Donna Stiglmeier

Year Joined MKLM: 2011
Country: Bolivia
City: Cochabamba
Focus: Economic and Leadership Development, Empowerment
Projects: Proyecto Horizonte’s women’s groups, “Tantakuna”
People Served: Women Entrepreneurs, their families, and the migrant community of Mineros San Juan, Uspha-Uspha

Personal Data:

Growing up in Buffalo, NY, Donna spent over 20 years working in a variety of not-for-profit organizations, mostly in Boston, MA. She has a mix of business, community-level social work, and theology educational backgrounds. Donna worked at several United Ways, the Paulist Center Catholic Community, and the SEIU/union-management based organization, Workers Education Program. She has enjoyed the common thread of economic justice and bridge building throughout her professional life. Donna enjoys initiating programs to meet community need and creatively tapping resources (especially human resources)! As her professional life progressed, her exposure to the US immigrant experience expanded and deepened. She decided to work in Bolivia and join Maryknoll Lay Missioners as a natural extension of her economic justice background/experience with a faith motivation.

Current Ministry:

Proyecto Horizonte focuses on three areas: health, education, and community development. Donna works alongside another staffperson and a women’s group, called “Tantakuna” (meaning “together” in Quechua, another language commonly spoken in Bolivia, in addition to Spanish). Each woman is either part of an artisans’ cooperative or runs a bakery or mobile cart (selling meals or small items). The group’s hope is to facilitate and create more opportunities to empower themselves – for example, building leadership, gaining further skillls, and increasing self-confidence. “In addition to weekly gatherings and workshops, we are trying to bring the goods to market – in Bolivia and beyond. Opening markets and growing the microenterprises are very practical objectives so that the women can generate income for their families!” In addition, Donna is involved in building connections between like-minded and complementary Bolivian organizations, as one way to strengthen the foundation for sustainable development across the country, within the city, and focused on a smaller community like Mineros San Juan.

Proyecto Horizonte is in the Southern Zone of Cochabamba, where many Bolivians from outside Cochabamba continue to migrate to find work. Just over ten years ago, when mines closed in other parts of the country, people began to migrate to what became Mineros San Juan. Others joined them and now there are 1,500 families living in marginal conditions in Mineros San Juan. For example, most families live in a one room house without sanitation. In 2001, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society established a health center, limited schooling, and a response to basic needs. The community grew and Proyecto Horizonte was born in 2004, having a holistic approach for sustainability – empowerment for a brighter horizon.