Grand Finale of 30 Days of Trains!

22 Feb

Cue fireworks.

Can you believe we finished the 30 Days of Trains! Blogging Challenge?  Me either.

Read a recap about guest bloggers, page visits and money raised here:

I plan to keep writing about the Train Station Community Center project on my blog to keep people updated, I just won’t be doing daily entries.

While 30 Days of Trains! is complete, my fund raising goal is not.  We still need to raise $765 more dollars in order to close out the grant, get to work on the train station, and for me to have access to the list of all the kind souls who donated.

What does this mean?  I can only assume that every single person I’ve ever met between my birth and age 24 has already made a donation to the project because of all of the requests I made. So, most likely the remaining donations will need to come from people I don’t know.

Can you help me out?  Spread the word to people who you think would be interested in the project!

And to really go out with style and a bang tell them that if they make donations today or tomorrow (February 22 or 23, 2013):

-With a donation of $30 dollars or more to the Train Station Community Center in Paraguari, Paraguay you will receive a personalized Thank You video from the Conductors of Culture team that your donation is supporting

-With a donation of $130 dollars or more to the Train Station Community Center in Paraguari, Paraguay we will send you a LIMITED EDITION Conductors of Culture t-shirt to the United States.  The very t-shirt that the team will wear while inspiring Paraguayan youth and working at the train station.  We’ll even send you a picture of us in our t-shirts so that you can Photoshop yourself into the picture.

As always, don’t forget that donations are tax-deductible!

To be eligible for these promotions you MUST donate today or tomorrow.  Please also forward me your “donation received” confirmation email from Peace Corps to mollymreddy [at]

Now, go tell your friends and everyone else you know!

Thanks for following along. Oh, and HAPPY 30 DAYS OF TRAINS!





The church bells just struck midnight

22 Feb


The other day when a friend stayed over she asked if my church bells rang every hour on the hour as their tones filled the air.

She glanced down at her watch, it was 5:45pm.

...and every 15 minutes before the hour?

“No, that can’t possibly be right,” I responded.  Turns out it is.  The church bells ring on the hour all through the night.  And usually 15 minutes before the hour, too, just for good measure.

These are the sounds (along with the roosters, the polka paraguaya, the old man campo yell) that I don’t want to forget, but that I also can’t seem to remember while I’m still here. All too familiar.

Anyways, I’ve been giving myself an extra 3 hours to post my daily blog by pretending like I’m in Wisco’s Central time, but I haven’t had to cash in on these hours at all during 30 Days of Trains!  Except for today.

This morning my sister Carybeth emailed me to remind me what I was doing one year ago today.  She uses this cool thing called TimeHop that reminds you what your social media statuses were one year ago today.  I myself have not signed up for the daily email, but I’m enjoying when my life events were big enough that they spilled over into Carybeth’s and she can remind me of them.

So she said, Remember when you made this awesome video?  Can you believe that was a year ago?

I couldn’t.  It’s funny to think about that time.  Scrambling all over to try and make a youth leadership camp happen in my site.  Here I am a year later and I’m scrambling around trying to make a youth leadership training program happen.

It appears I like leadership.  And scrambling.

But, I’ve definitely learned a lot in the last year and I’m pretty confident that Conductores Culturales is going to be more successful and sustainable than last year’s scramble.

So, I thought I’d make another video on this day so that my sister can send me another email reminding me in one more year.

During the making I did remember quite clearly that my computer was actually working one year ago much better than it is today– this video was quite the 6 hour headache to try and get video/quality/audio/internet, etc. all working how they needed to.

But, alas, plan to not have your plans go according to plan.  Especially in Paraguay.

Hope you like it! And if you don’t speak Spanish leave your guess of what I’m saying in the comments and I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong! 🙂

Oh, and don’t forget to donate!  Only $765 to go!

Day 28

20 Feb

Of 30 Days of Trains! that is…Can you believe it?  We’re almost done.

All of these shenanigans started on January 24th.

Since then we’ve received over $2,000 dollars in donations and have only $765 dollars left to go in order to close out the grant and get to work on the Train Station Community Center in Paraguari, Paraguay!

Since 30 Days of Trains! started we’ve received 955 page views and have had visitors from 35 countries learn about the project.



