For more than three decades, Paraguay lived under a dictatorship that left behind ruined institutions and a lack of confidence in public policies, and reduced citizen participation in matters of economic, social and political development.
Half of Paraguay’s children under the age of five qualify as poor and a quarter of them live in extreme poverty. The indigenous population is the most excluded and vulnerable group, facing the worst living conditions, according to the UN.
Child labour is an issue of major concern in Paraguay. Around 17.7 per cent of children and adolescents are in work, with almost 15 per cent of those involved in hazardous labour. Girls from rural areas are sent to the city to find domestic work in return for housing and food. Most working children do not go to school and face abuse, violence and exploitation.
Lack of schooling means children are less likely to become active participants in their communities as adults, keeping them trapped in a lifetime cycle of poverty and isolation.
TIERRANUESTRA was established in 1998 to promote environmental education and community development. Over 19 years it has set up schools and orchestras in vulnerable neighbourhoods, indigenous communities and poor cities in Paraguay. Through these projects, TIERRANUESTRA raises the self-esteem of participants and strengthens associated community-based organisations.
The Entrepreneur Community Program, which is run in collaboration with the business sector and the Ministry of Education, is aimed at children, teachers and parents, and offers innovative learning methodologies that encourage people to work in the community whilst taking care of their environment.
TIERRANUESTRA is a dynamic organisation that seeks to generate respect and trust in public opinion by encouraging active citizenship and developing social capital through its innovative approach to music and community development. It also runs a Healthy Food Promotion program in schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, and a Sustainable Tourism programme that trains people in the industry in sustainable practices.
Through its programmes, TIERRANUESTRA has provided music-training opportunities to more than 18,000 underserved children and youth in 208 communities in 16 departments of Paraguay. In 2015 alone, TIERRANUESTRA reached 4,750 children.
Photo: Santi Carneri