TIC Americas: Round-table on Volunteering as a tool for Social and Economic Development

Written by: Jesse Metcalf*

Asuncion, Paraguay, June 13 — As part of the training program for TIC Americas, YABT Communications Officer Isabella Troconis moderated the round table on ¨Volunteering as a tool for Social and Economic Development¨. During this session, the four panelists discussed their distinctive experiences in volunteering, how it has impacted them, and why it has been important for their career and personal development.

The four speakers for this round-table were Paraguay Minister of Youth Marcelo Soto, Social Director of Un Techo para mi País Soledad Nuñez, Fundación Teletón Volunteer Coordinator Bruno Vaccotti, and Paraguay Peace Corps Specialist Giancarlo Camperi. It was an interesting combination of speakers as it was a great opportunity for the government and civil society to brainstorm new ideas that can be incorporated in the ongoing discussion in the National Assembly for the new law on Volunteerism in Paraguay.

The round-table started with Minister Marcelo Soto, who described the development challenges and opportunities in Paraguay. Minister Soto asserted that 65% of the population of Paraguay is under 29 years, which offers the country attractive demographics and immense potential. While these demographics indicate a productive future, it is by no means a given that this generation will reach its potential unless it is engaged in a meaningful way. If young Paraguayans do not see opportunities they will leave for Spain and Argentina causing a resource drain like generations before.

Minister Soto reinforced this fact by stating that 28% of the population currently works in the informal sector. One of the challenges of the newly created National Secretary of Youth is to help foster independence, instill a sense of confidence, and encourage a willingness to take risks. These skills are cited most in the attributes of entrepreneurs, attributes that the Finalists are being celebrated for at TIC Americas and which the Ministry of Youth hopes to instill in young Paraguayans.

Moreover, Soledad Nuñez reinforced the sentiments of Ministro Soto by stating that through her personal experiences in volunteering she gained the necessary internal strength and capacity to succeed independently on her own. Nuñez said that when she was in college she volunteered and the project she worked on gave her the freedom to learn and taught her not to be afraid of making mistakes. Reinforcing this point, Nuñez shared her personal experience and confessed that she realized that failure is actually not so bad and sometimes the best tool for learning and develop your own professional career.

Giancarlo Camperi of the US Peace Corps offered his insight at the roundtable by asserting that volunteering would help in some of the areas he thinks Paraguayans are challenged, for example, setting long term goals for themselves in addition to fostering a formal system that recognizes volunteers and volunteerism as a valuable tool in making a better society.

The round-table concluded with a Q&A session, which allowed young participants to interact with all speakers. On the one hand, everyone that took part in this dialogue agreed that it is necessary to advance in Paraguay a formal system of volunteers recognized and supported by the government, similiar to the model used in Chile. At the same time this system needs to guarantee the rights and benefits of its young volunteers in order to prevent the problems that occurred in Haiti shortly after the tragic earthquake.

*Jesse Metcalf was a volunteer during the IX Edition of TIC Americas.

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