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The Wichana Foundation is a small non-profit charity based in New York, Cotacachi and Otavalo, Ecuador. We were legally incorporated as a New York public charity and tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization in December 2019. 


The foundation was first created to meet the needs of two not-for-profit projects benefiting the health, education and culture of communities in the Imbabura province. 


In August 2019, the Muyumi Kanki Kichwa Cultural Center of Cotacachi had just formalized its organizational structure for the purpose of expanding their existing Kichwa language and cultural educational programs. The center was in urgent need of an officially registered public charity in the United States that could receive large tax-deductible financial donations from US citizens who wished to support Muyumi Kanki’s cultural work.


Urku Deborah May, a US citizen living in Cotacachi who had successfully solicited funding from donors for Muyumi Kanki’s mission and programs, contacted Peter Bernstein in New York to inquire about any US foundations he might know about that might be willing to serve this function for Muyumi Kanki. 


Peter approached several US foundations, but the limited scope of their missions of those foundations did not permit them to serve this function. 


Peter then proposed the idea of creating a new foundation in New York which could help not only Muyumi Kanki, but also the not-for-profit health center whose mission and work Peter had long supported, the Mojandita Curubi Centro de Salud in Otavalo.


Peter did the necessary research and provided all the labor and financing necessary to create the new legal charity in New York State. Peter proposed the name “Wichana Foundation” and Apak Perugachi of Muyumi Kanki created our logo. 


The original founding members of the Board of Directors were Peter Bernstein, Sarah Cox and Urku Deborah May. 


As soon as our supporters from the US felt assured that legal incorporation was underway, Wichana began receiving tax-deductible donations for both community organizations. 


The following year, several local not-for-profit organizations began approaching Wichana to explore a formal working relationship with us. When we had sufficient resources available to add a new partner project, we first considered whether the project’s mission fell within the scope of our mission. If so, the Board met with the project’s leadership. 


If the Board and the project’s leadership decided that the project and foundation were a good fit, we created a formal agreement. These agreements always included the requirement that the project’s leaders would provide the foundation with periodic records demonstrating financial accountability. 


Only with such financial accountability can our Board assure individual donors as well as grant providers that their financial gifts are being used by the recipient organizations appropriately within the stated intended purpose of the donation. This is necessary to maintain the foundation’s financial and operating integrity with our donors, the public, the IRS and the State of New York.


Beginning in January 2021, the foundation began requiring that partner projects agree to pay a 4% fee to cover administrative expenses. Peter and our Board treasurer, Sarah Cox, have assumed primary responsibility for maintaining financial records for the foundation.


Currently we have eight partner projects which are described in the “Projects” section of this website. Our partner projects generally fall into one of two categories: 


  1. independent nonprofit charity organizations that need little more from Wichana than a legitimate payment platform for donations; and

  2. nonprofit charity organizations with leaders who collaborate closely with the foundation with the goal of growth in the areas of program development, organizational infrastructure, community needs assessment, fundraising skills, budgeting, proposal writing, grant seeking, volunteer management, etc.


In December 2020, Alli Tolbert joined the foundation as our Program Development Director. Alli engages in grant seeking activities and provides overall organizational and partner project development guidance. In 2021 she implemented our plan for a Women’s Advisory Committee, facilitates those meetings and submitted a successful World Connect grant application to support WAC activities. 


In December 2021, the foundation decided to expand our Board of Directors so that at least 50% of its members were representatives of the communities we serve. We invited three local Kichwa runa leaders to join our Board: Dra. Kaya Alta, Kasha Rojas and Koya Valencia. The three graciously agreed to join our Board as full members with voting rights beginning in January 2022. In 2022, co-founder Urku Deborah May retired from the Board and was replaced by Arlene Burgos, Esq.

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