Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peace Corps Guilt

I find it a bit funny to be writing about feeling guilty when all I want to do is skip.

Today I made actual progress on getting two projects started. One is a workshop for teachers and other interested people in how to manage a library. The other is a class on how to start a small business for youth.

I’ve been working with a funcionario, Luis, in the Muni for the last month and a half, but things aren’t really progressing. The last notable thing he said to me that last time I met with him was ‘We need to think about how much decorations are going to cost!’ I must mention the schools we want to do the project with haven’t even been informed about it and Luis and I haven’t sat down and discussed any of the details for the plan yet.

Anyway, back to guilt and skipping. Many of the volunteers are extremely nice and caring people who are more than willing to do any and everything possible for their community. Seriously, I know one volunteer who teaches typing classes for 6 hours a day everyday. He works with one student each hour because his personal laptop is the only computer in the community. On the other extreme I know of a volunteer who pretty much didn’t leave her house for a month.

For many of us finding work to fill our days is like trying to catch a butterfly…with a blindfold on….in a lightning storm…on a hilltop. It is a bit frustrating. Most of us have found the Munis we were assigned to be, at the very least, unhelpful or at the worst, outright hostile towards working with us. Trying to find someone to work within the community is equally difficult, especially if the community is small or spread out.

We’re told during training that it may take 3-6 months for us to even begin to start finding projects. I’m in month 8 btw. Even with that in mind however, it is really challenging to take someone used to 9-5 work down to… well you might find work in a few months.

Many volunteers feel guilty because we've been sent to the community that supposedly wants to work with us and yet all we do is fix our houses, do chores, hang out with people in the community, read, read, oh and um read. And if you’re lucky like me, you also get to play on the internet.

We feel like we’re letting PC down, or we’re letting the community down, or we’re letting our fellow volunteers down, or we’re letting ourselves down. We want to DO something. Anything! Please!

Sometimes people back in the states will comment about how what we are doing is so amazing and we doing such a good thing. But when you’ve been twiddling your thumbs for almost a year, that is the last thing you want to hear, because it makes the guilt worse because now you’re letting the people back home down too by not actually doing anything amazing yet.

Damn these gosh darn consciences. Why can’t we just be content to mooch?! But alas…no.

Fortunately many other volunteers are either in this stage or have been through it so there is a good support network in place. But most of us don’t live with other volunteers, so we’re on our own day-to-day, trudging through the trenches.

Volunteers all have their own ways of dealing with this. The most common is just leaving site often. However I really like Campo 9. Not working sucks, but I have a really comfortable life here. When I came to PC and went through training, I told myself that I wasn’t going to do projects on my own. I am very confident in my ability to get things done. I don’t have to prove that to myself. No, I decided that if I was going to do a project someone in the community, other than me, had to be in-charge and I would help. I don’t mind being a facilitator, but I am not here to push my own personal projects through. I have ideas, I’ll let people know what they are but I’m not leading the charge. Not this time. Facilitate, yes, pull all nighters and then be the only one at the meeting. No sir.

With this in mind I promised myself that I would wait until I could work someone. I also promised myself that I would not feel guilty about however long it took for that someone to appear. I would do my part by going out of my house and talking to people and being open to work, but I would not push my own agenda. It would only create unsustainable projects and wouldn’t encourage the Paraguayans to break free from the mini-dictator managements style that dominates business and government…

...And so I’ve been waiting, and reading, and playing with Lila, and doing housework, and cooking really tasty food…and waiting. And so I’ve managed to free myself from most, though admittedly not all, of the PC guilt.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No Worries: Just a Little Ole' State of Emergency

While I doubt this will make major headlines back in the states, there have been some recent events here that may look a bit serious to the outside viewer.

President Lugo declared a state of emergency for the country due to the killing of a police officer and three other individuals in the northern part of the country near Concepcion. A local land reform group that has periodically resorted to violence has taken credit for the attacks. As a part of the state of emergency he has sent additional police forces into that area.

Fortunately I am not anywhere near Concepcion and don’t have any reason to go there. The volunteers in that area have been evacuated to the capital for the time being or on ‘Stand-fast’ which means they aren’t allowed to travel around.

So no worries, PC has it handed for the volunteers in the areas of concern, which thankfully doesn’t include me. My life and travels go on as usual.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Help Ahecha!

I have been working with a group called Ahecha Paraguay, which means, “I see Paraguay” (in GuaranĂ­). It is a participatory photography project that puts digital cameras in the hands of Paraguayan youth and fosters artistic exchange between communities. To date, this project has gone a long way towards promoting artistic expression and boosting self esteem among its participants.

We recently won the Peace Corps technology award for our project and local demand for this project has far exceeded our capacity to provideaccess to camera kits.

The wait list is over a year-and-a-half long & our term is for only 2 years. Meaning volunteers who sign up to participate now, will have to wait until about May 2011 to actually start the project!

This is where you come in! We want to buy some more cameras so that we can continue to grow this successful project – and for that, I need your help.

If you want to help out with this project, please donate through the Peace Corps Partnership Program:

You can read more about the project details by following that link. All donations are tax-deductible, and please remember that even $10 or $20 goes a long way once you exchange it for the local currency, the GuaranĂ­. Our goal is to raise $4,813 by mid-2010.

For more information about the program, please visit our blog at:

To view
Ahecha photographs selected for this year's national exhibition, please visit: