Hello all! My name is Erica Goldstein. I am a rising junior at Tufts University, double majoring in Engineering Science and Biology. I am passionate about global health and human rights. This summer, I have the pleasure of interning at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in Cambridge, MA. PHR uses science and medicine to advocate for human rights, performing investigations to prevent mass atrocities, protect civilians, and prosecute the guilty. Please see my blog for more detailed posts.

In January 2011, PHR published an epidemiological report on the prevalence of crimes such as murder, torture, rape, and group persecution in the Chin State of Western Burma, an area typically neglected by human rights organizations and news reporters. The governing junta in Burma has committed many of these crimes, targeting ethnic Chins. PHR surveyors interviewed 702 households and determined that forced labor was the most prevalent crime. The regime forced families to execute unpaid labor, giving them fewer working days, and forced some families to work on jatropha farms, decreasing the number of edible products.

Upon arriving at PHR, I began the sequel to that report, which will document how the crimes in Chin State have affected health and food security. I gathered research from the last year and a half from several sources: UN reports, human rights organizations’ reports, news reports, and Burmese government documents.

After this research was completed, the Burma project was momentarily set aside as a more urgent investigation – one to Libya – began. The UN began documenting reports of violations such as mass rape, attacks on civilians, the use of humans to shield weapons, and the use of indiscriminate weapons. PHR also began receiving first-hand reports from contacts in Libya. To validate reports and advocate for the appropriate next steps, PHR began an emergency investigation.

As the office prepared for the investigation, I helped prepare a list of contacts on the ground and gather recent statements from Libyan officials. Then, after the investigators left for Libya, I performed background research for the report and started to draft the following sections:

-a chronological narrative of the conflict in Misrata,

-a timeline of important international events regarding Libya

-Libyan domestic legal frameworks

-weapons used in Libya (landmines, phosphorous weapons, AK-47s…)

-background on previously documented violations

The research was different from anything I had done as an engineering student, but the work was rewarding. Soon after my internship concluded, I was able to see the final product from my internship. On 30 August 2011, PHR published the report on Libya, Witness to War Crimes: Evidence from Misrata, Libya. in which I was acknowledged for my contribution. Please check it out and contact me if you want to know more!

 

-Erica Goldstein

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In May, we embarked on our summer journey to Xela in the crux of its rainy season. By this point, the filters Nitin and Patric had distributed over spring break had been in the community for about 2.5 months, and we were looking to evaluate the success of their implementation and determine how to allocate the remainder of our funding.

Lucia, Nitin, and Rebecca arrived in Xela on May 28th, and delightfully reunited with Molly and Patric, who had already been taking classes at the Pop Wuj Spanish School for about two weeks.

After a week of exploring and settling themselves back in Guatemala, Nitin, Lucia, and Rebecca returned to check up on the filters at La Victoria….

Holding true to the Guatemalan style, we headed out with Dona Isabel half an hour later than planned. La Victoria is a picturesque farming community built on a mountainside. Horses and colorful wild turkeys regarded us curiously as we struggled up the steep path. Dona Isabel served as tour guide, proudly introducing us to the nine women with filters.

At each household, we were greeted by children eager to be in our pictures. We stayed for a bit and asked a series of general questions, including:

–       How has your filter been working?

–       How often do you have to refill it?

–       Do your children like to drink the water?

–       Have there been any noticeable health differences since you started using the filters?

–       What do you use the filters for? Agua pura?…Coffee?…Cooking?

We received many similar answers from all the women:

–       The filter works well.

–       We refill it two to three times each day.

–       The children like the water, because it is very fresh (One woman described how her children eagerly drink water from their filter when they arrive home, hot and tired, from school each day).

–       Some said their families experienced fewer stomach aches and necessary doctor visits since the filters had been implemented.

–       All reported that the filters are used for agua pura, coffee, and other nourishment such as Atole.

