Amigos de Paraguay

Katrina Flores, Staff Writer

It’s almost that time of the year again when everything you learned in the past year starts to become just a lonely memory, which many of us know as summer.

Many kids enjoy this ten week break by hanging out with their friends or simply being at home doing nothing. But for sophomore, Katie Keller, her summer is a new adventure waiting to happen as she travels to volunteer in Paraguay for eight weeks.

The program she will be volunteering for is called Amigos de las Americas, which sends students from all around the world to various South American cities.

According to their website their mission is to “inspire and build young leaders through collaborative community development and immersion in cross-cultural experiences.”

Keller has experienced volunteer opportunities in places like Mexico and Costa Rica prior to this trip where she has only stayed for a week or two. But this eight week trip will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to be immersed in the Latin American culture.

“I really love Latin American culture and their lifestyles, as well as adore the language and people,” Keller said.

Applying for the volunteer opportunity was not such an easy task. Keller had to have an interview in Spanish and discuss her goals and current life plan to see if she was the right fit for the job.

To some, traveling to South America would sound like a great opportunity, which it is, but it definitely comes with its hardships. Keller will be completely immersed in their community and will most likely have no electricity or running water while she stays there. She will have a partner whom she will have to help her when she leads youth camp groups everyday of the week.

Receiving a great opportunity such as this a big deal, but leaving your family for two months can be a huge sacrifice. Keller is anxious to be away from home that long, but is excited to make new friends and help out all the locals in the community.

“You are not allowed to go with anyone you know,” Keller said. “You are not allowed to know your partner before or work with anyone from your region.”

A grand trip such as this calls for lots of preparation as Keller explains. She has a local group that she works with in the Bay Area in order to prepare for the labor-intensive tasks she must complete when she travels to Paraguay.

“You meet with your team once a month or more, at these ‘retreats’ where you develop skills to help you in the country as well as review safety and cultural aspects of the community,” Keller said.

Going on these so called retreats enables the volunteers to get an idea as to what they could potentially experience when they are helping out in the various communities. These monthly meetings aren’t the only way Keller and her peers have prepared for this trip.

In fact, they began preparing last September when they fundraised by selling boxes of grapefruit, coffee, and poinsettias.

As the departure of her trip approaches, Keller can’t wait to meet the locals and help their community. She does not know exactly what she will be doing, but is ready for anything the program has to offer.

“I look forward to full cultural immersion as well as expanding my world views,” Keller said. “I love to meet new people and just help where I can.