Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Help Me Construct a Center for Rural Women in Paraguay!

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this entry finds everyone well. As you know, I have been in Paraguay since May 2008 serving in the Peace Corps. The past year has been filled with many amazing highs as well as its share of lows, through all of which I have done my best to remain positive. My main work in site has been with a rural womens' group, La Asociacion de la Mujer Rural (The Association of the Rural Woman), also known as AMUR. It is composed of three groups of women in three communities, with its central group in my town, Valenzuela. Most of my time is spent teaching basic computer classes and working with the ladies in Valenzuela, but I also meet with one of our sister groups once a week in the nearby community of Minas Cue (MEE-nas KWAY). AMUR's objective is to build the capacity of rural women in order to improve their economic situations and work with them to develop sustainable, income-generating activities. The purpose of this email is to talk about what will very likely be the biggest project of my Peace Corps service and how you can help me make a difference.

For the past ten years, the women of Minas Cue have met every week to learn and make craft works such as crochet, ao po’i (traditional Paraguayan embroidered linen shirts), homemade detergent and soap to sell, as well as other activities. They also cook various traditional foods, which they sell at a weekly community food stand in order to raise money. They are very low-income, extremely hard-working women. They were holding their weekly meetings in a vacant house in the community until earlier this year, when they began having problems with the owners and were forced to vacate the house. Instead of embarking upon a prolonged and expensive legal battle, they decided to meet in the home of one of the members pending the construction of their own meeting house. In their house they would no longer be renters, but rather owners in control of their own situation. They would be able to work more effectively and empower themselves as a group through workshops and educational courses that would be held in their own women's center.
Through their activities, the women of AMUR in Minas Cue are fulfilling an important need by motivating the females in the community, all whom are of limited economic resources, and deserve a place of their own where they can work more effectively.

Earlier this year, the women pooled their monies together to take out a loan from the local cooperative to purchase a plot of land on which to construct the house through a loan from the local cooperative. As a result of the aforementioned food stand sales, they have also raised some funds to help with construction costs. While the ladies have already begun enthusiastically preparing for the construction process, they are still without the financing needed to bring the project to fruition.

It is for this reason that I am utilizing a program called the Peace Corps Partnership Program to raise the funds to construct the center. Peace Corps volunteers such as myself work with the community to write up the project, which is approved by Peace Corps Paraguay and then forwarded to Headquarters in
Washington. Utilizing the contacts of our family and friends that we provide in the application, the Peace Corps Foundation sends out copies of of project proposal so our folks can donate to the foundation and fund our project. Once the project is fully funded, Peace Corps forwards the money to Peace Corps Paraguay, which forwards the money to me so we can begin construction. So how can you help? First, email me at with your home address and email address in order to receive a copy of the proposal (look for it in the next month or so) once it is approved by Peace Corps and posted to the Peace Corps website. After you receive a copy, please go to the website and contribute to the project so we can make this dream a reality. Please forward this to anyone you know that might be interested in contributing. No amount is too small!

Thank you all in advance for your help, without which this project would not be possible.

Celebrating my birthday

Preparing food for my birthday party

Showing their craftwork. Even the babies participate!

Na Isabel crocheting

Na Isabel helping Na Antonia with her crochet.