55-year-old Pastor Eleuterio Cayulao graduates high school

Pastor Eleuterio Cayulao

It’s never too late to go back to school!
(Photo cred: Bright Hope)

Chile (BHI) — Pastor Eleuterio Cayulao from the Collín Alto Church in the Mapuche communities of Southern Chile recently graduated from high school at the age of 55.

In 2010, Bright Hope International began partnering with the Mapuche community in Collín Alto, implementing a three-year plan called the “Mingako” strategy, meaning “working together,” in their native language of Mapadungun. This plan included training individuals in basic skills and using existing community assets to create jobs and an outside source of income. Church and community members were trained in jam making, bee keeping, maintaining a greenhouse, and smoking chili peppers to make spices. These projects were widely successful, involving more than 50 individuals and expanding to other churches in the surrounding area. Many projects are still continuing today as self-sustainable programs.

An unexpected outcome was the impact it had on many individuals’ personal and family lives. Many men and women in the community said that the training gave them more self-confidence knowing that they could learn new skills and apply themselves in varous ways. The workshops even encouraged many leaders and members from the church to return to school and finish their studies since many had never finished high school. This included Pastor Eleuterio. After three years of studying in the evenings and weekends, and in addition to his responsibilities at the church and working as a farmer, Pastor Eleuterio received his high school diploma.

“I know that after so many years I didn’t really need to go back and finish high school. But I wanted to. Not only just for me–to prove to myself that I could do it, but also for my children, so I could set a good example for them. I want them to understand the importance of getting an education, which I did not have growing up,” said Pastor Eleuterio.

His daughter, Aurora, is also the first in her community to graduate from college, and she now has a degree in teaching. She hopes she can encourage other youth in Mapuche communities to continue on to higher education. Her brother, Felipe, is studying mechanics, and her sister, Susanna, plans to begin at the local university this year. Pastor Eleuterio and his wife, Marta, are proud and blessed to see their family thrive through the gift of education.

Learn more about Bright Hope’s programs through the Mapuche Indian Church Network in Chile.