A young man who grew up in Appleton, Ontario, is now spending a lot of time in the Andes of Ecuador, where he is helping a remote Indigenous community reach their goals of access to education and future opportunities for their youth.
When Simon Cretien spent a year of his university degree studying in Quito, Ecuador, he developed a close relationship with the people of Piñán. Located in a high and remote area in the Ecuadorian Andes, Piñán is a community of about forty families who are descendants of the Quechua Indigenous people. Settled hundreds of years ago to serve as labourers on a colonial ranch, the village has barely changed in appearance or tempo. Villagers still live in mud huts with thatched grass roofs, cook on wood fires, and ride horses through mountain passes to harvest wild berries and herd cattle. A string of power lines through the village stands out as a modern addition.
Piñán’s isolated location and difficult colonial history have had a lasting impact on the people. Livelihoods are scarce and poverty is starkly present. The remoteness and lack of education and opportunities mean that most people are forced to leave their village to find work, for months at a time or sometimes permanently. Fausto Rodriguez, ex-president of Piñán, points out “We need help for our children, for them to learn, study in high school and university because not one person from our community has ever graduated,”
Three years ago, Simon founded the Community Ascent Network (CAN) – a non-profit organization to help the village realize its goals. To date, CAN has funded the construction of a school building, the purchase of equipment and supplies, and has arranged for ongoing funding of teachers in the village. This year Piñán has seen their first-ever high school graduates!
Young women are especially benefiting from CAN’s work. Previously, many girls rarely even attended elementary school, often staying home to do household chores. This year all the girls in the village are attending school on a regular basis, and half of this year’s graduating class are young women! These first Piñán graduates now have new goals that they never thought possible: to learn English, to become local environmental guides, to pursue trades, and even attend university!
Community Ascent Network is holding it’s second ‘Crowdfund Campaign’ to help provide further educational support for these motivated youth. Your contributions will help fund the programs they need to continue their studies and become community leaders.
The Crowdfund Campaign runs through the month of December and ends January 3, 2022. You can help the youth of Piñán reach their goals by contributing online to the crowdfunding campaign. Any donation makes a difference – and you’ll be eligible for gifts or a raffle prize for your donation.
You can also visit the “Community Ascent Network” website to see a fascinating video filmed in the beautiful village of Piñán, telling the story of bringing high school education to this remote Andean community.