The 5 current founder members of Yanapuma Foundation came together in August of 2006, motivated by a collective social conscience. Composed of 3 Ecuadorians, 1 American and 1 person from the UK, 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 six years of operation, that vision is beginning to turn into a reality as the school continues to develop along with our programs for Study Abroad, Service Learning, Global Citizenship and general volunteering. In our first year we averaged 5 students per week, increasing to about 10 students per week in the second year and 15 per year during the third year. We have continued to grow each year, generating surplus income to fund our projects. In 2014 we will be supporting 14 students from marginalized communities to study at high school - a direct funding from the registration that we charge each student and volunteer.
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.
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 3 year project funded by the Inter American Foundation for a total of $243,000. With in-kind contributions and contributions from Yanapuma this figure rises to well over $400,000 in total.
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.