We’ve had guest blogs from:
-Pablo Zulaica Parra, A Spaniard currently living in Mexico who biked the distance of the Paraguayan rails: Biking the Distance
-Elizabeth Escobar, a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Paraguay who worked on a similar train station project during her service: Notes from the Field
-Greg Henschen, a lifelong train enthusiast and model railroader: Model Railroading
-St. John Barned-Smith, a writer for the Gazette and another returned volunteer who has researched and written stories about the trains and their history in Paraguay: Like a Big Party
-Gabrielle McNichol, a current high school student and aspiring Peace Corps volunteer organizing a project to collect supplies for the train station at her school: Generosity
-Brittany Boroian, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, friend, blogger, train lover and supporter of this project: How Have Trains Impacted Your Life?

My friend Evelyn designed a Valentine’s Day card in honor of the train station, my friend Carly helped me record our version of Train Song, and my friend Stephanie made these blogs possible by lending me her computer for the entirety of her vacation!

To top it all off friends, family, fellow volunteers, past co-workers and people I’ve never even met have been supporting this project, cheering me on, and making donations.  And that means a lot.

With much love and gratitude, I promise that I’ll stop maxing out your inboxes, Facebook feeds, Google Readers, etc. in two more days,


View outside of the train station at night.

View outside of the train station at night.

Train Song

20 Feb

To celebrate 30 Days of Trains! today Carly and I recorded our version of Train Song (inspired by Feist and Ben Gibbard).

Like what you heard?  Make a donation!

Don’t like what you heard?  Help us keep our day jobs (being Peace Corps volunteers) by also making a donation!


Houston, we have lift off!

19 Feb

Today was a big day.

Confession: I’ve been working my butt off on the online/promotion/North American side of the train station project while simultaneously dragging my feet on the Paraguayan side.


Well, I wasn’t so sure that we were going to manage to raise all of the money for the project ($965 to go!).  I didn’t want to set dates in stone, release applications for participation, reserve the training location for the Cultural Conductors course, etc. only to have to hang my head and say, “Sorry guys, show’s over…and it never even began.”

Somewhere a couple weeks ago my faith started to grow and I could feel the teeter totter starting to rise, although my legs were still dangling and my seat didn’t feel that secure.

Well, today I pulled the trigger, because I have that much faith we’ll reach our fund raising goal (But we’ve still got work to do, tell your friends!)

With the team at the train station (aptly led by a man named ‘Lider’ whose name translates to ‘Leader’) we solidified the time line for the Conductors program and visited the location where we’re going to hold the training.

So, I just launched the informational powerpoint:, the extended project description:, and the application for participation:

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Thanks, Molly, I’ve been wanting to brush up on my Spanish/teach it to myself for the first time by reading through these three documents.’

And so yeah, it’s really no problem.

But maybe you’re actually thinking, ‘I‘m an expert Spanish speaker and I just spotted an embarrassing error.’

In which case, I’m thinking, ‘Could you tell me? Because I’d actually really like to know that.’

At this very moment Spanish language copies of The Little Engine that Could are fly through space towards Paraguay thanks to a wonderful friend of mine, high school students in Deleware are collecting supplies for the art room-to-be at the train station and students at Waukesha STEM are making recycled jewelry to sell and earn money to donate the train station.

What can YOU do to help us make this happen?

The Importance of Public Spaces

17 Feb

“That’s why we’re still here, because we found the common.”

Soul Pancake has certainly been tugging on my heart strings and making me smile lately.

And they did it again with this video about a public adult ball pit– Take a Seat, Make a Friend:

Why are public spaces [ball pits] important?

Because I think we over think actions for peace.

On Sunday, when you’re planning your week, if someone asked you, “Do you have time to dedicate this week to a significant action for peace?” How would you respond?

You scan your agenda.  Your list of activities on Monday is already so long they’ve outgrown their box and overflowed into Tuesday.  I’ll never check my way through that entire list, you think.

“Hmmm, this week’s going to be tight…and I can’t say that next week will be much better.”

What if they had pitched the question, “Could you squeeze in five minutes to sit in a ball pit with someone you don’t know this week?”

Now remember, I didn’t say do you have significant time?  I said do you have time for a significant action?

After cutting through a number of responses that sound something like this, “No way! You do know that ball pits are a cesspool of germs, right?  It’s basically the equivalent of a hot tub at Arby’s that’s never been cleaned once and was filled the first time with garbage water siphoned out of the local sewer.”

You might eventually get a, “Yeah, you know, I loved ball pits as a kid.  I think I could squeeze that in, but I don’t know about this whole actions for peace thing, Molly.”

And that’s where I’d have to say, “Just trust me. But, also watch the video.”

