide their children with an education. And all this has happened in just nine short months. This is nothing short of a miracle.
This dream is being made real because I was not alone in my determination to help my friends in the Wishi Community. This dream is being made real because of all of you.
In reflecting on all of this I realize that we are capable of manifesting miracles. This is happening because we came together around a common vision, each of us lending our talents with the belief that we, together, can do this. And we are doing it. Each of us is individually talented, capable, and strong, but together we are powerful beyond measure. Let’s remember that together, all things are possible, and, therefore, in the words of Albert Schwietzer, “let us search and see where we might invest our humanity”.
Here is some insight into what has gone into making this project possible (this is not an exhaustive list, I apologize, I know I have missed many of you)…
Jane Quinn, for bringing the dream to earth by donating the first $1,000 to the project
Nick Crounse, for media relations assistance and guidance
Diane de Feliz, for inviting me and supporting me in working with her students at Hackett Middle School
Hackett Middle School ESL class, for help with advertising, fundraising, and awareness, and for showing me the amazing things that our young people are capable of
Karen Schupack, for providing guidance and support in all aspects of the project, and for hosting the fundraiser, From Our Community to Yours, at the Albany Art Room
Jessica Charde, for promoting the project through the UAlbany International Education Program
Joe Micancin, for insight and guidance navigating the world of international engagement and exchange
Gary Bowitch, for holding a successful fundraiser at his home and helping to raise awareness about the project
Aubrey Menard, for endless fundraising advice
Erica Van Etten, for her wisdom about the Shuar people and the Ecuadorian legal, political, social systems
Ramon Vargas, for representing the Wishi Community as the project coordinator
Mary Bonilla and the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation, for doing the work on the ground that we couldn’t do from afar
Dan Curtis, for help with graphics and design work
Steve Brooks, for help with building a library
Joel Tirado and Sammy Frumkin, for enthusiasm and insight into the college world
Hannah Walker, for collaboration on the Sketchbook Project
Zach Zirlin, for helping to create the Wishi video
Jeff Quinn and his students at Parson’s, for designing logos and posters for the project
Katie Quinn, for her remarkable work at Medfield Church raising money and collecting school supplies
Maria Grahn-Farley, Hilary Lamishaw, and Kristen Hessler for inviting me to speak to their classes at Albany Law, St. Rose, and UAlbany, respectively
Greg Mortenson, for forging an inspiring path and for his encouraging words
Jim Brassard and Ashley Bishop, for their tireless work in creating a documentary of the project
Jon Poulter, for providing high resolution photos of the community and so much more
Andrew Dean, for hosting a successful fundraising dinner at his home
Victorio Reyes and the Social Justice Center, for providing a comfortable and inspiring place to work
Peter Treagan, for his support through Global Student Embassy
Rachel Woodward, for lending her skills as a writer to many aspects of the project
Mark Brogna at Capital Wine and Spirits for all of his contributions to the project
All of the Lark St. Business owners, for contributing to the gift baskets which were auctioned at the fundraiser
Ambassador Robert Gosende, for fostering the impact of internation service and study on public diplomacy
Greg Sheldon and Kristie Hamilton with the Eden’s Rose Foundation for providing enormous formal and moral support to the Wishi Project
Kerry Quinn, Matt Gray, Casey Gray, Ian Gray, Jackson Gray, Gregor Sayet-Bone, Zia Anger, Tommy Watkins, Kyle Carney, Alix Faguet, Gavi Cohen, Aubrey Menard, Morgan Edwards, Lobo Enoc Gonzalez, Sammy Frumkin, and many others for the day to day encouragement, support, challenge, and foundation that is necessary to fuel this sort of undertaking.
From myself and on behalf of the Wishi Community I say, Thank You.