Experiencing a “New Eden” – Eco-Volunteering in Paraguay

The UPF Pathway to a Sustainable Future Project was the first of its kind and started off in Asuncion, Paraguay on July 6th. We were to explore Puerto Leda, Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s vision of a “New Eden” and how living in an underdeveloped native Indian village would change our view on life. I had the chance to spend three weeks full of adventure, work and hope with 34 amazing people from around the world.

After a short introduction and city-tour in Asuncion our journey began in visiting the Mennonites in the Chaco land. The Mennonite community are settlers who came from Germany over Canada to Paraguay, to created a land from barley nothing and incredible hard circumstances where they could freely practice to their values and believes. In seeing their achievements we could better understand why Father Moon chose this land for his vision in creating “heaven on earth” (or a place for God to live and to save the world of starvation). From their on we made our way with a small airplane to Leda.

Leda is a giant farm with about 40 horses even more cows, pigs, chicken and fish as well as fruit trees and taro-potatoes. It basically is a luxurious farm with a huge swimming pool, amazing food prepared by people from Esperanza who found work on the farm. It is the perfect place to experience the originality of nature, to find the presence of peace and forget all the problems of the world for a moment. We got the chance to go fishing, harvesting some taro-potatoes and deforesting an area to plant new useful trees right away.

It is devotion and purpose that gives birth to paradise out of a seemingly deserted and unfruitful area. Fifteen years ago a group of Japanese pioneers took up the mission to create this “New Eden.” Without a single doubt or thought of giving up they started working and never stopped. They are taking so good care of this holy place as not many people would be able to, leaving everything else behind living with the pain of seeing their families just once or twice a year. Leda has incredible potential waiting for your appropriate idea to put into practise.

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From beautiful Leda our way lead us to Puerto Esperanza which is a small village at the River Paraguay with about 700 wonderful indigenous inhabitants. Except for the big river right by the village there is no running water and no electricity, the only house built out of concrete is the school. Our international group’s four day stay was a highlight to the whole village of Esperanza. We were welcomed by all the children and teachers with songs and a dance by the native Choco Indians.

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During our stay we were painting three school buildings, constantly playing, singing, making bracelets together or joining in a soccer match against the village soccer team. As the children were really excited to learn as many English words as possible we tried our best to learn Spanish and words of the native language Chamacoco. How much influence we could bring to the children remains uncertain but it is safe to say that they touched all our hearts. They showed us that it is not the many things we got in life but the time we spend with people we love that make life valuable. Any feeling of inconvenience was balanced out by a joyful experience in bathing in the river and staring up at the amazing stars glowing bright.

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The goodbye ceremony involved a deep expression of gratitude from the community and a gift excahange. Every participant received a hand-crafted woven palm-tree-leave basket or a wooden carved animal. Together with the Foundation for Sustainable Development in North and South America we donated school supplies, chair-desks to fill a whole classroom, sport balls and clothes.

Back in Asuncion we had the chance to spend time with local volunteers and to do performances with the elderly in cooperation with the Woman’s Federation and to visit the local newspaper ABC who printed an article about our project.

Janika

Overall it was an amazing experience. It made me appreciate everything what I learned in my life so far, to be more happy and that life is just too valuable to see a problem in every little thing. If you ever have the chance to visit Leda, do it!

Reported by Janika. Janika studies in Germany and volunteered from July 6-21 in the Pathway to a Sustainable Future Project. Photos: Janika H., Owin P.

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