Something magical happens when we’re forced to bump into people that we wouldn’t normally bump into– we find common ground.  There’s often a lack of peace and a lack of understanding when we stop bumping into people who are different than us, when we don’t have places like playgrounds and plazas and parks and ball pits and museums and community centers to bump into each other at.

So, in my book, an action for peace can be many things large or small, but it is certainly one that makes someone else smile, finds the common, or makes someone think, “Hey, you’re not so bad after all.”

There are lots of things we can do: open the door for someone with a smile, sit in a ball pit with a stranger, or sit in a train station community center with neighbors you’ve never taken the time to talk to before.

So, what is your agenda looking like this week? My agenda has a meeting with an awesome public spaces initiative in Asuncion called Puerto Abierto (Open Port), who would like to support bringing their concept to Paraguari and the train station!

Why not start today?

Lots of actions for peace are free, but sometimes they need monetary support, too.  Donate today!


Vamos Chicas Vamos!

16 Feb


Big thanks are in order for the Waukesha author Scott Stoll who donated Spanish language copies of Falling Uphill: One man’s quest for happiness around the world on a bicycle to all of the girls in our club Vamos Chicas Vamos.

Last week we played games, danced, read and colored Scott’s book, tracked some of his voyage on a map and then all wrote down a dream on a piece of paper.  This week we Skyped with Scott, where he reminded the girls that dreams are dreams because they’re hard, but they’re worth fighting for.  The girls peppered him with questions about the book (and not the book), like: “Was that woman that you saved after she fainted happy when she woke up? Did you actually eat fried grasshopper? And, look at your teeth! They’re so white.  How do you keep them so clean…Show us your big smile one more time?”  Thanks, Scott, for happily responding to all questions and requests!


Dreams of the girls included:

-Be a veterinarian
-Be a hairstylist
-Find the end of a rainbow
-Touch the stars and a cloud
-Visit Paris
-Be an orthodontist
-Be a singer
-Be an architect
-Find a treasure
-Climb a building (In the style of Parkour, gotta say, this one was what surprised me the most!)

And of course, I had a dream, too:

P1090095Education for All.

In Paraguay students only go to school for 4 hours per day, 5 days per week.  They’re at school for 4.5, but they have a half hour recess usually…

Unless it rains. Or there is a holiday, or a ‘jornada’–mini-conference for teachers, or if it is too cold and class is cut short or canceled altogether. There are many reasons that lower the already low 4.5 hours a day, 5 days a week of education. Some of these reasons are still very legitimate for many– due to poor infrastructure and roads being impassable if it does rain, or no insulation in construction, which makes those few very cold days/nights hard to hold regular class …for those students coming from more rural areas with just dirt roads, getting to and from class in bad weather conditions is difficult, if not impossible.

Still, getting used to these cancellations, such as a month long soccer tournament nearly cancelling all normal classes because one day of that month celebrates Paraguayan Youth, or being advised the day before there is no school because of a teacher conference that just got planned…adapting to all of these interruptions in class is difficult, coming from a background with such a different structure. (True words from my friend Steph’s blog)

One time I was teaching a class at a high school in Paraguari and I was mid-word of a lesson when all of the kids heard a bell and had to run off to a spontaneous Mass.  “We just never do know when the priest is going to show up,” the teacher said as she scuttled out the door.

Answering God’s call had never looked so literal to me before.

Anyways, if we didn’t analyze anything about the Paraguayan school system besides the hours of instruction students receive, there would already be cause for concern.  I wont even tell you all of the other things that should be taken into consideration for reform, because they’d scare the pants right off of ya!

So, how do we make up for this educational gap?  And what are Paraguayan youth learning in their other 12 waking hours of the day?

By offering more educational opportunities outside of school, say, at the train station!

Some Paraguayans may have enough money for their kids to play on a soccer or handball team with a coach, take dance lessons, have private tutoring or take English classes, providing extra environments for their kids to learn valuable life lessons.  Although, the vast majority of Paraguayans fall into the category that doesn‘t have access to these things.

The train station, through the training of the high school and college-aged Conductors  as cultural guides and facilitators, will be prepared to offer regular (and free!) programming in art & culture, tourism & history, reading, writing, leadership, teamwork & recreation, and homework clubs, reaching out to children, youth and adults come April!

Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay has left me with lots of things that I don’t understand about the world and my role in it.  One thing that I can say with confidence is that it all comes back to education and I believe with all of my heart that everyone deserves access to a quality education.

I believe in Education for All.  Help me improve access in Paraguay by donating today!

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