Last weekend Carlo and I went to the Escuela Agrícola de San Francisco in Cerrito to act as ‘trainers’ for the World Cup between that school and the girls’ Agricultural School in Mbaracayu. The event was an attempt to bring the students from all around the country together to play soccer, attend intercultural activities and generally get to know each other.
The day started by splitting the students into 16 teams representing countries from all around the world. In their groups, the students had to present the information they gathered on their country during one of their IT classes. The day continued with soccer games between the different countries. After lunch, the students had two hours of cultural activities: Arabic dancing and writing, French and Italian classes (taught by another intern, Carlo and I), drawing, and the history of the World Cup.
More soccer and a final victory for Afghanistan (against the USA) brought the interns to the field against some of the students. Having ten very diverse young interns leading the activities appeared to be very beneficial to the students. They were enthusiastic about learning about different cultures, engaging with us and the students from the other school all day.
The World Cup was one of the many activities that Fundación Paraguaya has given interns the opportunity to organize, encouraging diversity and integration among the Agricultural Schools’ students. The attempt to transcend poverty by promoting a wide variety of educative programmes is a quality that distinguishes Fundación Paraguaya from other microfinance institutions. As outlined by the novel Ikatu project, restricted financial resources is only one of the facets of poverty. Accounting for this, the Fundación is targeting the young in education programmes that will inspire them to pull themselves out of poverty. In Paraguay, soccer is a good way to start!
Fundación Paraguaya is considered throughout the microfinance industry as an innovative institution in its sector, aiming to alleviate poverty through a number of methods. The primary approach is to give low-income people, especially women, the necessary tools to pull themselves out of poverty, namely through small business and agriculture loans. These loans enable the clients to increase productivity so as to eventually enlarge their business and profits. For many of the clients the generated capital (including obligatory savings) is crucial to family investments, such as the education of children and health. Entrepreneurial education accompanies the loans to help with the development of the client’s businesses. The 21 rural and urban branches throughout the country allow for the broad reach of the services.
But the Fundación’s services extend to so much more than just small business loans. One of the ways in which the foundation is distinguished from other microfinance institutions is through its programmes for children. Three “escuelas agrícolas” (agricultural schools) have been established in rural settings to teach low-income teenagers organic agricultural practices, hotel and tourism management, and business skills in order to give them the opportunity to thrive in these activities. Two of the schools are self-sustainable, whereas the third is only just opening and will be self-sufficient in five years. This model of education has been replicated so far in 27 other countries.
ACCION’s partner also organizes workshops for children in order to teach them the importance of savings. The curriculum includes 10 workshops where the children engage in activities such as games, music, and creative arts (such as making piggy banks) to make them understand why they should save. At the end of the course the students receive certificates of completion, giving them a sense of accomplishment. This year, 6,000 children will be attending these workshops.
These are a mere few of the many services that Fundación Paraguaya offers. Over the next few months, we will provide updates with our experiences and more detailed information on these fantastic services!