Business Advising Volunteer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

The Community Economic Development (CED) sector’s purpose is that Paraguayan families—especially women and youth—access and/or expand their economic opportunities. Volunteers work both in schools and with women’s groups and other groups outside of school. The school will be a technical high school which focuses on either business administration, marketing or accounting. At school, Volunteers work in conjunction with teachers on student personal finance, including forming saving clubs, and entrepreneurship training. Volunteers will also coordinate with the local municipality and women’s groups to form community saving groups and increase money management skills; and with out-of-school youth and adults on entrepreneurship training to increase their knowledge and skills on business planning and creation. Additionally, with the women’s groups, CED Volunteers will work to support the creation of Income Generating Activities, known as IGA’s, or strengthen existing ones.

The recently-redesigned Community Economic Development Sector has the following three goals and activities:

Goal 1: Finance - Increase individuals’ capacity for personal money management
• Create and support community savings groups (CSGs) with adults, especially with women
• Create and support CSGs with youth [e.g. in schools]
• Plan and facilitate personal money management training in a CSG setting
• Coach individuals to apply personal money management skills
Goal 2: Entrepreneurship - Develop individuals’ (especially youth’s) entrepreneurial potential
• Plan and facilitate a training that includes both entrepreneurship behaviors, business planning and basic business skills using the Build Your Dreams curriculum (Construye Tus Sueños)
• Coach individuals to adopt entrepreneurial behaviors and apply basic business skills to their new or existing entrepreneurial endeavor
• Organize events for aspiring or existing entrepreneurs (ex: Paraguay Emprende, business plan competition)
Goal 3: Income Generating Activities (IGAs) - Improve individuals’(especially women’s) capacity to implement income-generating activities
• Plan and facilitate training on how to select and implement an effective IGA
• Coach individuals on how to implement an IGA
• Plan and facilitate basic business skills training for individuals with an IGA
• Coach individuals to apply basic business skills to their new or existing IGA

From small to larger urban areas of Paraguay, a small business can be very small, and can be better described as a micro-enterprise. In some cases, Volunteers can work with a woman selling empanadas, a carrot vendor at the local market or a couple of young adults trying to start a juice business. Typically the businesses or IGAs are very informal.

The work setting consists of high schools and women’s groups, but could also include cooperatives, municipalities, governmental organizations, or neighborhood commissions.

According to the Strategic Plan of the National Youth Secretariat, Paraguay has one of the larger youth populations in the region. Investing in youth will play an important role in promoting community economic development in Paraguay. For this reason, the CED sector focuses its effort in this stratum of the population, by building the capacity of youth as community leaders and business owners.

Under the new project framework, Volunteers will be placed in urban and semi-urban areas where there are higher levels of unemployment. All Volunteers in the CED sector will be co-facilitating in a formal classroom setting and coordinating activities with teachers and students.

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 teaching English, community clean-up events, promotion of dental health, art classes, healthy nutrition habits, recycling projects or water sanitation.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

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

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have:
• Bachelor or Master of Business Administration, or a Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in 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
• Basic to moderate knowledge of family finance or micro-finance/community savings groups
• Experience forming, leading or supporting student youth groups or community groups
• Experience working with women’s group
• At least one year of community service or volunteer experience
• Conversational Spanish language skills

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 other smaller cities and in 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 integrate to their community and organization and 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 will mainly be medium-sized towns (7,000-12,000) or urban areas (more than 12,000). The aim of the project is to support communities that are receiving the influx of people, especially youth, from rural areas. Some of those communities are new settlements or “asentamientos” which typically have humble housing and lack of public services. These communities experience challenges of accessibility due to inexistent or bad road conditions and limited access to public transportation. The more established communities consist of a few city blocks around a modest "center" including a school, church, small businesses and a soccer field. Others might have other services and amenities available.

These towns are located 1 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 because the quality and reliability of the internet service might not be stable.

Volunteers are often placed within 2-3 hours of Volunteers from another Volunteer. 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 assigned organization or neighborhood with which to work.

Volunteers should be able to bike or walk up to 10 km in extreme heat and humidity, often 95 degrees and 70% humidity. 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.

Volunteers 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, including cleanliness. Paraguayans may get offended by visitors to their homes or offices who have body odor or a sloppy, unkempt appearance. Therefore, cleanliness and neat personal appearance are very important for Volunteers who represent Peace Corps and host country agencies throughout Paraguay. This is a valuable concept to remember as showing respect for Paraguayan values related to cleanliness and appearance will help with integrating into your community. 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, flip-flops, and tank tops are inappropriate except around the house or for recreational activities.

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 same-sector couples. Therefore, your partner should apply to and qualify for:

Community Economic Development Promoter

Couples will live together with a host family during Pre-Service Training but may be separated for certain field-based activities. During service, couples will live together with the same host family.

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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