On Friday, June 15th, the community of Carmen Pampa--along with 12 of the neighboring communities in the Villa Nilo Sub-Central who were part of the original founding and building of the College--gathered with students, faculty and graduates of the UAC-CP and special visitors from Carmen Pampa Fund to celebrate Sr. Damon Nolan and her vision to bring educational opportunities to the area. She was celebrated with the unveiling of a bust sculpted in her likeness.
The official ceremony was hosted by UAC-CP graduate David Uria, who works for the mayor's office in Coroico. Special invited speakers included: Gregorio Chamiso, representing the local communities; Ann Leahy and Tara Nolan of Carmen Pampa Fund; Miguel Monrroy and Rosemary Mayda Vidal, former students of Sr. Damon who sang a song and recited poetry; representatives from the UAC-CP alumni association; and a representative to the mayor's office in Coroico. The marching band from the local high school, where Sr. Damon first served as director, provided music for the Bolivian national anthem and the anthem for the high school.
Throughout the event, people talked about the importance and power of Sr. Damon's vision--first, to include girls in education (when she took over as director of the local high school in the early 80s, she insisted that girls be allowed to study at the high school level) and later to offer young people from the rural area with the opportunity to study at the college level. "For us," a community member told me, "she was a beacon of light who showed us the way to make education possible for our children...and future generations."
Fr. Freddy del Villar, who is President of the College in Carmen Pampa, said he hopes Sr. Damon is proud that her work didn't end when she left unexpectedly in 2006. Rather, he said, it has grown. Today, the College doesn't just exist to educate the people in the area of Carmen Pampa, it attracts men and women from all parts of the country who are looking for quality education at an affordable cost.
Additional photos of the ceremony, along with comments from former students and graduates of the high school and the College, can be viewed here online.
The bust was made possible by Bolivian artist and sculptor Pablo Eduardo and Tara Nolan, Sr. Damon's niece and Acting Executive Director of Carmen Pampa Fund. Many thanks to them for making this day possible and for keeping the vision of Sr. Damon alive!
By Sarah Mechtenberg