We’re traveling through Paraguay to visit the social projects supported by the Lemonaid & ChariTea e.V. and also to meet the people who grow the sugar cane for the drinks from our main sponsor, the Lemonaid Beverages company.
Despite its obvious economic problems, the city has been a beautifully interesting & welcoming gateway for our project travel. The locals kept on chatting with and smiling at us – even when we totally messed up the traffic by driving into the wrong direction for example.
Just a month ago, the Latidoamericano festival took place here in Asunción, Paraguay. Since then many wonderful large-scale graffities cover the walls of the old-city and we were surprised by this modern and international vibe of this quarter.
Our Friend Rodrigo (left) became an essential part since ‘Day 1’ and qualified himself as unique cityguide and connector to the locals in Asunción.
His whole family treated us very nice and give us an easy dive into the climate and time-difference over here in Paraguay. Here you see him hanging out with one of the guys we met around Plaza Uruguaya, near the former Presidential Palace in Asunción.
The day starts with a severe storm, close to an apocalypse. Asuncions streets get turned into little rivers.
Our first stop brings us to one of Paraguays best known fighters against poverty and injustice – Padre Oliva. A truely impressing figure, full of energy and empathy.
“Let your dreams be bigger than your fears!!”
His institution is based in the “Bañados del Sur”, one of the poorest areas of the capital. The Jesuit priest and his team teach hundreds of kids and teenagers to empower them for a better future.
The poor suffer badly from the floods. The shacks and the belongings of their inhabitans are being washed away periodically. Sadly, there is no structural amendment in sight.
We continue our way to one of the first projects of the Lemonaid & Charitea e.V. – the childcare center “Nande Rekoha”. The longtime coordinator Elisabeth Gavilán welcomes us warmly.
Due to the storm the 70 kids, who come here normally, all had to stay home. Nevertheless, the team welcomes us with a home-cooked stew and corn pone. Hospitality, the paraguayan way. The childcare center is being based at the “Abasto”, the citys central market for fruits and vegetables.
The current manager of “Nande Rekoha” Daily Dominguez shows us around. The market is an impressive, hectic place – where many kids still have to work at their parents side. At the childcare center, kids and teenagers between 3 and 17 find a protected place – with medical care and educational assistance. And a lot of love and laughter.
The day starts with a meeting we were longly been hoping for: at seven in the morning we are welcomed to the office of Fernando Lugo, the former president of Paraguay. Lugo was the first left-wing paraguayan president ever, leading the government between 2008 and 2012. The former priest is being reknowned as “a man of the people” who introduced important social improvements.
Afterwards we head to the region of Guarambare – where the organic & fairtrade sugarcane for the soft drinks of the Lemonaid Beverages company come from.
The cooperative ASOCAZE has been established more than 15 years by 200 small scale farmers, aiming for better market access and fairer prices.
The freshly cut sugarcane tastes is a tasty snack – quite sweet, of course. The harvest season lasts from May to November and will soon come to its end. Almost all sugarcane at ASOCAZE is still being cut by hand with machetes. After the harvest the cane is being tied together to become ready for the processing at the sugar mill “La Felsina”, where the organic sugar is processed. An old crane unloads the sugarcane from a small farmers truck.
Oh, how beautiful is Paraguay. We head to the state of “Juan de Mena” where we will visit another project of the Lemonaid & ChariTea e.V. We arrive in Regina Marecos, a tiny village where almost all inhabitants live from small scale farming.
This day brings us to our long-time partner “Escuela Agricultura Juan de Mena”. Since 2014 the Lemonaid & ChariTea e.V. supports the institution. Here, more than 70 students between 12 and 17 years learn everything aroung organic agriculture – for a sustainable future in their rural community. Beside the cultivation of a huge variation of plants they take care of their own animals and produce organic milk and cheese.
At night, we get invited to another asado. Senator Sixto Perreira tells us the story of the community: despite violent repression from the dictatorship, 500 farmers fought for their own land. They have been succesful. Today, Regina Marecos is a nationwide example of the “lucha de tierra”, the fight of small scale farmers to get their land back.
The last day of our official project-trip started with a smiling face opening the gate to his house, museum and ‘science center’. It is Martín Almada, human rights activist and winner of the prestigious Right Livelyhood Award. Quite a surprise to see such a positive and powerful man in the age of almost 80 years, especially when you read about his history of abduction and torture in the 70’s – but it won’t be the only surprise…
Martín Almada likes to joke around and entertains the whole group. He was well prepared for our visit and expected a ‘big-old german’, after he read about the idea and business behind Lemonaid & ChariTea, but was quite surprised to see a young and motivated group and co-founder sitting in his beautiful living-room.
It is time to say good-bye to some of our team-members and all the lovely people we met on our trip. Representatives and family-members followed our invitation that night and the Lemonaid-crew created a great fusion of the local ‘Asado’ and the german BBQ with unknown salads and deserts for our guests. Prost and Salut!
Besides the dinner our unique friend Rodrigo celebrated his birthday and it once more came clear, that without him the whole trip would have been different and by far not so rich in lessons and outcome. Man! You really saved us from bad experiences and pushed us into the greatness of this country and his people. We can’t thank you enough for this!