The Chaco Fund
Our mission is to contribute to the well-being of Bolivian Chaco communities by supporting women through education and professional development.
We Provide Scholarships for Bolivian Women
Our organization seeks to unlock the potential of young Bolivian women by empowering leaders, promoting self-determination, and creating advocates for rural communities. The Chaco Fund is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created by a collection of returned Peace Corps Bolivia volunteers dedicated to creating positive change in the Bolivian Chaco. We help support this region so that diverse communities can enjoy the richness of land and water in perpetuity. Our approach – centered around women’s education – does not detract from current projects, does not draw from already-limited resources, but simply provides a much-desired asset to rural communities.
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Over the past three years, the Chaco Fund has had the privilege of supporting a cadre of young women in their pursuit of higher education through our Community Leaders Scholarship. These women embody leadership qualities such as teamwork, vision, and integrity- and will one day bring these capacities back to contribute meaningfully in their Chaqueño communities. For example, hydrology student Maribel hopes that she might one day guarantee the water supply of her home village of Cañitas.
Maribel is in her third year studying hydrology at the Universidad Autónoma Juan Misael Saracho in Caraparí.
“The scholarship has been a great help – it’s aided me in paying for books and study materials that I need, and with room and board. I decided to study because I wanted to provide an example for my little sister, that she can make something of her life.”
Lorena is in her second year studying dentistry at the Universidad Autónoma Juan Misael Saracho in Tarija.
“Everyone dreams of studying, and to be someone in life. In my case, I’m here, and I plan on continuing, for a better future and to honor the efforts that my parents have made and continue to make.”
Fernanda is in her first year studying nursing at the Universidad Autónoma Juan Misael Saracho in Tarija.
“In Bolivia it is important to remember the struggle for women’s rights and equal opportunity for all.”
Covid-19 has affected every aspect of Bolivian life. Personal freedoms, civic duties, work and school have all been redefined.
Chaco Fund scholars, like university students the world over, have been confronting the challenges and opportunities presented by virtual learning during a pandemic. Academic calendars have been delayed with the 2020 school year now expected to conclude in early 2021. Universities have cancelled lab sections and it is unclear when students will be allowed to re-engage in hands-on learning. For Chaco Fund scholar Lorena Gudiño, a second year dentistry student, this has meant sculpting teeth from soap, wax and improvised plaster for her dental anatomy lab (below).
This kind of ingenuity has spanned all aspects of learning. Chaco Fund scholars, each provided their own laptop, are spared from completing coursework using a cell phone like many of their classmates. Nevertheless, stable internet access, available only via cell signal, remains a barrier for students living in remote areas.
In the face of these and other challenges, some Bolivian students have abandoned their studies and it remains unclear how Covid-19 will affect university enrollment in the coming years. As a non-profit supporting women’s education, the Chaco Fund remains vigilant and prepared to step up to meet this critical moment. Higher education – particularly for women – is not a luxury, and until every young woman in the Chaco is empowered, we will not rest.
Community Leaders Scholarships
Educating young women confers diverse benefits to society, including cultural and climate resilience, improvements in health, and poverty reduction. We believe educating young women empowers whole communities. 92% of Bolivian women report that they wish they could have studied more. The reality is that factors such as economics, race, and gender continue to limit educational opportunities throughout Latin America.
Our scholarships are full rides, covering tuition, room
– A laptop computer
– Leadership training
– Professional development opportunities
Scholarships support young women from the Santa Rosa de Agua Blanca school as they go on to their higher education. One top female student is selected each year based on academic achievement, financial need, and leadership potential. Scholars select a university and program of their choice, and we support them for the duration of their degree (up to 5 years).
Community Leadership Scholars are pursuing their dreams and helping make the Chaco a stronger, more united, and more resilient region. Over the long term, we hope the Fund’s support of women scholars will aid the region, the country, and the world.
The more you GIVE, the more scholarships we AWARD!
The Chaco is an ecocultural region that contains significant portions of Paraguay and Argentina
The Chaco is one of Bolivia’s final frontiers, lacking all-weather roads and infrastructure in many areas. The region is traversed by a few year-round rivers, most notably the Pilcomayo and Parapetí, It experiences an extreme climate, with below freezing temperatures in winter and 120 degree heat in summer.
In a few days, voters will go to the polls. They will decide the leadership of their country as they confront grave challenges to its democratic institutions against the backdrop of the ongoing ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic turmoil.
We are not all in this together. Sure, we are all experiencing the common disruption that is COVID-19. But some are shouldering the burden more heavily than others. One such group is women in Latin America.
In Bolivia, there are two holidays in each calendar year which recognize and celebrate women. By exploring the roots of these holidays, we open a window into Bolivian culture and history.
Jacqueline Brysacz is a nurse practitioner and public health specialist currently based out of Pennsylvania. She served as an agriculture volunteer in the Chaco with the US Peace Corps from 2007-08, focusing on community beekeeping initiatives. Her experience in the Chaco led her to a career focused on reducing barriers to health and well-being for low resource populations. She currently works as a family nurse practitioner in a community health center, serving all comers regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. She loves her family,
Mateo is the Chaco Fund’s treasurer. He served in Peace Corps Bolivia’s agriculture and forestry extension from 2007-8. His experience living and working in Iñiguazu, one of the remotest villages in the Bolivian Chaco, has underpinned his life’s trajectory since the Peace Corps. Mateo now works as a conservation biologist, leading research and education projects in wild areas of the United States, Africa, and Latin America. Mateo is an avid outdoorsman, linguist, and singer-songwriter. He currently resides in Salt Lake City.
Michael has over 10 years of experience working on a broad range of renewable energy and sustainability initiatives, domestically and abroad. His professional work has focused on conducting economic impact assessments, policy analysis, and strategic program deployment on a state and national level. He holds an MA in Energy Policy from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Colorado College. Michael served as an Environmental Education Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia where he conducted GPS deforestation assessments in rural Bolivian and created an environmental commission CLIMA (La Comisión Local Interinstitucional Del Medio Ambiente) to research and address environmental challenges in his community. His service in Bolivia was formative, teaching him the value of partnerships in building successful environmental campaigns and the global effort required to protect our planet. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.