our history

The history of Yanapuma Foundation:

The founder members of Yanapuma Foundation came together in August of 2006, motivated by a collective social conscience. The foundation is dedicated to improving the social and ecological conditions of Ecuador. The idea from the start was to try to be to a certain extent self-financing, principally through the development of a Spanish school for foreigners and volunteer activities, following a "social entrepreneurship" model. With a reasonably sound financial base, we could build a foundation that could pledge the maximum amount of donations received to particular projects without having to take out a large overhead for administration.

After 11 years of operation, we have seen much development and many changes. The Spanish school grew each year until around 2013 when the market began to decline in Ecuador. We opened a second location in the historic city of Cuenca and this has helped to maintain us to a certain extent. However we began to see a year-over-year decline in numbers which negatively affected our ability to auto-finance projects. In late 2014 we launched our own travel agency - True Ecuador Travel - dedicated to promoting educational travel. In part this was to offer greater reliability to our gap-year, study abroad and other programs, being a registered travel agency making all kinds of travel arrangements, rather than just an NGO doing the same. The hope is also to generate increased income to continue to support our projects.

Additionally we receive some extra funding from volunteer groups and individual volunteers that we host several times a year. The added advantage is that we can harness their energy and enthusiasm to carry out projects that benefit the communities that we work with and that fit into an overall development strategy. We continue to develop these kind of programs with international universities and other organizations in combination with other travel options.

During our first year we also received donations from small donors; schools, daycare centres, and individuals who were happy to know that all their donation would go towards a particular project. These donations typically averaged up to $2000. In our second year we saw confidence in our abilities to manage projects increase and we were fortunate to receive donations up to $13000. In our third year our independent funding level increased and we received prestigious funding from the InterAmerican Foundation ($29,000) and other sources. During subsequent years we continue to build on our past successes, learning from our mistakes. In 2012 we worked with funding from a UN fund for indigenous peoples as well as grants from UK charities. In mid-2012 we began to work on a 4 year project funded by the Inter American Foundation for a total of $243,000. With in-kind contributions and contributions from Yanapuma of over $100,000 from our own activities, this figure rises to well over $500,000 in total by the end.

From the start we set out to create a methodology that would avoid many of the pitfalls that we have observed in the work of other foundations. Our aim is to work in a fully collaborative and participatory manner with communities in order to develop ownership, leadership and confidence in the communities to manage their own futures, and to be fully accountable both to those who support our work and to the communities themselves as a model for how they can develop successfully. After nearly 7 years, we are happy to report that we now employ members of indigenous communities to work directly with us on projects in their own communities, without the need for external experts to guide them. We work towards diminishing our involvement in the various spheres as community members become sufficiently competent to be able to manage with only minimal oversight from ourselves.

Yanapuma Foundation
Our work is founded on the belief that the processes of globalization are inevitable. Without help indigenous cultures and communities most often end up losing control of or destroying their resource base. They lose their traditional cultural values and relationships to their environment. Thus they are drawn into a system in which they are ill-equipped to compete and are destined to remain at the bottom of the economic ladder, with under-developed infrastructure, and poor prospects for future generations. We believe that such communities have the right to maintain control of their resources and to live dignified and sustainable lives. With the right help they can develop suitable strategies and work towards a fulfilling future. But their responses need to be coordinated across all axes in order to achieve truly sustainable lives. Thus we believe it is important to support sustainable practices on multiple levels in order to present viable and holistic options.

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