Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SPA Grant Project

SPA stands for Small Project Assistance. Peace Corps Paraguay receives a bit of money each year from USAID to give out as grants to volunteers who solicit them for sustainable projects within their respective communities. Once all the money has been used the volunteers who want a grant have to wait until the next time when money arrives.

I decided to apply for a SPA grant with the association that works with the community and cultural center that is located in the train station. We had done a needs assessment with a German NGO called, GTZ, and our number one, two and three needs were illumination, bathroom and chairs. I thought to myself, hey we have the opportunity to access some money why not try.

So after three months of filling out the grant paper work we were ready to turn it in. It was quite the process. First..I've never written a grant and having to do it in Spanish for the first time was hard. Second..Paraguayans don´t like to do paper work, so it was like pulling teeth for them to come over and help. Third...Once we got the money EVERYONE wanted to be involved and change the entire project for their personal likings. That was really hard for me. Ony about half of the association helped write the grant and do the research for the budget on what the project would cost.

Well once we had the money a few issues came up. The people who would be installing the lightning wanted more money for labor, people from the group wanted more lighting here and there, well why not just build a modern bathroom instead of fixing up the latrine? We had received the exact amount of money that we asked for. There was no room to budge. I don´t know if it was my fault and that wasn't clearly stated in the beginning or if the people didn't understand the concept of a budget and that's why we needed a list of ALL the materials we would need for the project before hand to be able to make a list of all the costs. But luckily the president is a very smart woman and put the money in the cooperative so not just anyone could go spending money.

Literally two days after we had the money I made it my personal mission to buy the chairs. The train station had about 8 chairs making it hard to have meetings, classes or any other event at the station. Cynthia and I went into Villarrica and bought 45 beautiful plastic chairs. In the budget we had gotten the price for 50 but after 2 months of waiting for the money the prices went up. But we still got 45 chairs.

Next the lighting guy (who upped his labor 300 mil), Julio and I went to Villarrica to buy all the materials that would be needed to redo the entire lighting system of the train station. The association wanted to fix the lighting because there was the problem of low tension in the station due to the neighbor being a carpenter and every time he used his machines the lights would turn off and on inside making it impossible to use the computer. Second there were two lights in total out side that worked making it hard to have activities at night. So we made a whole new line of electricity which is now apart from the “house” part of the station where the people live and have their workshop.

We had decided to fix up the old latrine that has 4 stalls instead of building a modern bathroom. That was an essential need because whenever there are events held at the train station there was no where to use the bathroom, very unsanitary. The bathroom was cleaned, floors were fixed, painted inside and out, New doors were put onto every stall and locks installed.

Also in the budget we put in a printer and acrylic white board which were bought. We left those to be the last things bought due to a rise in cost in a lot of materials so we wanted to make sure we had enough money.

Since we've bought chairs, installed the lighting and fixed up the bathroom, night meetings have been arranged to be held at the station, we've had cultural events without having to rent chairs saving money and new courses are now being offered. The train station is a beautiful place and a key part of the history of San Salvador. Just a little bit of sweat and hard work paid off.


I live in Paraguay. I have been learning and speaking spanish for two years now. My english is terrible. I´ve was never a good speller in the first place and it has come to my attention that my spelling has become even worse. Along with bad spelling in my blog, due to using paraguayan computers that don´t have spell check in english, you´ll also find words used in the wrong context or words that just shouldn´t be there all together. For example..I said my house had a lot of "commodities" went I ment to say "amenities". Sorry for the craziness. Attached are a few more pics of my house and daily life here in paraguay living as a peace corps volunteer.

Laundry Mat

Day Spa ( liz came to visit)

The front of my house

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Welcome to my life.

I’ve officially been in Paraguay for 23 months. Its defiantly been an emotional rollercoaster like they told us it would be in training. But there have, luckily, been more ups than downs. Well that’s besides the point.

This blog entry isn’t about my feelings or any of that. I wanted to take you on a tour of my “crib”. Instead of the tv show about the life of the rich and famous and their houses, cars and excess of unnecessary things, there should be a show about how us peace corps volunteers survive.

The volunteers in Paraguay are very spoiled. Every volunteer has electricity. Thanks to the Itaipu Dam one of the worlds largest hydroelectric dams which is split between Brazil and Paraguay. Almost all volunteers have running water, and if they don’t they have a well. If the volunteer brought a computer they have internet, thanks to Tigo and their internet modem. We all have fans, without a fan you would literally die. If the volunteer has a modern bathroom, which is likely unless they live way far out in the middle of no where, their shower will have a hot water head. Some have coffee pots, tvs, electric heaters, blenders, pressure cookers, comfortable beds, hot water heaters, electric ovens and other fun things.

I don’t know of any volunteers that have a washing machine but now days almost every Paraguayan household has a washing machine. There was once a volunteer I knew that had air conditioner, chuchi, but she finished her service. Other than her I am not aware of volunteers with air. But again these days in Paraguay it is becoming very common to have air conditioner. The poor little fan isn’t enough.

As for the style of the house there are a few basic designs. If you live in the “campo”, you house would most likely be made out of wood planks with a tin roof. The floor may be compacted mud, concrete, brick or tile. Other stiles of house are brick, which is cheaper, with a white wash finish. Then that white wash can be painted one or two of many beautiful colors.

My current house, where I’ve been for a year, is very nice. When I was preparing to come to Paraguay I would have never have guessed I would be living in a house with such great commodities and in such comfort, besides the humidity and bugs. Thanks to the volunteer who lived in San Salvador for 4 months before I came, I have a tv, which as helped improve my Spanish. In my house I have a living room with a big table and six chairs, two bedrooms, each room with a double bed and mattress, a modern bathroom with a hot shower, kitchen fully equipped with shelves, sink, stove and fridge. All of which came with the house, except the comfy mattress I bought. I pay 300 mil a month for rent which is about $75. My electricity bill is usually 30 mil or $7.50 and my water costs 13 mil, $3.25. It doesn’t seem like much, but being a peace corps volunteer I don’t get paid a ton so after rent, electricity and water it takes about a quarter of my monthly allowance. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the only things that really sucks is washing clothes by hand, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it and will be very thankful for the washing machine when I get home.

My back yard is a mini forest filled with pomelo and mango trees. I have one mandarin tree and some other trees without fruit. Right now is pomelo season and I LOVE pomelo juice. I don’t have any animals but it looks like I do since my yard is always full of chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, dogs and the occasional cow that all belong to my neighbors. Sometimes I have the urge to kill them all but then everyone would hate me. Only if I take a neighbor some food will they give me an egg or two. They should really pay me for the food I feed them.

Here are some pics of my beautiful house and all its glory! Enjoy.

the back of my house/washing station
my moto

central heating and cooling


where i keep food

beauty salon