Monday, March 18, 2013

Jovenes Empresarios del Paraguay: I'll miss you

Hello all,

My sincerest apologies for not posting sooner. I have no good reason. My best excuse is exhaustion. After one year of hard work, planning, and two major events, my involvement in the much talked about Jovenes Empresarios del Paraguay has come to a close, in order to make way for the next generation of Volunteers to take over and take it to the next level.
Future Entrepreneurs of Paraguay

This was some of the hardest and most rewarding work I've done here in Paraguay. With our hard work came serious results. Over 400 kids introduced to business themes through local business courses, 10 youth startups, 60 kids who were able to come to Asuncion and meet with leaders of the Paraguayan business community. I couldn't be more proud, or happy of my role in this program but with 6 months left in service I am glad to take a back seat. I no longer have worry about budgets or sponsors, programming or losing a kid, both in the metaphorical and deeply terrifying, literal sense. The program is now in the very capable hands of a new crop of Volunteers, who will shape the future of JEP.

In my previous post I asked you all for your support for our most recent event, and you all answered the call and then some. I want to give a huge thank you to all of you who donated, tweeted, facebooked, ect, in order to help make this event a success. And it was. The event was fun, and dynamic. The kids were engaged and friendships were made. It was everything we hoped. Since then I've been helping Volunteers and the youth they took to the event put on more events in their own town to spread interest and enthusiasm for business.

Son of a Pineapple farmer, now serial entrepreneur
My favorite parts of these national events are always when local business leaders come to speak and interact with the youth. The work and influence of Volunteers are significant and it feels great to bring an outside perspective to our youth participants, but there is always the unspoken acknowledgement, that I am an outsider. Not only foreign but with a degree from a U.S university, and my reality is starkly different than that of a kid from rural Paraguay.  But at these events, kids meet and listen to other Paraguayans, many of whom herald from similar circumstances, talk about how to take control of one's life for the better. You can see it on their faces, suddenly themes of hope and hard work, begin to seem realistic. Now there is an example. Someone to model after. It has been said, "you can't become what you don't see." I don't know if I agree with that, but it certainly is harder. I revel in the opportunity to show these kids, exactly what they can be, because others have come before them.

After two years, many volunteers become cynical in reference to their work. We wonder if what we have done has made a difference. This is a question each volunteer has to answer for themselves. I am a lucky one. I know exactly what to say when some one asks me, "Do you think you made a difference?" I can answer "Yeah, let me tell you about my youth business camp."

The work we do as volunteers, is hard but small. We work to make change one person at a time, and hope against hope that all those people will add up to something significant. Maybe it's not the most efficient model, but it is our way of doing business, and it is one with heart.

Thank you to everyone involved with JEP. From friends and family back home, to those here in Paraguay, and of course my JEP team. You're the best.
My JEP Volunteers.