August 3, 2013
Villarrica in Action
It’s been too long since I’ve provided a recap on this little life we live in our corner of the world. But, here I am, trying to make amends.
These last months have been memorable, to say the least, and it already saddens me to think that one day our service will end and we will be packing up our bags.
1) I took 12 students who were in our business class to a business conference in the capital, Asunción. The students got to learn about marketing, sales strategies, and even got to play the computer business simulation game that Jon and another fellow Peace Corps Volunteer designed and built. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity for them and they returned to our town with a renewed excitement for all things business. Thanks to all of those who sponsored our youth, changing it from merely a dream to a reality.
2) We had our second set of visitors! We were very blessed that Jon’s parents were able to visit us for three weeks, allowing us to share with them our Paraguayan life. We went on a little Paraguayan excursion to see the Jesuit missions, Encarnación, and Paraguari. We also cooked a lot, laughed a lot, and banagrammed a lot (I lost.every.single.game). They also saved my life several times by baking up treats for the many closing ceremonies we had while they were visiting.
3) We started and completed two English classes. We continued to teach English and by the end of it I secretly fell in love with a couple of our students. They always showed up, truly wanted to learn, and always made you laugh.
4) We also started and completed three business courses, the course consists of 14 classes that cover all of the basics of building a business. This includes finance, sales, social responsibility, marketing, etc. At the end of the course students are encouraged to write a business plan. Overall, the course was fun to teach and the students made it even better. We had a little closing ceremony for two of our classes with lots of carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (made by the in-laws). Unfortunately, we were too busy eating the cupcakes to be able to take a photo.
5) After the courses finished, four of our business students went to Asunción for a national workshop to present their business plans and compete for seed funding. I could not have been more proud of them. The amount of hard work and dedication it took for them to get there is truly noteworthy.
A little story: The first time the students presented their plans to a judge’s panel in our local town our students filled their Powerpoints with lots paragraphs of text and simply read off of their presentations, it was heart wrenching to watch. For the national workshop, Jon and I worked with each one individually to par down the information and have them practice presenting without reading off of their presentations. It was like night and day watching them during the national workshop. They all spoke, instead of reading, were dynamic, engaging and knowledgeable about their plans.
One of our students was one of the winners, and received around $400 to start his business, he’ll be growing papaya. I cannot wait to get my hands on his first fruit.
Also, kudos to Jon, who was in charge of all of the programming for the workshop, and worked his rear end off preparing everything for many months beforehand. I was in charge of all of the communications, which was mostly just fun for me. I even made some spiffy nametags for all of the participants. And big, big kudos to the rest of the team, including Allison, the head honcho of it all.
6) A long time ago, after coming back from our first youth camp, Lili (the young lady we took), formed a youth group with our support. They have been hard at work doing their first community project, called “Uncap Art.” The project consists of a plastic bottle cap mural with a cultural Paraguayan motif. Thankfully, with some encouragement and help, the youth applied for a $500 grant from Youth Service America and were the recipients; this covers all of the material costs. Like most things in life, the whole project is much more work than anticipated, but slowly/surely it’s getting done and the community loves it. Here’s a little video that Jon made that shows the entire process.
7) More recently, two of the youth from the group got to go to the Re-Connect camp, where they all got to share their experiences forming their youth groups and doing their projects. Well, that, and lots of games, and overall fun.
8) We hosted Long Field Practice, this basically means that volunteers who are in training come to our community for four days and get to experience what volunteer life is like. They also got some hands on experience running their very own self-esteem talk at our local high school and talking on the radio. Oh, we also hosted an epic 4th of July BBQ for them at our home, with lots of yummy food. You can read the personal account from one of the volunteers here and all about the host family she stayed with in our town here.
9) Jon and I have also become radio experts, while we don’t have our own radio show, it feels like every other week for some reason we are chatting it up with our friends on the radio. So much so, that once the radio lady came to us at our home. I still remember vividly how nervous I was the first time I chatted it up on the radio a year ago, while nowadays I don’t break a sweat. Lili, from our youth group, and I, also had a TV interview about our project, and man oh man, everyone I ran into after it aired told me about it. Well the conversations would go more like this “Hi, Don Juan, How are you?” “Well, good, though, these days you never visit me, I only see you on TV.” I walk away guilt ridden.
So, that, in a very small nutshell are some of the highlights of these past months. And yes, we are in love with this little corner of the world.