On Friday, I led a small group of volunteers to San Antonio, a town about 30 minutes outside Asuncion, to help Habitat for Humanity build houses for the poor. Habitat’s Paraguay chapter, in collaboration with Project for the People of Paraguay, an NGO dedicated to helping Paraguay, kicked off its "Five Houses in Five Days" project. The project is self-explanatory–about 100 volunteers worked together to build five small homes for the homeless. We helped out toward the end of the project. The weather was lousy, and we got lost a couple of times searching for the work site. Still, we were able to help out a bit once we arrived. I wish we could have helped out more.
This is the third volunteer project I’ve worked on in the past year. The first one — ongoing work at the Rutherford B. Hayes Elementary School in Villa Hayes — is a labor of love to help improve a school that is the namesake of former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. It’s in conjunction with a larger project in honor of President Hayes, who decided on November 12, 1878 in favor of Paraguay to return a large portion of Paraguayan territory to Paraguay. It had been occupied by the Argentines, who occupied the territory following the War of the Triple Alliance. This year is the 130th anniversary, and I’m working a group to honor this anniversary — including refurbishing the Hayes School. The third project is a $2,000 donation to an orphanage in rural La Colmena that a group of us completed in July.
I’m also involved with a team working to ease drought conditions in the Chaco for thousands of families without water. The same is working on a project to donate medical kits to ten of the poorest villages in the country, medicines, and a few hospital beds. The team will also fix a broken ambulance. Most importantly, the team is working on a project to pipe water from an existing well to some villages half an hour away by foot, and redrill a contaminated well. These villagers severely lack medical attention and access to basic needs such as water.
Yesterday I put the case of a 14-year-old girl in a rural village with a severe facial tumor in touch with a local NGO that could help her with tumor removal and reconstructive surgery. Next week, I will meet with a Catholic brother who works in Tacumbu, one of Asuncion’s poorest neighborhoods. He’ll give me a tour and show me areas where the neighborhood could use improvement with small volunteer projects. I will also seek out the John F. Kennedy School for Delinquent Children in San Lorenzo, a suburb of Asuncion.
Whenever I have a bad day — of which I have had many lately — I remember that things could always be worse. These projects remind me of that daily.
For the shutterbugs: I posted photos of the Habitat project in a photo album. Enjoy!