Change Yourself…Change The World.

“The Best Experience of My Life”
January 31, 2012, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Paraguay

Campamento Ñande Ha’e Tenonderä 2012

So last week our sector, Community Economic Development, held a 4 day leadership camp. Volunteers brought 1 or 2 youth from each of their communities to Caaguazu, a city in Paraguay where the camp was held. For four days we played games, danced, sung, and taught leadership activities to youth from all over Paraguay.

In planning and preparing for the leadership camp, I had some discussions with other Volunteers about what the whole point of this camp was. One of the hardest realities as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay (and probably world-wide) is trying to motivate people to improve their lives. My biggest frustration in my community is hearing 20 people ask me to help them on something, planning presentations and classes for them, and then only 1 or 2 people showing up. Yes, my community members know the date and time- yes, five minutes before the presentation starts they promise me they’ll attend- but still no one comes. So some of my friends and I questioned-would these youth be taking anything away from this camp?

Getting youth to go to a camp is even harder. There are constant drop-outs, and many just don’t seem interested. I didn’t even ask any youth in my community to attend, since I thought I couldn’t go as my homestay sister from my training site is getting married (more details on this later!!)- but she changed her wedding date at the last minute. With the insistence of my Peace Corps friends I decided to come and help out.

I’m so glad I did- and I wish more than anything I brought my own youth. To Americans perhaps this would be a fun camp and bonding experience, but to Paraguayans it was so much more. This was the first time for many youth to leave their communities without their parents, and they had the opportunity to make friends with people from all over Paraguay. Furthermore, the education system in Paraguay is extremely esoteric; many teachers rely on rote memorization, and school is only 4 hours long each day. To have such an interactive and reflective experience was most likely the first time these kids had the opportunity to learn and bond in a completely different way.

These four days literally transformed lives. On the last day of the camp everyone broke down crying, thanking the Peace Corps for the camp. My fellow PCVs told me that where they first had to drag their youth to the camp on Wednesday, by Saturday the kids were asking them about forming youth groups and creating community studies. Even youth from last year’s camp attended; they created an organization called Red Nacional De Protagonismo Juvenil. This time around they took leadership roles with the intention of eventually taking over the camp from us.

One Paraguayan girl said the camp was the best experience of her life. I literally teared up at that statement. This makes every single hard day here worth it for me. Knowing that we are making a difference in their lives, that the camp we put on for them was unforgettable- it makes me feel incredibly inspired and happy. This is definitely one of the highlights of my service.

2 Comments so far
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Girl I am so happy for you. This sounds like an incredibly rewarding experience. I am pretty seriously looking into Peace Corps these days, and would love to talk with you at some point about it… again. Love and hugs.

Comment by carlyhosfordisrael

[…] the country. My sector has put on this leadership camp for the past 3 years, and it has literally transformed lives. I’ve personally seen shy Paraguayan youth turn into full-blown leaders in their community […]

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