Global Service Scholar: Cynthia Lopez
Country: Paraguay

Arriving to Asuncion I was struck by so many things that I never imagined. At first, I expected solitude and a city that was overwhelmed with issues, that was contagious enough to affect its people and change their outlook on life. However, my perception completely changed when I set foot on the dirt path of Fundación Paraguaya.

The most surprising thing I discovered was seeing how welcoming the people of Paraguay are. As I entered the house for interns, I was welcomed by a sweet, charming young woman named Olga. She hugged me as hard as she could and immediately made me feel like I was home. I would have never thought that a woman so young would be someone that I cherish so close to my heart. My excitement rapidly increased as I walked into the school of Cerritos and met my “buddy” and guide, Valentina.

Valentina is a sweet girl who made me feel happy to be working at the school and have this purpose to change lives. This young girl is determined to become an example to young lives, and she is willing to confront any difficult obstacles, from poverty to social injustice.

This adventure has been an incredible learning experience for me and I am extremely grateful that I was chosen as a Global Service Scholar. Currently, I am looking forward to continuing to work with children. We have introduced an idea to add a safe space for the students where they can converse with each other, and where the chances of bullying are eliminated at the same time.

I demonstrated the idea of a safe space to Valentina and her friends and she was happy to have something like that in her school. She eagerly spoke about working with UC students and promoting emotional health and wellness within her school because she knows firsthand what it is like to suffer through silence and isolation. She wishes the idea will stay and be implemented into the school system in order for the rest of Paraguay to see that it is okay to talk about your feelings and sensitive subjects that are easily ignored throughout the country.

Working with children has been such a privilege. It has also been beautiful to meet others such as Ricardo, the Spaniard cheesemaker, and Lourdes, who I believe is the boss of almost everything. Lourdes believes she is not someone who can make it big in business, even though she really wants to. Fortunately, Ricardo, is constantly explaining to Lourdes what a strong, independent and optimistic woman she has grown to be. Lourdes can be whatever and whoever she wants to be, and she is one of many women who I now look up to. Meeting her at the cheese factory was just one moment in this journey, but she is someone I will be visiting constantly for the rest of this month. Just speaking to her brightens my entire life and for that I am grateful and proud to be her friend.