The women were extremely hospitable and eager to please. The children pulled out little plastic chairs, and the women proudly presented snacks they had prepared. We arrived home just in time for Xela’s daily monsoon, feeling very satisfied with the trip, especially with seeing that the filters were being used for their correct purpose.

After the success of our previous visit, we next set our sites on providing La Victoria with more filters. Clearly, the current ones were being carefully maintained and utilized, and the women were thrilled to receive even greater access to clean water.

Lucia, Nitin, Patric, and Rebecca arrived at Pop Wuj early, to find a large Ecofiltro van parked outside the school. Two Eofiltro employees had driven all the way from Antigua to transport filters to La Victoria and give a presentation about how to use and maintain the devices. We led the way in a van, packed with Pop Wuj volunteers coming along to help and observe the clean water project in action.

The women and their children were waiting outside Dona Maria’s house. The community leaders gave introductions, which were translated into Mayan Mam, English, and Spanish for all to understand. The men from Ecofiltro then gave a presentation about the proper ways to assemble, fill, and clean the filters. The women seemed eager to learn, and asked to clarify points of confusion, such as how often the filters should be cleaned.

We had also prepared surveys for the community. There were two separate sets of questions. The first was for those who had received filters in the spring, and focused on how the filters were working and their impact on the family’s overall health and economic stability. The second survey was a baseline for women who were about to receive filters, and included questions pertaining to their current medical and financial states (the surveys are attached at the bottom of the blog). We split into groups and interviewed the women, and then distributed the new filters to the eagerly awaiting families.

Our final gesture was a surprise for La Victoria. We gave a large, sixty-liter filter to Dona Ana, the community midwife and nurse. This filter was to be placed in her medical clinic. We felt assured that this filter would be put to good use, as Dona Ana had previously told us that she wished she had more clean water to provide for both her own family and all the sick people who came seeking her help.

–Tufts Timmy Global Health (Clean Water Initiative)

Hello everyone!  I’ve made a lot of progress since I last posted.  Due to all the previous setbacks, I had to sit down and rework my workplan with one of my bosses.  It’s a tight work plan, but doable.  There just isn’t much room for error!

I met with the community leaders in Barlonyo these past two Fridays.  The first training went really well.  We talked about documentation in general: what to document, why documentation is important, and different ways to document.  Then we talked about written documentation, focusing on taking minutes at meetings.  Everything went smoothly and we even finished earlier than expected.

 

The next day was busy busy at the office.  We were preparing to distribute maize, bean, and vegetable seeds to Barlonyo since the hailstorm destroyed their crops.  The Red Cross was in the office with us helping.  I was in charge of making the “AYINET” and “AJWS” stencils for painting the seed bags.  The construction paper stencils kept falling apart once they got wet so we ended up making stencils out of old X-rays.  Then things really got rolling!  And then the power went out.  Fortunately, we were able to borrow a generator, which was critical.  When the Red Cross left the office at eight, I left as well to eat and shower, but I went back again at ten.  When I reached the office, everyone was outside bagging beans.  Half an hour later, we were all scrambling to transfer the beans inside the office before the rainclouds reached us.  AYINET’s kitchen was literally taken over by beans, floor to ceiling.  The reception area was full of bags of maize.  After all the seeds were safe, I finally left the office…at three a.m.

After a few hours of sleep, I went back to the office.  The Red Cross gave AYINET a break and took over loading the seeds onto two big trucks. .  My job for the day was to photograph and take video.  Good thing, too.  I was too exhausted to spend another day throwing 20-kilo bags around!  After the trucks were loaded, we headed out.  One of the trucks got stuck on the side of the road on our way over, which was a slight setback, but the distribution itself went very smoothly.  Victor, AYINET’s director, says any time there is a distribution you can never be sure what will happen.  There is always the possibility of a riot breaking out.  The success was exciting for all of us.  So many challenges kept popping up, but everyone handled them well and with positive attitudes.   Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we had really fantastic results.

