Community Services- Business Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Throughout the years, the Community Economic Development (CED) program has undergone many changes in order to meet Paraguay's needs and evolve with the changing economy and society.

Today, the Community Economic Development Sector's three goals are as follows:
- Community Engagement: Under this goal it is expected that Paraguayan community members, especially youth, become key actors in their community development.
- Workforce development: Community members, especially youth, will improve key workforce skills to increase employment and economic opportunities and/or job retention and career advancement.
- Business Development: Current and future entrepreneurs, especially youth, will cultivate new businesses, expand existing ones, and/or manage successful businesses to support the local community economy.

The Community Economic Development 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 build capacity of local community members improving business management, employability and marketable job skills, and money management skills. Candidates with computer knowledge are encouraged to teach basic computer skills to individuals, including students, teachers, and others.

In rural Paraguay, a small business can be VERY small and is probably 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 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 also work with other age groups, such as women’s groups or farmers.

Many Volunteers also work on secondary activities outside the sector’s framework but that may be started/proposed by the community and carried out with the Volunteer’s help. Depending on your community, secondary projects might include, English teaching, teacher training, community clean-up events, promotion of dental health, art classes, cook stove construction, environmental health, recycling projects and 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
• 5 years professional experience in business management
• Experience in business strategy, management or consulting
• Experience in entrepreneurship or business training
• Moderate to advanced knowledge in Information Communication Technology (ICT)
• Conversational Spanish language skills
• Experience working with youth, organizing, and supporting community projects
• Ability to be flexible and committed to serving others
• Experience in organizing and working with youth groups
• Ability to adapt to varying host country living conditions, working conditions, and pace of life
• At least one life experience as the ‘new person’ moving into a community and successfully building positive relationships with others
• At least one year of experience serving others
• Demonstrated successful experience in organizing and/or planning community events

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 a language placement exam 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 Health Volunteers are placed, Guarani or Jopara (a mixture of Guarani and Spanish) are the most common ways 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 language skills may struggle to learn the two 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 host families. Volunteers will not be able to swear-in unless they meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, Volunteers will be taught basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guarani. 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). 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 since some do not.

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 are available from most communities, 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 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 very high in carbohydrates and many meals involve more than one starch at a time. In many Paraguayan families, manioc and meat are eaten almost every day and 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 dress 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 attire.

Paraguayans value cleanliness and will expect Volunteers to as well. Paraguayans can sometimes get offended by visitors to their homes or offices who have body odor 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, especially when community members see this as a shared value with Volunteers. This may be very different than 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.

Paraguay is becoming more diverse, but still continues to be a fairly homogeneous group in comparison to the U.S., therefore diverse Volunteers may face extra challenges. PC Paraguay has a staff and Volunteer diversity and inclusion group called Jopara which conducts training and provides a forum for dialogue around diversity and inclusion topics.

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 in Paraguay

  • Paraguay may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified.
  • After arrival in Paraguay, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and mandatory immunizations.

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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