We spent four days of last week at a beautiful camp in Carapegua, Paraguay where the three youth that we brought from our town met up with motivated youth across the country to learn and practice leadership skills. This leadership camp put on by Peace Corps Volunteers is called Jóvenes por Paraguay (Youth for Paraguay) and I still have the camp’s theme song running through my head. (A-a-a-a-a-autoestima…no se puede comprar!)
To be honest, I was mostly excited to connect with the other volunteers who would be at the camp, but by the end of the 4 days I was feeling almost as excited to go forth and do great things as the youth from our town were. Well probably not to the same extent because they were outta this world in love with the experience they had just had – meeting new friends, hearing from inspiring speakers, playing games, completing a service project, and having a great time! For many of the youth who attended the camp it was their first time out of their own communities so it was definitely an experience they won’t soon forget.
We have another camp coming up in February, this one with a business focus. It’s called Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay (Young Entrepreneurs of Paraguay) or JEP for short. It is a project that empowers Paraguayan young adults to become the next generation of entrepreneurs, helps them create viable business plans that address real needs in their communities, and supports them to make their ventures a reality. In the past year alone the project has had 30 viable business plans created, 10 start-ups launched, and Peace Corps Volunteers have taught entrepreneurship course to over 400 youth in Paraguay.
Here’s a quick summary of how it works:
1. In February Peace Corps Volunteers put on a workshop/camp for interested young adults across Paraguay designed to develop business interest, critical thinking skills, and creative problem solving.
2. Peace Corps Volunteers then teach an entrepreneurship course Construye Tus Sueños (Build Your Dreams) in their sites, where the students construct their own business plan.
3. In July there is another gathering where Peace Corps Volunteers bring 1-2 of their students with the best business plans to a nation-wide business plan competition where they compete for the chance to win seed money to actually start up their business.
For the February workshop, Isaiah has been part of the programming team who plans all the activities, talks, and competitions and I have been working with the logistics crew. We’re both even thinking about taking on leadership roles for the next cycle of camps (July 2013 and February 2014) when our training group takes over the major planning.
We’re working on funding this February event so if you have interest in helping out by contributing we’d be very grateful! Every dollar counts, and goes a long way in Paraguay. To learn more about JEP or to make a donation, please check out our Indiegogo campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/JEP/. Also consider spreading the word to friends, family, or businesses that you think may be interested in donating to our initiative. Muchísimas gracias!
It’s been fun to be a part of both camps and I feel lucky that our sector of Peace Corps Paraguay already has these two big initiatives underway for us to work on. And you know I’ll report back after the business camp to let you know how it all went down!