 

The following Friday Denis and I went back to Barlonyo for the second week of training.  Although all the cameras died by the end of the training (poor planning on my part), everyone except for some people who came late got a chance to try at least one of the cameras.  After I taught a few people how to operate cameras, they caught on quickly and did a great job of teaching other.  I was concerned the training would either be too easy or too difficult, but it wasn’t either.  I checked in to see if there were any questions often and people had something to ask about half the time.  We also discussed the multimedia tools.  We decided on stickers and posters with general peace messages that all the groups and the whole community will be able to use.  Next Friday we’ll be going over video, but we’ll also go back to photography for those who didn’t get a chance this past Friday.

Saturday I went back to Alito for the second time.  We got through written documentation, photography, and video.  We also discussed multimedia tools and decided on stickers and posters.  I’m designing the stickers now and I’ll be drafting up the posters toward the end of the week.  Only eleven of twenty people showed, so we decided to wait until next week to talk about the importance of documentation and brainstorm specific ways it will be of use to the different groups.

 

Besides being busy at work, I’m still enjoying myself here.  I continue to learn something new or make progress in some way every day.  I’m actually getting quite good at speaking Luo.  Also, I’ve been learning stick shift and yesterday I finally learned how to ride a motorbike!  It’s not looking like I’ll be able to do everything I want to do before I leave, but that’s normal.  I only have two weeks left, so if I’m able to do four new things I’ll be satisfied.

Hello everyone, we are the Clean Water Initiative from Tufts Timmy Global Health. Our current project—to provide clean, potable water to the community of La Victoria, Guatemala—is the product of three years of data collection and collaboration with community members and generations of Timmy volunteers alike. The five representatives who travelled to Guatemala this summer were Molly Goodell (Anthropology, LA’13), Lucia Smith (Biology, LA’13), Rebecca DiBiase (International Relations, LA’13), Nitin Shrivastava (Biochemistry, LA’12), and Patric Gibbons (Biochemistry, LA’12).

 

As we reflect on each of our experiences over the past few months, the hardest question—as always—is where to begin. Compressing a summer’s worth of sights and sounds into a few paragraphs and picture captions is daunting in itself (though already, each of you has done so quite eloquently in each of your blog posts). Filtering through all of the events of our trip (which has since ended for the last rotation of our group) has required some focus and careful organization. Each day in Guatemala brought a fresh wave of experiences; each conversation and exploration added to our growing understanding our project and our purpose. Hurriedly, we wrote down what we could, wherever we could—in notebooks, on the back of café napkins, and occasionally in blog posts—lest we forget any experience before another pushed it aside. Often our greatest step forward came after taking one step back, a necessary pause amidst a busy day in order to consider the lasting impact of a newly gained perspective. For us, Empower will be a continuation of this process. While most of our instantaneous thoughts on the trip have already been posted on our Timmy blog site (http://tuftstimmycleanwater.wordpress.com/), the Empower blog will give us a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress we made this summer—as well as consider the work that still lays ahead. Hopefully, as we relive—and occasionally repost from our Timmy blog—some of the most memorable events from our trip, we will gain a greater understanding of how to use all of this new information to our advantage and how to keep moving forward.

 

However, before we discuss our work from this summer, a quick introduction to our organization and the history of the project up to this point. Timmy Global Health is a national nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that works toward providing sustainable healthcare in the developing world. Tufts Timmy Global Health is one of 21 university and high school chapters across the country that advocates for global health awareness and participation, as well as fundraises for and organizes medical brigades to support various communities in Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, and Nigeria. Because each college chapter remains connected to specific communities year after year, students have the unique opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with the people they serve, as well as provide a reliable system of continuous care.  Every January, Tufts Timmy sends a medical brigade of about 20 students and five medical professionals to Xela, Guatemala. It’s an intense week of mobile medical clinics with our local partner organization, Pop-Wuj, to bring healthcare to rural, indigenous communities. As Timmy’s connection to these communities continues to grow, we have been able to implement new programs that meet the specific health and financial needs of the populations, including the Clean Water Initiative, the Nutrition Project, and the new surgery program (for more information about Timmy Global Health, please visit http://www.timmyglobalhealth.org/).

