Avanzando – Moving Forward

Dear Friends of the Wishi Project,

Thank you for all of your support. We have made incredible strides in the past few weeks, and I am now confident that with the $11,000 we have already raised we will be able to break ground in January on schedule. There is still work to be done – we need to raise $9,000 which will go towards securing the sustainability of the school, among other things – and I hope that you can help. Please consider contributing to the project, if you haven’t already. If you cannot give, consider reaching out to friends who may be interested in supporting the project. Together we can make this dream a reality.

Please forgive me that it has been so long since our last update. We have been so busy and I have a lot to report.

I would like to begin by extending my deepest thanks to everyone who attended, donated or helped out with the fundraiser, From Our Community to Yours, on November 5th at the Albany Art Room. The event was a great success and raised over $2,500! In addition to raising funds, it was also an opportunity to bring many great people together who have been involved with and supported the project, and many great connections and ideas came out of this meeting.

I’d like to announce that we have had the great fortune of enlisting the work of Jim Brassard, a local videographer, who is volunteering to create a documentary of the Wishi Project. He has been incredible, documenting all aspects of the project as we move forward, and has made a pilot video to represent the progress we have made so far; this pilot video will be available soon. We are working on establishing a profile on Kickstarter.com to raise funds to support his continued work when we go to Ecuador next month. We are hoping to raise $5,000 to cover all the expenses of the documentary.

Last week we bought a chainsaw for the community so that they could begin preparing wood so that it is ready when we begin construction in January. They are cutting Maria wood; a relatively fast growing, sustainable resource, that is sturdy and good for building. They have finished cutting and preparing the supporting structural beams, and this week they hope to complete the preparation of the boards. Not only is the wood from their forest an incredible source of pride and will create what they believe to be the most beautiful school, it also gives them an opportunity to contribute materially to the project in a meaningful way.

The Hackett Middle School service learning team will be celebrating the close of their involvement with the project with an event at Hackett Middle School on Thursday, December 6th. The event will be called The Wishi Room – an idea conceived of and executed by the students themselves. The students will transform their classroom into a space which represents the Wishi classroom; photos and profiles of the children in the Wishi Community; a video made by the students documenting their involvement in the project; and information about the community that they learned through a phone interview which they designed and conducted with a member of the Wishi Community. These students continue to impress me every day, and I am so thankful for their good work.

Students at Montessouri Magnet School have expressed an interest in getting involved with the project, and I hope to begin work with their class next week. I have begun researching the Montessouri Model and I am impressed by the focus on empowering the student, independence, and the emphasis on learning to learn. These are things that I think will be particularly to the students in the Wishi Community. I hope to create some kind of partnership between the local Montessouri students and the students in the Wishi Community.

Thank you so much for your continued interest in the Wishi Project, and for all of your support.

All the best,


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Fundraising Event, November 5th – Albany, NY

From Our Community to Yours

Wishi Project Fundraiser to Support Construction of Primary School in Ecuador

Friday, Nov. 5
5:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Albany Art Room
457 Madison Ave., Albany

The Wishi Project, an Albany-based initiative to establish a school for children in an indigenous Ecuadorian community, will hold a fundraiser at the Albany Art Room to coincide with Albany’s 1st Friday in November.

The Wishi Project was founded by Albany resident Elizabeth Gray upon her return from the isolated Wishi Community in April 2010. The mission of the Wishi Project is to raise $20,000 to establish a primary school for the children of the Wishi Community in Ecuador, providing them with a basic education and helping to preserve the indigenous Shuar language and culture.

The event will include a silent auction of locally and internationally made art, jewelry and gift baskets; a slide show featuring the Wishi community; and the opportunity to learn more about the project and the children who will ultimately benefit. There will also be food and activities for attendees of all ages.

Wishi Project is collaborating with Eden’s Rose Foundation, an Albany-based nonprofit that builds basic need centers for communities around the world, as well as Fundación Ecuador Volunteer in Ecuador.

