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UNICEF Day – Asuncion, Paraguay

Always a highlight of these rides is spending time with UNICEF folk on the ground and looking and learning about the work they’re doing. Today we spent in the capital of Paraguay visiting projects that are focused on getting kids off the streets, lifting their hygene standards and in short making their life better. Life here is very tough for the very poor and when you think that in 2008 for the first time this country had a President that wasn’t Far Right and militarily focussed, Paraguay has much underdeveloped social services available for the needy.

So we saw a few projects today including one set up to look after the children of an indigenous Guarani community. they live in appalling conditions but managed to strike a the with the good citizens of Asuncion who just wanted to see these children off the streets – they didn’t care where they went they just wanted them out of sight. When the authorities first started to oblige, the children were taken away and in effect locked up in institutions. It tool the parents huge efforts to get their children back.

But with the arrival of humanitarian Fernando Lugo as president things have improved dramatically, even though there is a long way to go. A deal was struck with the parents who agreed to take their children off the streets so long as the local authorities provided a school and teachers and food. The whole community is centred around the school building and everyone including parents gets their lunch form the kitchen pot located in the middle of the community. As they are Guarani they speak their own language rather than Spanish.

This was just one of a number of visits including one to a community who lived next to the city tip and spent their days crawling over the rubbish finding anything that is recyclicable and getting a few pesos for their efforts. All in all a pretty harrowing day but we’re told things are on the improve it’s just that for these folk health, sanitation and education services are starting from Ground Zero. You’ll find the photos pretty awful.

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