 

Through our commitment with Timmy, we have begun to understand the lasting impact that basic resources (or the lack thereof) have on the communities’ health and social wellbeing. Many of the health conditions we saw and treated were directly related to unsafe drinking water, water-borne illness, and parasites. These problems cause dehydration, malnutrition, and, in some cases, fatal disease; however, such morbidity and mortality can be prevented through access to clean, safe drinking water.

It was upon this basic idea that the Clean Water Initiative came into being. Within our usual large group, a subcommittee of about six ‘Timmies’ formed, and eventually grew to over 10 members.  Throughout the fall we met on Wednesday evenings to discuss various water sanitation methods, logistics, and how best to go about this process.  Eventually, we decided the only way to make a culturally conscious decision—one that would benefit the community the most—was to ask the people themselves.

On the annual medical brigade January 2010, members of the Water Committee spent an afternoon La Victoria, a neighborhood of Buena Vista, a community that the Timmy Foundation has been serving for a few years.  There, we held two focus groups with a group of about 30 women discussing possibilities.

When we got back to the United States, we eventually decided on buying water filters through a company based in Guatemala called Ecofiltro.  Two members of our group, Pat Gibbons and Nitin Shrivastava, traveled back to La Victoria, Guatemala in March to deliver 13 filters to the community and administer a baseline health survey. The five of us returned this summer in order to check on these filters, distribute new ones to the rest of the group, conduct baseline and follow-up surveys, and determine how to best move forward with the project.

This summer has been incredibly successful, more so than we ever could have imagined (with more stories than we could fit in just this one blog post). Now that we’ve laid out our background a bit, we’ll be back soon with more details about our experiences this summer. We look forward to hearing more about all of your projects; best wishes to everyone in the meanwhile!

One of the BCtA (Business Call to Action) companies is Anglo American. Anglo American is one of the world’s largest mining companies focusing on platinum group metals, diamonds, copper, nickel, iron ore, metallurgical and thermal coal. With its BCtA commitment, it vows to create 25,000 new jobs through 1,500 new businesses over a 7 years period by establishing 12 enterprise development hubs in communities in South Africa. Entrepreneurs will be able to receive loans and mentoring to start businesses and will also receive access to the existing supply chain.

The support provided by the Anglo American Small Business Hub reaches entrepreneurs beyond the direct mining circle. For instance, it provided loans to Mahlangu and Bam, two women who were keen on starting a restaurant serving the mining community. Their dream was made possible through the Hub that provided them 489,000 Rand ($67,000) loan to buy necessary equipment. Now, Mahlangu and Bam have employed 5 more people and are netting 82,000 ($11,000) a month!

For Anglo American, South African operation is valued at more than $50 Billion. They understand that for enhancing its investment and promoting competitiveness, a sustainable and broad-based community development is critical. While Anglo American can go the route of pouring in money into philanthropic initiative, this decision of empowering local communities through facilitation of entrepreneurship by including entrepreneurs directly and indirectly into the broader supply chain, Anglo defines a new form of development through private sector involvement. As far as the business model is concerned, Anglo American sustains the administrative costs from income earned through loan interest rates.

In the coming years, Anglo American plans on doubling the enterprise development hubs to 24 and invest in an additional 280 enterprises annually scaling up similar development activities in Chile and Brazil. And this is what BCtA envisions, an efficient private sector directly contributing to development and local empowerment, the benefits of which undoubtedly has a lasting impacts.

-Shikhar

Hi Everyone!

I have a post below that I wrote on my personal blog a while ago, but first a quick summary:

I’m currently interning in Uganda for Innovations for Poverty Action.  They do very interesting research studies, using randomized controlled trials all over the world with the goal of figuring out what works to solve problems stemming from and related to poverty, and what does not work. You can read all about it  at http://www.poverty-action.org .

