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Religious Youth Service

RYS-Paraguay: Community Harmony, Environmental Sustainability: Gateway to Peace

 Participants: 20 Religions Represented: 3  Nations Represented: 4

Puerto Diana, Paraguay

Duration: August 16 - 28, 2003

Central Work: Participants worked in the Native Indian village of Deena on the Paraguay River in the Pantanal. There they helped build the foundation and walls for a new community school. Participant spent a day of service at a school in the poorer ‘Las Chacaritas’ district of the capital.

The hosting sight in Puerto Leda is on a growing farm in the Pantanal and provided the environment, practical work and teachers who helped participants gain insights on real issues facing a community developing I n the wilderness Environment issues were balanced with issues of economic sustainability.

Since 1996, Friendship Americas has been guiding programs designed to create deeper understanding between youth in the Americas. These projects often focus on offering service to the indigenous peoples’ of an area with participants from Latin and North America.

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 This was the first RYS project in the Pantanal and it provided participants with the opportunity to serve the Chamacoco tribal community in the village of Diana where they helped in the construction of the community school. At Diana (located on the Paraguay River near Bolivia) the interaction between the children and the RYS participants was continuous, during the morning at the work site, in the afternoon at the sports field and during cultural activities and breaks. This community interaction with the RYS resulted in deep bonds of friendship being formed.

The participants stayed at the Leda Training Center where they had the opportunity to join in the daily routine of a community that was literally erected on the river during the past five years.

During the stay in the capital Asuncion, we visited a spiritual community, the Latter Day Saints Center and the Unification Church. One highlight was our trip to the incredibly beautiful Iguaca Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

The program was highlighted with a variety of interreligious programs including joining pilgrims in the Allure Festival. The community was deeply moved with the heart and spirit of the volunteers who worked on the local school. Our cooperation became a substantial model of the peace building spirit of reconciliation so needed in this nation.
 This was the second RYS project in New Zealand and the 1 st international program. This project drew much support from Australia and pulled in participants from a wide variety of nations and religious traditions. Networking with organizations was a key to the programs success as Habitat for Humanity, the local civic leaders and the Moreau Youth Movement worked to model the pattern of cooperative living so critical in building a culture of everlasting peace.

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