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Poverty in Paraguay


We were awoken at 11:30 two nights ago with banging at our door. We didn’t answer, thinking it could be a drunk. My heart just sinks every time we got a nighttime notification. The last two times we were jarred awake from our sleep, accidents and death were involved. Everyone has our cell phone, so if it was legit appeal, they’d call. Sure enough, five minutes later we got a phone call. Our housekeeper’s brother called to let us know our housekeeper was in the hospital for kidney stones. She would need to be operated on and the surgery would cost $1,000!

We told them that they should check other hospitals (this was a private hospital and they charge a lot more than the public institutions). Yesterday, I drove Susana and six of her family members an hour south to another hospital that charges half the price for the surgery. Of course, they don’t provide blankets and gloves, so I brought those along (I learned that through a crazy experience three years ago).

Her pressure was too low to operate, so I’ll have to go back today to help check her in so she can be operated on tomorrow. Since she and her family do not have any kind of health insurance, she will be relying on us, her patrons, to provide for her. We told her we’d be able to pay half the surgery and her family members would need to come up with the other half.

However, I laid awake last night wondering how her family would pay the other $250 that is their responsibility. They are all day wagers who just live day by day, $250 is over one month’s salary! Susana’s husband is in Buenos Aires being checked on for an illness, so he’s been out of work for 2 months. They have six children and they are late on their property payments by 12 months. We’ve bailed them out so many times before, but we constantly struggle with balancing our duty to them and allowing them to take responsibility for their lives. They are all alone.

The government doesn’t care about the working poor.

There are few to no social institutions to help the impoverished in our region.

The church doesn’t give them a hand.

We are the only people they know that can assist them.

Sometimes I just want to wash my hands of their aches and pains, since we feel so incapable of solving their problems. Giving money is just a short term fix. These folks need education, low-cost health care. Somebody has to address these growing problems in Paraguay. The poor need a network of support so they can get on their feet. The sickening truth is that there is none to be found.

This is just one more reason why I feel like our next direction is micro-enterprise and community development. We are restless in spirit as we think of what needs to be done to bring about social reform for Paraguay’s 2,000,000 that live in poverty. We want to make a difference here and it's overwhelming to know where to begin.

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