So what does my internship entail? A whole bunch of different things.  The first three weeks I was living in Kampala and preparing to move an endline survey (the survey we do after a randomly assigned treatment to find out if that treatment actually helped people or not) so that was a lot of office work, move papers around, generating forms and documents we would use later, and then a week and a half of training our survey teams.  Then we were off to the field to start (which is when I wrote the post below, on the way to our first survey location). I was there for three weeks, first with the whole team and then with just four enumerators finishing up the last respondents in the district.  After a quick lay over in Kampala, I moved to our second survey sight where I am now, to help finish things up here. Next week I’ll head to a new survey sight, this time in Eastern Uganda to manage enumeration there. So what does “managing enumeration” mean? I am responsible for syncing the PDAs and doing initial data cleaning and checking, managing our auditors who go back and double check the work the enumerators did, and figuring out what they found and if we need to correct anyone, helping to plan when we will go where and how we will travel, and pretty much anything else that comes up along the way!

….And now “On the Bus”

In hour five of what can be any where between a six and a half or seven hour bus ride up to our first survey sight, which is in northern Uganda, it feels like I have had more time to think today than in the whole month previous month I have been here.  First of all I have realized that I have been here for a month.  Pretty increadible how fast that went by, and how easily I managed to fall into a routine or at least a comfortable life style in Kampala.

Looking out of the window of this bus, I feel that we are in a different place all together.  First of all, this is an exceptionally beautiful country.   On the way up here we past the nile twice (I think) once it was rapids and once it was calm.   The most exciting part of the rid (so far) was when we drove through a national park.  One of the enumerators told me last week that we were passing through a nature resereve on our way up and that we would see hippos.  I smiled and said that would be nice, not really believing him.  But he was right! We were driving along (what has been an exceptionally nice paved road so far) and someone yelled elephant! The driver slowed down a bit and we all got to see not one but a whole group (pack, pride, community?) pretty close to the road maybe 500m at most 1000m away.  Less than 2 km later we drove by a swampy lake rive complex and at lead half a dozen hippos chilling under the water.

The project associate and I had been syncing the PDAs we are using to collect our data. We stopped enjoyed the animals, and then got back to what we were doing. Two minutes later we drove by a big billboard, reminding us that Orange (a major cell phone company in many parts of Africa and the middle east) has the fastest 3g network in Uganda (which I am currently taking advantage of to post this blog entry!).  I took a course this past semester called globalization, but you wouldn’t need a university class to recognize the interconnectedness of a world where two playing with relatively advanced technology they will use to conduct research, huge wild animals living in their natural habitat, and advertisements for a major international telecom company all exist in the same 2 minute stretch of road.

The places I am driving by right now are incredibly rural.  There are power lines along the road but they do not seem to connect to the houses we are passing along the way all of which are made of mud and thatched roofs, and many of which are located together in groups of three to ten.  There seem to be very few towns or trading centers or even villages along this road.  Its hard to think back to what Kenya was like, but it does at least seem to be less “developed” in the sense that ther  are very few people and very few trading centers.

I am thinking about the first time I read through the survey we are conducting, which asks a lot of questions about how people make money.  At first read I found someone them a little boring. But now, driving through this area, I am so interested to see peoples answers to these questions. How do they make  money? What combinations of activities sustain themselves, both to put food on the table and to pay for school fees for their children, and health care?  These are not novel questions and they do not seem to be so fasincating on paper.  They don’t have the cultural nuance or interacies of the questions which get asked about HIV, and enviormental preservation.  They won’t lead to the spectacular reduction in suffering promised by greater uptake of preventative measures for malaria, and water born diseases.  What they will do is shed light on how people here get by.  What they do to make money and how they decide to spend their money when they have it.

