In an effort to organize my thoughts and to give readers and idea of what I'm up to out here, I've put together this list of projects currently underway in my Paraguayan service divided into the categories of the Community Economic Development sector:
Educación Cívica/Participación Ciudadana (Civic Education/Citizen Participation)
- Constructores de la Sociedad- This is my main contact organization in my community and a super interesting group to work with. We have just recently completed our community study on the individual, group, neighborhood, and community levels. The results were super outstanding and allowed us to develop both a vision statement and prioritize our mission projects. Vision Statement: "A través de la cooperación, la solidaridad, y la amistad lograremos una verdadera seguridad organizada." Our large-scale community projects in order of priority: Universidad Nacional (opening a national university branch in town), Sala Informática (computation center), Comedor Comunitario (soup kitchen), Empedrada (paving/cobble-stoning local streets), Grupos Juveniles (youth groups), y Espacio Recreativo (constructing recreation spaces). Now that we've got the community census completed and the vision to guide us- we are working on our group's credibility within the community and at a national level. Little by little, we are starting small projects in each neighborhood (fixing-up the local chapels, installing volleyball courts, working with youth, finding an office for organization, etc.) to build-up our group's confidence, learn lessons about planning and organizing events, testing out our abilities, and promoting the collective vision of the future. Perhaps by the time my two years are up, we will be able to make our move on some of the bigger plans the community is hoping for.
- Curso “Construye tus Sueños”- As of this upcoming week, I will be co-teaching a course on entrepreneurship and micro-business called "Building your Dreams." Working with a group that is interested in starting a milk/yogurt factory in Caazapa (desperately needed for jobs as well as to take advantage of our outstanding cow-raising terrain) and various individuals interested in starting their own businesses, we will be going through the basics of business from market studies and marketing to accounting and budgets. The course lasts about 3 months and is certified through the Peace Corps as well as the local Supervisión (superintendent's office).
Finanzas Familiares (Family Finance)
- Charlas de “Administración Familiar”- In collaboration with the local cooperative (much more popular than banks in Paraguay for individual financial needs), we have developed a workshop series on "Family Administration." The kick-off workshop is this upcoming weekend on prioritizing needs versus wants in our consumer society. If all goes well, we hope to move into family budgeting, the importance of savings, credit/loans, and more in the future!
Informática/Computación (Information Technology/Computation)
- Sala Informática en el Colegio Técnico- Increasing opportunities and access to technology is very much on the list of priorities for my community. Recently the Colegio Nacional (the primary high school in town) has been rumored to receive funding for a computer room. As such, the Colegio Técnico with a focus on accounting would like to join the race. With any luck, we'll have two educational institutions moving into the technology age by the time I leave.
- Curso de Computación- Currently in the works but not likely until the coming school year, I will be teaching a computer course at the local library that has recently received 5 new computers from the departmento. Certification to be offered by either SNPP or SINOFOCAL (two educational capacitation organizations funded by the national government with aims to enhance Paraguay's workforce).
Otros/Secondarios (Secondary Projects)
- Comité de Huerta Familiar Ecológica- A project that I pretty much bumped into during my first week in site all about the benefit of family gardens. Working with a committee of about 15 members within one neighborhood (and growing rapidly), we are meeting to learn how to plant gardens, sharing recipes on how to cook with our home-grown veggies, and earning funds to help our neighbors buy the supplies to get started. To get the process jump-started, we have also teamed up with a small micro-credit organization to teach about micro-credit in a community new to the system and encourage efficient returns on borrowed funds. Lucky for us, a small family garden brings over in 300% of the investment cost in savings/sales- a great way to show how a little investment at zero interest can jumpstart your gains.
- “Juegos de Ingles”- At the request of several families in town and encouraged by the amazing rate at which children can learn languages, I have started a weekly hour-long "English Games" class for kids ages 6-13 at the local library. If nothing else, we'll learn to count and say hello while promoting library usage.
- Ingles para Docentes- Our local teacher training center is keen to get ahead of the game by becoming one of the first institutions in the nation to certify English teachers. As partner to the planning process and an instructor in conversational English, I am waiting with my team for the Ministerio de Educacion to approve our proposal and let us get the program rolling for the upcoming school year.
- Campamento de Liderazgo/Taller de Emprendedurismo/Taller de Bibliotecas- Several super guapo (hard-working) Peace Corps volunteers and I are working together on several stellar camps and workshops to take place during summer vacations. In January/February, we are looking at both a Leadership Camp and Entrepreneurship Workshop. In March, the PC Library Committee is setting-up a Librarian training and Library Resources Workshop. These are really awesome opportunities for Paraguayans from around the country to come together, share ideas, and learn something new. All feedback on past events has been outstanding, and I look forward to getting to play a part in the organization of this year's events. :-)
Whew! I think that's all for now! Clearly, I've got my hands full for a PCV- always good to be active.