September 25, 2008
Today I went to visit an area of government subsidized housing about 1 km away from my house. There are 35 homes along a dirt road without any gutters or water drainage system. The reason for my visit was to go over a women’s commission’s request for royalties money from the muni. Tomorrow all commissions must turn in their requests in order to be considered for the 2009 municipal budget.
The women’s commission wants to receive materials to build some sort of gutters or pseudo-sewage system because when it rains, the septic tanks overflow into each family’s yard and continue flowing into the street. There are a lot of kids that play around it and the smell is unbearable. I definitely hope that this commission’s request is granted, but they asked for 50,000,000 Guaranies: half of the total amount available to all of the commissions that are turning in proposals/requests. The other problem is that it seems the septic tanks were poorly constructed and placed. Health risks and the possibility of their overflowing were not anticipated. If the muni were to grant the commission’s request for money and the commission carried out their proposed project, it would be like putting a Band-Aid on a stab wound.
I felt so frustrated today because I feel like I am not getting anywhere in terms of finding real work. When I visited the women’s commission mentioned above, I thought, “What can I really do to help these people access the resources they need to keep raw sewage from running all along the street and in their backyards? There’s nothing, nothing…I am not an engineer nor am I an urban planner, so I’m not even sure how to go about understanding what needs to be requested to remedy the problem.” In situations such as that I consider getting an engineering, urban planning or waste management degree. I feel like I’m floundering with good intentions that have no outlet because my lack of expertise in a real concrete skill area.
When we became Peace Corps Volunteers, a lot of people want to pat us on the backs and say, “Wow, you’re such a great person for wanting to help others.” But really, simply getting on the plane, going through 10 weeks of training, and moving to my site does not make me a successful volunteer. It would be so simple to just live here in the Paraguayan Chaco for the next two years eating mangoes, empanadas and drinking terere with the municipality employees; but for what? Not only am I setting a precedent for future volunteers here in my site, but also I owe it to Paraguayans to not abuse their hospitality, trust and expectation that I am going to encourage and motivate to bring positive change to their community. I am beginning to understand what it means that being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a 24:7 job…whenever I walk out in the street, when I’m jogging, shopping, what have you, I am on stage. I am being appraised. Especially here in a small town, I feel like there is a greater chance of rumors being spread about me. Whether there are any being spread yet, I don’t know.
You stay classy, norteamericanos.