“I have had incredible support thus far from local businesses, individuals, schools and community groups. I have been so inspired by this that I have come to see this project as something that we are doing as a community – each of us doing what we can to make this dream a reality. For this reason we will call the fundraiser From Our Community to Yours; a gift from all of us in the Albany community and beyond to this small village in the middle of the Ecuador rainforest.” -Project Founder, Elizabeth Gray






If you cannot attend the event but would like to contribute to the project, visit: wishi.org/donate

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*Con Inspiración y Humildad – Inspired and Humbled*

To friends of the Wishi Project,

Thanks in no small part to all of your support, hard work and enthusiasm, we are taking real steps toward the construction of this school. To see what you are achieving – people of all ages, backgrounds, and connection to the project – is truly inspiring and humbling to behold.

Last week, the project was officially formalized with the Fundación Ecuador Volunteer, and we have begun making concrete progress in Ecuador. The community found a teacher, Luísa Chundi, who is professionally certified, and is fluent in Spanish and in indigenous Shuar. They are temporarily using one of their huts as a classroom, and this week we transferred funds to buy supplies and books to get them started until the school is built. Ramón tells me that she is well liked by the children, and that they are already seeing progress in their reading and writing.

On Saturday, my friend Gary Bowitch held a very successful Dining-In for Dollars fundraiser at his home in Castleton-on-Hudson. It is based on the Dining for Women model, in which guests bring food, enjoy a meal together, and then donate the money they would have spent eating out to a charity. In this case, it was a beautiful evening, with great people, and raised over $500 for the Wishi Project. Thank you, Gary.

I visited the students at Hackett Middle School yesterday to hear of their progress on their service learning project. They have done some incredible work: they made posters to hang at the school; are designing a flyer to distribute in the community; are planning a speech to read over the morning announcements; and are working on a brochure to distribute to the whole district. And all of this comes from their own innovation and volition. They are truly great partners to have in this effort.

The missions project at United Church of Christ in Medfield, MA has been officially approved. They will be contributing funds to fully furnish both of the classrooms, purchase 75 books for the library plus shipping, and to pay the teacher’s salary for one year. The kids in the Sunday School will be holding a supplies drive, where they will collect backpacks and fill them with the necessary supplies.

Finally, I’d like to share two great and truly humbling honors that I have received this week. First, Diane de Feliz invited me to join her to see Greg Mortenson speak at SUNY Oswego. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Greg Mortenson, he is known for his book Three Cups of Tea, and his expansive and influential work building schools throughout the Middle East. His first project: he ended up by coincidence and accident in a small village in Pakistan, found that they were without a school, and became determined to help them to build one – a story not unlike that of the Wishi Project. It will be an incredible gift to hear him speak. Second, Ramón’s sister Yolanda had a baby boy this year, Alexánder. They called me last night to tell me that Yolanda wants to name me as Alexánder’s madrina – his godmother. They will wait until I get back to have him baptized so that I can be at the ceremony. A truly beautiful honor.

On November 5th from 5-9pm we will be holding a fundraising event at the Albany Art Room, 457 Madison Ave, Albany, NY 12210, From Our Community to Yours; more information to follow. I hope you can be there.

All the best,


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De Nuestra Comunidad a la Suya – From our Community to Yours

Dear friends of the Wishi Project,

This week has continued to be an impressive affirmation of the goodness and strength we have in our community. I am so moved by the way that people are coming together, contributing what they can, to help this project forward. Almost as beautiful as the product that we will ultimately create, is the process of sharing, learning, giving and teaching that is taking place to make it happen.

Katie Quinn, an impressive young woman from Massachusetts, is coordinating with her missions team at the United Church of Christ in Medfield, MA to raise funds for the project. Also, she is working with the Sunday School students to collect backpacks and fill them with supplies to give to the children of the community. Sam Frumkin and Joel Tirado have formed an enthusiastic team of University at Albany students who will fundraise and build awareness at the University through various online and print media outlets. Steve Brooks from Albany is helping to build a library by soliciting donations of used books from various sources. Art director Zach Zirlin helped to make a short video about the project and the community, which will be available for viewing from the website soon. Nick Crounse, a journalist from Albany Law, is tirelessly volunteering his time to help with marketing. And, Gary Bowitch is generously hosting a Dining for Dollars potluck dinner as part of the Albany Adventure, Culture and Travel Club to raise funds.

