Community Economic Development Promoter

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Project Description

The Community Economic Development Sector's three goals are the following:

Goal 1: Community-Focused - Paraguayan community members will be key actors in their community development.
a. PCVs will strengthen the capacity of community members, especially youth, in leadership skills
b. PCVs will support the formation and/or improved management of local organizations
c. PCVs, along with their counterparts, will train community members in project design and management practices

Goal 2: Workforce Development - Community members, especially youth, will improve key workforce skills to increase employment and economic opportunities and support job retention and career advancement
a. Employability skills: PCVs will support youth in learning and demonstrating marketable job skills and pursuing opportunities in the local, regional or national market
b. Vocational Skills (Information and Communication Technology – ICT): PCVs will strengthen skillsets in Microsoft Office Applications and communication technology that can be used in work or education environments
c. Financial Literacy: PCVs will work to increase financial literacy skills to improve personal or household money management practices

Goal 3: Business Development - Current and future entrepreneurs will cultivate new businesses, expand existing ones, and/or manage successful businesses to support the local community economy.
a. Entrepreneurship: PCVS will co-teach business planning course and entrepreneurial skills to create new businesses or expand existing ones
b. Stronger Business Management: PCVs will reinforce business management practices to increase profitability

The Community Economic Development (CED) sector focuses on holistic development of both institutions and individuals. Your main focus will be working with youth through youth groups and after-school activities to teach about group formation, leadership, community service, youth participation and civic engagement. Volunteers also work with institutions such as: municipalities, cooperatives, schools, non-governmental organizations, neighborhood commissions and other organizations. Besides working in community engagement, Volunteers in the CED sector work to build the capacity of local community members to improve business management, and promote employability and marketable job skills, and improve the money management skills of community members. Candidates proficient in Microsoft Office are encouraged to teach basic computer skills with a local counterpart to community members; including students, teachers and others. In many communities, Volunteers also teach English as a marketable job skill.

In rural Paraguay, a small business can be VERY small, and can be better described as a micro-enterprise. In some cases, Volunteers are working with a single señora selling empanadas, a farmer trying to sell carrots at a local market, or a couple of young adults trying to start a juice business. It usually takes Volunteers several months, if not up to a year, to build-up relationships in order to begin business consulting activities. Typically the businesses are very informal.

Working situations range from institution-based, such as with schools, cooperatives or municipalities, to less structured organizations like neighborhood commissions or youth groups. Occasionally, there may be activities in a compañía (rural outskirts) close to your town. Volunteers may need to visit these areas to plan activities, which can require lots of walking and use of locally available public transportation.

According to the Strategic Plan of the National Youth Secretariat, Paraguay has one of the larger youth populations in the region. 21% of the population age ranges between 18 to 29 years old. These young people are the strategic actors of development and social innovation, and investing in them will play an important role in promoting community economic development in Paraguay. For this reason, the Community Economic Development sector focuses its effort in this stratum of the population, by building the capacity of youth as community leaders, business owners and/or by preparing them to enter the job market. CED Volunteers may work with other age groups, such as women’s groups or farmers.

Many Volunteers also work on secondary activities outside the sector’s framework which may be started/proposed by the community and carried out with the Volunteer’s help. Depending on the community, secondary projects might include community clean-up events, promotion of dental health, art classes, cook stove construction, environmental health, recycling projects or water sanitation.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have:
• Master of Business Administration or a Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Business Administration, Public Administration, Management, Accounting, Banking, or Finance
• At least one year of experience in business management
• Experience in business strategy or consulting
• Experience in entrepreneurship or business training
• Moderate to advanced knowledge of Information Communication Technology (ICT)
• Conversational Spanish language skills
• Experience forming, leading or supporting youth groups or community groups
• Experience in organizational development
• Experience working with youth, and organizing and supporting community projects
• At least one year of community service or volunteer experience

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position:

A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

The most competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish language skills. Paraguay is a bilingual nation where both Spanish and Guarani are official national languages. In order to communicate in the capital city of Asuncion (and other large urban areas), Spanish is most commonly spoken. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where CED Volunteers are placed, Guarani or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guarani and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. Therefore, Volunteers will need to learn both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective in their work. Volunteers who enter training with zero Spanish language skills may struggle to learn both languages which can be a source of frustration. Successful Volunteers will have an open and positive attitude about language learning and dedicate a substantial amount of time outside of class to studying and practicing language, especially with their host family. Volunteers will not be able to swear-in unless they meet both language benchmarks. If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of one’s Peace Corps service, Paraguay may not be the best fit.

Living Conditions

Communities for CED Volunteers range from semi-rural (less than 1,000 habitants) to small towns (1,000 to 7,000) to medium towns (7,000-12,000) to urban areas (more than 12,000). These communities frequently consist of a few city blocks around a modest "center" including a school, church, small businesses, and a soccer field.

These towns are located 2 to 10 hours from Asuncion by bus. CED Volunteers typically have access to electricity and cell service and many communities have internet, but it is best to come prepared to not have internet in the community.

Volunteers are often placed within 2-3 hours of Volunteers from another sector. In a few cases, more than one Volunteer may be assigned to the same community if it is large. In this case, each Volunteer will have their own specific organization or neighborhood where they will be assigned to work.

Volunteers should be able to:
• Bike or walk up to 10 km - Buses to Asuncion from most communities are available, although depending on the size of the community, may have infrequent service. Additionally, heavy rain can cause roads to close, which would mean walking or waiting until the road opens in order to leave a community.
• Adapt to extreme heat/humidity - often 95 degrees & 70% humidity.
• Live with a host family for the 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training and the first 3 months of service, for a total of six months of required homestay experience. Homes may be very basic, with outdoor latrines and no modern plumbing. Most Volunteer housing has access to running water within the property line, if not in the house itself. In the cases where there is no running water, wells are available to be shared.

The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat, therefore it can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also very high in carbohydrates and many meals involve more than one starch at a time
(e.g. manioc and pasta or manioc and rice). In many Paraguayan families, manioc and meat are eaten almost every day. Fruits are available seasonally. Most communities have access to tomatoes, onions and green peppers, however some have limited access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers have gardens in order to increase access to vegetables.

Generally speaking, Paraguayans place high importance on personal appearance. Shorts, flip-flops, and tank tops are inappropriate except around the house or for recreational activities. It is expected that Volunteers wear business casual as a working professional would in the U.S. Most Paraguayans dress up for special occasions. In schools and offices - including the Peace Corps office in Asunción - “office casual” is appropriate (nice jeans, khakis, and knee-length skirts; button-down shirts or nice pull-over blouses; closed-toed shoes or dressy sandals). Shorts and flip-flops are not acceptable in the Peace Corps office.

In general, Paraguayans value cleanliness and will expect Volunteers to do so as well. Paraguayans can sometimes get offended by visitors to their homes or offices who have body odor or a sloppy or unkempt appearance. Therefore, cleanliness and neat personal appearance are very important for Volunteers who represent the Peace Corps and host country agencies throughout Paraguay. This is a valuable concept to remember as it will help with integrating into your community, because it shows respect for Paraguayan values related to cleanliness and appearance. This may be very different from the cultural context one has experienced in the U.S.

The pace of life is much slower than in the U.S. and simple decisions may take longer than one may have previously been accustomed to. Language barriers coupled with indirect communication styles also pose extra challenges.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Paraguay is happy to accept cross-sector and same-sector couples.

Couples will live together with a host family during Pre-Service Training but may be separated for certain field-based activities if they are in different project sectors. During service, couples will live together with the same host family. If couples are in different sectors they will be separated for workshops and conferences for up to two weeks at a time due to in-service training events.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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