Navigating Asunción through an Amazing Network of Human Connections
By Alba Castillo, KF 16 Paraguay
“One can pay back the loan of gold, but one lies forever in debt to those who are kind.”
The other night my landlady, Señora Ada, came up to my apartment with two slices of pizza her husband had just made. We chitchatted while I enjoyed a fabulous concoction of cheese, meats and olives over a flaky thin crust. A few minutes later, as Señora Ada was walking out of my door, I was encouraged to come downstairs and spend time with her family anytime I got lonely. I started to draft this blog entry as soon as she left. I wondered, will the generosity and kindness I have experienced from day one ever cease to amaze me?
Just two short weeks ago I landed in Asunción and arrived at my host’s home. All things considered, I can’t believe how well-adjusted I feel. This is thanks in no small part to my CouchSurfing host, Javi. Everything from learning to take colectivos (crazy city buses), exchanging money, obtaining a cell phone, learning about tereré (a cold yerba mate infusion), and even driving around to look at apartments was all made so much easier thanks to this fantastic person. The experience has renewed my belief that we are capable of creating amazing human connections and genuinely caring for the wellbeing of others without financial compensation as the #1 motivator. I am humbled and inspired by the concept.
After taking a few days to settle in, I started my first week at Fundación Paraguaya (FP) with much positive energy surrounding me. My Kiva counterparts, Luis Jara and Karen Aguilera, were warm and accommodating despite their heavy workload and demanding schedules. Luis and Karen work at FP an average of the 10 hours a day and attend college at night – and they do this every day with a smile on their face!
I was fortunate to be able to attend part of the training for a new group of Kiva Asesoras (Kiva loan advisors for group loans available to women). Karen led this particular session and it was evident she believes in Kiva’s mission. She was able to communicate not only the operations and logistics behind a good Kiva loan profile and a successful Kiva borrower, but also the human connection that makes a successful asesora. Karen took a moment, mid-sentence, to ask the trainees to remember why this training and their work are important; “We are doing this for the women. They need this service. Please don’t forget this when you are having a difficult day out on the field”.
For a moment I felt as one of the trainees and that Karen was directing her words at me. It’s amazing how focus can be blurred due to all that goes into moving to a different country for a few months, settling into a new city, a new apartment, and a new work environment. It’s also amazing when everything is put into perspective in the most inadvertent way.
Fundación Paraguaya is a large and well-established organization and I look forward to continue to strengthen its relationship with Kiva; as well as seeing, in action, the many great programs and initiatives it runs all over Paraguay.
Asunción may not be the easiest city to get used to. It has wild traffic, daring pedestrians, streets flooded with exhaust fumes, and sporadic loud music and/or fireworks in the middle of the night. Asunción has all the sights, sounds, and scents present in other bustling Latin American cities. And I can proudly say every day it gets easier to hop on or off a colectivo during the split second it comes to a complete stop. The hard-working and friendly owners of the panaderia, lavanderia, and other small shops make my street feel homey. My friend Javi, my landlady, my co-workers and other interns at Fundación Paraguaya are helping to make this entire experience even more significant and fulfilling.
What excites me the most is that next week I will start going out on the field to meet actual Kiva borrowers. I am looking forward to making that human connection with dedicated micro-entrepreneurs and reporting back to the wonderful community of Kiva supporters.
Alba is a Kiva Fellow working with Fundación Paraguaya in Asunción, Paraguay. To learn more about this great organization please visit Fundación Paraguaya’s partner page, join their Kiva lending team, or lend to one (or two, or three…) of their borrowers.