Volunteer Affects Generations to Come in South America
Growing up in Taft, a small farming community in South Texas, I watched my parents reap many rewards in community involvement by the creation of a grassroots organization aimed at empowering minorities during the 1980s. This motivated me to pursue higher education and earn a bachelor of science in geography from Texas A&M University in College Station. Upon graduation, I gained employment with a company involved in the mapping of electrical utilities for better management and efficiency. After a year, I realized that opportunities were limited and began the application process with the Peace Corps.
After leaving this position, I began substitute teaching and working on my teacher certification. Since I would be joining the Peace Corps, I believed that training as a teacher would be an invaluable skill. In February of 1997, I left Texas and began my adventure as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, South America.
Paraguay is a land-locked country in the heart of South America with very little resources or natural wonders but some of the most wonderful and giving people you could ever meet. I arrived in Paraguay as part of a group of 21 Health Volunteers eager to begin learning the language and to discover our new home. I am fortunate to speak fluent Spanish, so I began learning the indigenous language, Guarani, that would prove invaluable for my work.
I was part of a group of nine men whose specific project was health sanitation, which involved working with rural villages to improve their water quality and sanitation. Once we completed training, we were assigned to communities where we would live and work for the next two years. I was very happy to have been assigned as the first volunteer to have ever served in this village of 1,000 people. As the first volunteer and living a considerable distance from the other volunteers, I had a great challenge before me. This made for an amazing opportunity to make a good, lasting impression on the people I would serve and develop a good relationship with Peace Corps. My first year was spent mostly getting adjusted to life in the rural jungle of central Paraguay, learning the language and customs. I also had the rare opportunity to live near an indigenous tribe that to this day maintains its culture. Furthermore, I was able to build my own home with one of the first modern sanitation and septic systems in the village.
In my second year of service, I was approached by the Associate Peace Corps Health Director to be a part of a pilot project involving the Inter-American Development Bank, the Paraguayan Government and Peace Corps. When I presented the proposal to my community, they were eager to take on a project that would improve their health. The project I would be working on would build a running-water system for my rural village and supply each home with an unlimited source of potable water provided by an artesian well. This project involved a great deal of effort and patience on my part. I was involved in every aspect of this project from its design to its proper utilization.
After a year of numerous proposal rejections, political turmoil and other bureaucratic challenges, we were able to inaugurate this system one week prior to the end of my service. After such a long struggle, it was rewarding to know that the project I helped complete is to this day a successful and sustainable project that future generations will be able to enjoy.
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