Over the course of the last few months I have heard from several friends who were interested in development that they are not longer interested in working in this field.  They each had their own reasons, but for many it seems to be about frustration with the way NGOs operate and feeling that giving handouts ultimately does not accomplish much.  When I look at these homes I am passing on the road, I also wonder about the term development.  In Kampala, which I is a large but not well designed city with severe infrastructure problems (bad roads few sidewalks), I have and idea of what development might mean. Fixing these roads, starting industries that employ more people, and fixing many governance issues all seem like good places to start.  When I go out in Kampala though it feels like familiar territory.  Yes, things are different and I am sure that many of you would not agree with me that Kampala is a managble and easy to navigate city.  But there is something familiar to me about it something I can grab onto.  Out here, while there are cell phone towers (I’m driving by one at the moment), power lines, and this road (half an hour later and still nicely paved), I have a harder time imagining what “development” means.  Well that’s not entirely true, I can easily think of all of thing things some of these places seem to be missing, healthcare, clean running water, every child in school. What I am having a hard time picturing is what a world where these things come about here organically looks like, what are the sectors of the economy which could be fostered to help people in these areas generate the income they need to get these things for themselves. I don’t want to be misunderstood here, I am not saying that it is okay that such drastic inequality exists, and I am not saying that it is okay for it to continue.  I am also not saying that it would necessarily be a wrong or poor choice if these things were simply given to people (though I am also not saying I advocate that approach all of the time either). What I am saying is that in this vast rural area, with so few houses, so few people, and so much land it is hard for me to imagine what this place would look like if all of the “problems” of rural poverty were solved tomorrow. I’m in an optimistic mood today, so I’m going to say that its not that such a world can’t or won’t exist, I just don’t have a big enough imagination.  At least that is what I hope.

I’m excited to look back at this in a few weeks and see how I feel and what I think about it then. I know the the impressioni get from inside this bus, and the impression I get hanging out in towns are not likely to be the same at all, I’m excited to have my perceptions and thoughts change, that’s one of the things I enjoy most about traveling and meeting new people.

Over the course of writing this hour five has turned into hour six, and we should be arriving relatively soon.  I wish I could take a video and send it to all of you to show you how beautiful the scenery has become.  There are more trees now than there were an hour ago.  Everything is so green. The terrain is relatively flat but in the  distances there are hills, which look blue in the late afternoon sun.  We are driving very fast, and I’m wishing I had remembered to keep a head band or scarf out of my bag for the trip to keep my hair out of my eyes.  Its cooled off significantly and there are some ominous looking rain clouds, which I hope hold off, or rain and move on before we have to unload all of our supplies from this bus. My internet modem is buried somewhere deep in by bag, otherwise I would pull it out and upload this right from the bus (wouldn’t that be a neat trick). But instead I’ll try to remember to post it later tonight.  Thanks for keeping me company on the bus, and for listening to my ramblings along the way.

Hi guys, sorry it’s taken me so long to finally get around to putting up a second blog post. It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind around here lately, and I’ve been struggling with ideas of what to write about. Anyway, I’ll preface this post with a quick summary of what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. I spent my first two and a half weeks working withNancy, the woman in charge of all of the women’s committees and the direct supervisor of all the asesoras. (The women’s committees make up the majority of recipients of loans from Fundación Paraguaya. Asesoras are the workers who supervise and work directly with the committees and manage all of their loans in the regional offices.) I was able to visit all of the offices in the southern region and got a chance to see a lot more of the Fundación’s projects and the country here. My work withNancyconcluded with a meeting of all of the gerentes (bosses) of the offices in the south. I was then assigned to the office in Luque, about 30 minutes outside of Asunción, to work with an asesora named Mercedes and to make observations regarding the office’s efficiency for a final report. I spent two and a half weeks in Luque and then moved to one of the Asunción offices, where I am currently stationed, to work with a different asesora, Limpia. In the middle of next week I am scheduled to move to an office in Mario Roque Alonso, about 40 minutes outside of Asunción, to work with yet another asesora named Magali. Though I’m not sure how much impact my work will end up having within the Fundación, I’m certainly gaining a whole heck of a lot of perspective.