This week we will begin a service learning project with Diane Nickerson de Feliz and her ESL class at Hackett Middle School in Albany. To prepare, they are reading Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, about building schools in communities in the Middle East; and Eyes of Carmen, by Veronica Moscoso, which takes place in Ecuador. The students will work together to discover a challenge that the Wishi Project is facing, and then design and implement a solution. Illustration major Hannah Walker is developing a collaborative sketchbook for her senior project, to raise awareness and foster participation in the Wishi Project. Also, a class at Parson’s Design School in NYC has chosen the Wishi Project as a graphic media assignment, and will be designing posters and graphics to use for promotional materials.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador things are also moving along. For months we have been working to connect Ramon Vargas (the leader of the project in the Wishi Community) with Mary Bonilla (from Fundacion EcuadorVolunteer). The first attempt was prevented by a massive rainstorm that prevented Ramon from traveling; at the next opportunity, Ramon walked six hours (there were obstacles blocking the shorter route) only to find that Mary was sick and unable to make the meeting; and the next appointment had to be canceled because Ramon had to care for his uncle who had been injured with an ax. Finally, last week Ramon and Mary were finally able to meet in the office of EcuadorVolunteer in Quito. It was a very successful meeting, in which they worked together to produce all of the documentation that is necessary to formalize the project. Now, they are working to get the tools needed to begin extracting and planing wood so that they are ready to begin construction when volunteers arrive in January.

We will be holding a fundraiser on November 5th from 5-9pm at the Albany Art Room, to coincide with Albany’s 1st Friday. I have chosen to call the event From Our Community to Yours, inspired by the way in which we are all working together here to create an invaluable gift for a small village in the middle of the rainforest in Ecuador. (More information on the fundraiser to follow)

Thank you all for your continued giving – whether it be time, funds, or spirit. Remember that everyone has something to offer, and that each of you can make a difference to the success of this project.


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Haciendo realidad un sueño — Making a dream a reality

To friends and followers of the Wishi Project,

Nearly five months ago this project was founded, with no concrete plans and little direction – just the knowledge that the indigenous children of the Wishi Community hoped to some day go to school, and the confidence that it was somehow possible to realize that wish. Today, as a result of the hard work, generosity, and enthusiasm of our supporters, we are making incredible progress towards giving this community the school that they have long hoped for.

We now have the formal support and collaboration of two foundations, Eden’s Rose Foundation in Albany, and Fundación EcuadorVolunteer in Ecuador; schools, churches and community groups are coming forward to help with fundraising, raising awareness, and gathering supplies; we have incredible individuals volunteering their time to help with marketing, building a library, documenting the project, and more; and we are nearly a quarter of the way towards our fundraising goal, with two fundraisers planned in the upcoming months. The members of the Wishi Community are also mobilizing their efforts – getting ready to extract wood to use for the building, preparing to house and feed volunteers, holding planning meetings within the community and with EcuadorVolunteer, and working with the kids to ensure that they are ready to attend the school as soon as it is built.

This process is demonstrating a clear truth: That we have amongst us a wealth of talented people with good hearts, and when these people are inspired by a goal – like building a school – they come forward and can make incredible things happen. I am so impressed by the goodness and talent that I have witnessed, and I am so fortunate to be able to see, through this project, the powerful kindness that people are capable of.

Starting today there will be weekly updates on the progress of the project which you can follow here or on our Facebook page. As things move forward I hope you all can share in the excitement of what we are building, together. I hope that you will check back again soon.

Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement.


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Ithaca Times article about the Wishi Project

Ithaca native raising money to build school for village in Ecuador” By Joseph Murtagh

Thanks Seph.

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Wishi Project featured in All Over Albany

Thank you to Mary Darcy for this great article on The Wishi Project in All Over Albany.

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