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Community Economic Development Promoter

Project description

The Community Economic Development (CED) sector’s purpose is to support Paraguayan families—especially women and youth—increase access to and/or expand their economic opportunities. Volunteers work both in schools and with women’s group and other groups outside of school. The schools are technical high schools which focus on either business administration, marketing or accounting. With schools, 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 other local organizations such as women’s groups to form community saving groups and increase money management skills; and with out-of-school youth and adults on entrepreneurship training. Additionally, with the women’s group, CED Volunteers will work to support the creation of home-based Income Generating Activities (IGAs).

The CED 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
• Guide individuals to apply personal money management skills
Goal 2: Entrepreneurship - Develop individual’s (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)
• Guide individuals to adopt entrepreneurial behaviors and apply basic business skills to their new or existing entrepreneurial activity
• 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
• Guide individuals on how to implement an IGA
• Plan and facilitate basic business skills training for individuals with an IGA
• Guide 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 señora 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 and non-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.

Volunteers serve in urban and semi-urban areas where there was a higher incidence of unemployment prior to the pandemic. 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 support. 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.
Volunteers will receive specific technical training to learn how to design, implement, and evaluate primary and secondary project activities. Trainees receive 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training before moving to their communities and then attend additional training events during their two years of Volunteer service with their community counterparts.

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 one or more of the following criteria:
• 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

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. There are no prerequisite languages for Paraguay. Trainees will learn Spanish and Guarani as Paraguay is a bilingual nation where both are official national languages. To communicate in the capital city of Asunción (and other large urban areas), Spanish is most commonly spoken. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where Volunteers are placed, Guaraní or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guaraní and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. Trainees will have daily language classes in small groups during their Pre-Service Training. Once Volunteers move to their communities, they receive tutoring and additional language classes during In-Service Training events. Successful Volunteers have a strong interest and positive attitude about language learning and dedicate a substantial amount of time outside of class to studying and practicing both languages, especially with their host family. Volunteers are required to successfully pass language benchmarks in Spanish and Guaraní during training. Learning an indigenous language like Guaraní is something unique that will enrich your Peace Corps experience, impress Paraguayans, and make you stand out after your Peace Corps service to future employers. If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of your Peace Corps service, Paraguay may not be the best fit.

Living conditions

Volunteers serve primarily in medium-sized towns (7,000-12,000) or urban areas (12,000+). Each Volunteer is assigned to serve in an individual community that will be located approximately 1 to 8 hours from the capital city of Asunción by bus. In a few rare cases, more than one Volunteer may be placed in the same community if it is large. In this case, each Volunteer will have their own specific organization or neighborhood with which to work.
Volunteers typically have access to electricity and cell service in their community. Internet may be limited or not available in the community. However, most Volunteers are within an hour’s traveling distance to another location with more reliable internet. People in Paraguay use messaging apps that are capable of many functions without requiring access to Wi-Fi.

Volunteers may need to bike or walk in heat and humidity, often in the 95s (Fahrenheit) with 80% humidity. Buses to Asunción from most communities are available, although depending on the size of the community, may have infrequent service.
All Trainees and Volunteers are required to live with a host family for the 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training and the first two months of service in their assigned communities. Homes may be very basic, with outdoor latrines and no modern plumbing. In the cases where there is no running water, wells are available to be shared. During Pre-Service Training Trainees will receive specific training sessions on cultural differences and community integration that promote a healthy and safe lifestyle. Trainees and Volunteers will also partake in training sessions and discussions regarding the diversity of Americans and specific strategies for integration into Paraguayan culture. Peace Corps provides various support services for all Trainees and Volunteers including those from diverse identities and backgrounds.

The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat, which can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also 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, but limited access to other vegetables. Some Volunteers plant gardens to increase the variety of vegetables.

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 an unkempt appearance. Therefore, cleanliness and neat appearance are very important for Volunteers who represent the Peace Corps and host partner organizations. This is a valuable concept to remember as it will help Volunteers integrate into their community, because it shows respect for Paraguayan values. 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 Peace Corps facilities, “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 decisions may take longer than one may have previously been accustomed to. Language barriers coupled with indirect communication styles also pose extra challenges; however, most Volunteers can overcome these with effort and dedication. In general, Paraguayan communities are very welcoming to Volunteers and the program has an overall positive reputation in the country.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

Paraguay is happy to accept couples within the same programmatic sector. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for: Community Economic Development Promoter. Couples will live together with the same host family during Pre-Service Training (PST) and for the first two months of service; but may be separated for certain field-based activities during PST.
Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couples’ placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process, Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities.
For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/

Paraguay is happy to accept same-sector couples. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for Community Economic Development. Couples will live together with the same host family during Pre-Service Training (PST) and for the first two months of service; but may be separated for certain field-based activities during PST. Volunteers who serve with their partners will have the opportunity to work on projects together and individually in their community. As a couple they will enjoy the added benefit of having each other as a built-in support system to process and learn throughout their Volunteer service.
Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couples’ placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process, Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities.
For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/

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