Dusk is falling at Itaipu as we are waiting in front of the buses that will take our group of 70 Paraguayan youth on a tour of the world's largest operational dam and generator of electricity for both Brazil and Paraguay- a feat of modern science and engineering. But this is not what is on display tonight, nor the most astonishing of what we will see. A flamboyant joven (youth) pulls out his portable boom-box as we wait, energy from our four day leadership camp has reached a boiling point. Suddenly, without planning or warning the jovenes start to chant, then dance, then scream... we have an instant flashmob. Lady Gaga breaks in and the parking lot becomes a spectacle of youth power, energy, and excitement. A crowd forms around our jovenes all dressed in teal t-shirts as the group forms a chair-less couch-sit. The dancing continues, the chants get louder, other jovenes unassociated with the group begin to join in. The driver arrives and just as suddenly as it all began, it all comes to a stop. The jovenes file onto the buses, the tour begins, ends. We return to camp, youth mobilization and the demonstration of all that youth can bring to this country has only just begun.
last week I brought four youth from my small southern pueblo to Tati Yupi outside of Ciudad del Este to a Peace Corps sponsored and volunteer coordinated leadership camp: Campamento Ñande Haé Tenonderá. At camp they learned about what makes a leader, self-esteem, communication, teamwork, human rights, social justice, and project planning. Their charge over the next six months is to complete a project in their home towns, mobilizing other youth to become active in their communities and the development of Paraguay. When we return this winter, they will become the teachers- and us the observers. They will tell us how they have made the change they want to see in this world, and with a little perseverance they will see it through to the end. It gives me hope to see these motivated youth- tonight they are dancing, tomorrow they are the world's leaders.