Tag Archives: scott stoll

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!


Cayendo Hacia Arriba en Paraguay

23 Jan

Through a donation from the author himself, Cayendo Hacia Arriba (Falling Uphill), finally made  its Paraguayan debut!

Scott Stoll is an author from my hometown who served as the U.S. Embassy’s cultural ambassador in Argentina during the 2011-2012 school year.  His time in Argentina and collaboration with Argentine schools resulted in a Spanish language version of his book, Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life, about his 4 year journey around the world on his bicycle.


Thanks to a generous book donation from Scott a group of Paraguayan youth at a national leadership camp called Jóvenes por Paraguay were able to plan a short reading workshop for kids at a nearby orphanage.

IMG_0029IMG_0052The teenage youth and younger kids seemed to love the story equally– always receiving big laughs at the part of the story where Scott says he got stuck in mud in the desert until a family rescued him.  The family told him he was in luck that they came, because anacondas, tarantulas and piranhas love the taste of people from the United States.


It was great to watch the teenagers work together to plan how they were going to present the books to the youth and what activities and games they were going to play with the kids.  The book donation was one of six projects that was used to introduce Paraguayan youth at the camp to volunteer projects and community service.  You can read a bit more about that camp in this post.

Cayendo Hacia Arriba inspired a group of Paraguayan youth to try out literacy service projects in their own communities and surely inspired new dreams in the children, youth and volunteers who read the book– nudging us all forward in our own process of falling uphill.  Thank you, Scott!

If you’re interested in supporting another similar project, please visit: https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-526-009

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