I met SeñoraVirginiaat a meeting for one of the women’s committees with which I’ve been working. The meeting wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, just a credit renewal like so many I’ve taken part in during the past few weeks. There were no conflicts between the women, no major issues to discuss, and only a few new members whose paperwork we needed to process. WithoutVirginiathere wouldn’t have been anything particularly special for me to remember. As the meeting concluded, Limpia pointed out Señora Virginia who was pulling out a moto from behind a shed and told me that she would be taking me to a gas station where I could catch a bus that went back towards the terminal and my house. I’d mentioned earlier that I had never been on a moto before and Limpia had certainly remembered. It was a bumpy first ride over dirt “roads” and around the trash that collects in almost every open space but I was so excited. SeñoraVirginialaughed at my inability to find my footholds and my tight grip; everyone inParaguayknows at least how to ride on the back of a moto and most also know how to drive them.

At the gas station SeñoraVirginiapointed out where I should wait and told me which bus I needed to take to get back home. She then asked me when I was planning on coming back toParaguay, to which I gave my typical response: “I’d love to someday but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to.” She offered me her number and told me to call her when I came back, that I was welcome to stay with her whenever I wanted, and asked for my number in return. “Sé que soy pobre, pero tengo una corazón grande.” (I know that I am poor, but I have a big heart). This simple statement nearly brought me to tears. After less than fifteen minutes of talking with this woman she had offered to share everything she had with me, a stranger, an extranjera. She is a perfect example of the Paraguayan culture, a culture which encourages sharing in all of its traditions, a culture in which poverty does not impede generosity.

Sitting around the dinner table in the casa de pasantes (the intern’s house) last night I was reminded again of Señora Virginia. We began to discuss the idea of poverty: how it’s defined and who has the liberty to define it. Is it simply a number or is there something more? Many of the women with whom Fundación Paraguaya works don’t consider themselves poor even though they are far below the “poverty line.” The way they see it, if they have enough food, there isn’t much to worry about. The Fundación’s goal is to work with these women until their household income is greater than 489,000 Gs (about $122) per person, per month. This number comes from a report made by the Dirección General de Estadísticas, Encuestas y Censos in 2009 about the distribution of poverty and income withinParaguay, where the authors estimate that 489,000 Gs each month is about how much a person in the urban or suburban areas needs in order to have all their basic needs satisfied. Yet, many of the people with whom I’ve worked seem content in the lives they lead, even when the number of children they have makes the 489,000 Gs per person almost impossible. (How do you tell a woman with 10 children that she and her husband need to make almost 5,000,000 Gs a month? Even a wage for an office worker with a good job is probably around 2,000,000 Gs.)

Fundación Paraguaya is beginning a new program called Ikatu: Eradicación de Pobreza. It sounds like a great program with a lofty goal, but it has caused some tensions with the clients; no one likes to be told that they are poor. Even announcing the name of the program can put the women on edge as it’s pretty self-explanatory: “we’re here to bring you out of poverty and better your lives.” But what happens when these clients aren’t looking for anything better? Most of them are content with what they have, even though they understand that they aren’t rich and that there is more that they could have, because they still don’t consider themselves poor. Is it right to force them to realize all that they lack, to show them our perspective of their lives? Or is it better to allow them to be happy with what they have, to be satisfied with what others define as poverty? Who are we to define poverty when it’s not a reality that we are living?

SeñoraVirginiamay acknowledge that she is poor, but she’s one of the few who will. The women who are receiving loans see them as a way to increase their income but don’t equate that, as we do, with surpassing any sort of poverty line. Sure, they’d like to buy a motorcycle or a car, to buy their kids something nice for their birthday, but these are luxuries not necessities. For most of the women whom I’ve talked with, they’d like more but it’s not a thought that dominates their everyday life andit’s not something that inhibits their ability to enjoy the life they have. They still have healthy families and food to eat, Are we the only ones who think they are destitute, who think that their condition is really so desperate?