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Hello from Paraguay!

I am originally from New York and have a passion for travel, animals, culture, and photography. In December 2010, I completed a 6-month placement based in Asunción, Paraguay as a volunteer with WWF. I packed up my apartment, put my stuff into storage (i.e. my Dad’s garage), and took two suitcases of clothes and other essentials with me to South America.
You can read about my experiences here or on my blog working with WWF in Paraguay - learning about the culture and history, eating delicious local food, dusting off my Spanish skills, and becoming a full-blown environmentalist. It was the opportunity and adventure of a lifetime!
Me with the kids of the Tacuaró Reserve in Caazapa, Paraguay 
© WWF / Francisco Pereira
Me with the kids of the Tacuaró Reserve in Caazapa, Paraguay
© WWF / Francisco Pereira

What am I doing now?

I am a Project Manager for WWF Germany!

After completing my volunteer placement with WWF Paraguay, I was offered a job with WWF Germany to oversee the project development of a REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project in conjunction with WWF Paraguay!

Working with WWF in Paraguay
Not only did I get to work with amazing people, but I also got to watch Conservation in action!
In Paraguay, the WWF has two primary focuses:
  • Protect reserves of land in the Atlantic Forest from deforestation, and re-forest parts of the jungle which have already been destroyed;
  • Protect the Guarani Aquifer, and water in general, to ensure the non-eternal supply does not run out.
Both are incredibly large tasks and require tremendous intelligence, patience, and passion. It is amazing to see people at work in the office; planning for trips out to the forest to teach children about the dangers of deforestation, planning tv, web, and radio campaigns – or, err “espots” – to educate the masses about the danger of running out of water, drawing out maps to demonstrate loss of forest over months and years since the Paraguayan government does not have the tools to do so, leading legislation such as the Zero Deforestation Law which makes it a punishable offense to destroy any land that belongs to the Atlantic Forest, even if it is privately owned. The list goes on and on about the amazing work the team down there does and I am so excited I got to be a part of it!
Photos from the Field

My Advice To You

Here is my advice for you once you are accepted to the program

  • Keep an open mind. This is probably the most important part of your volunteer experience. Be prepared to live a life different from the one you are used to living - isn't that what you are doing there in the first place?
  • Talk to as many people as possible. You will be amazed how much you can learn about a culture, a country, a group of people, etc if you just take the time to talk and get to know them better.
  • Learn the local language. While you can always get by using your native language, (or English,) do your best to learn the local language where you are living - whether it be Spanish or Guarani! Being able to speak with locals in their own language will open incredible opportunities and insights that you might not have access to otherwise.
  • Don't be afraid to say yes. Sometimes doing something new can be scary, but don't let fear keep you back from having an amazing experience. Accept as many offers as possible, (as long as you are comfortable,) to do new things, go on exciting trips, try local foods, meet local people, etc.
  • Soak up everything. You will look back at this time in your life forever. Take mental notes of everything you are doing. Take photos. Write it all down. You will want to have all of the details recorded to look back on and enjoy down the road.
What's Going on in WWF Paraguay?
There were lots of exciting things going on in the WWF Paraguay Country Office while I was there! Take a look at some of the accomplishments and happenings at the office during my stay!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lucy Aquino Honored Invitee at “Women Heroes of Global Conservation” Conference

Lucy Aquino, WWF Paraguay Country Office Director, was invited to participate in an international conference focusing on “Women Heroes of Global Conservation” that was held in Washington D.C. October 7th and 8th. The event was hosted by the Alliance for Global Conservation – a partnership of Conservation International, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund. The invitees consisted of inspirational women from around the world who are doing critically important, but lesser known, work in conservation. The distinguished list of invitees included; Dr. Wangari Maathai (Founder of Green Belt Movement, Kenya), Suzan Baptiste (Chairman and Founder of Natureseekers, Trinidad), Sangduen “Lek” Chailert (Founder of Elephant Nature Park, Thailand), Mary Mavanza (Manager of TACARE Program of the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania), Habiba Sorabi (Governor of Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province, Afghanistan), and Annabell Waititu (Executive Director of the Institute of Environment and Water, Kenya).

The Alliance for Global Conservation focuses on the impact of environmental degradation specifically affecting women and children around the world. They invited female leaders in conservation to come to D.C. to share their stories and their unique models of conservation with other women and U.S. thought leaders. While in D.C. the participants had the opportunity to participate in a number of briefings with policymakers and the media, as well as a very special audience with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, to tell the compelling stories of the roles they have had in conservation around the world.

Lucy was selected for this very distinguished honor for her life’s work protecting Paraguay’s natural environment. Her work with WWF over the last 10 years has marked encouraging changes in the views of conservation throughout the country, and continent. Through her dedication, Lucy was able to oversee Zero Deforestation legislation in Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest, WWF Paraguay’s primary target zone. This legislation, and the work that accompanies it, not only benefits the natural landscape of Paraguay, but also provides a more hopeful future for the indigenous communities and families living within the forest remnants, who still depend on the forest for their survival. It is with this type of dedication and conviction that Lucy has been able to carve a new path for conservation in Paraguay, inspiring others to do the same and earning her a place among the Women Heroes of Global Conservation.

OPÁ? Advertising Agency Takes Home “Agency of the Year” at Tatakua 2010

Tatakua 2010, also known as the Festival of Ideas, is an awards ceremony organized by the Circle of Creatives of Paraguay to honor and recognize the talents of creative professionals, companies, and students in the field of advertising. WWF was fortunate enough to be represented by ONIRIA, the award-winning “Agency of the Year” in their production of the OPÁ? Campaign.

ONIRIA, a local Paraguayan Advertising Agency, worked on the TV, Radio, and Print pieces for WWF and Coca-Cola’s joint campaign to raise awareness about conserving and protecting water in Paraguay. ONIRIA took home a total of twenty awards at this year’s ceremony, including Agency of the Year. Two of these awards were in association with their work on OPÁ?; Best Art Direction and Best Original Soundtrack for the TV Spot. We congratulate and appreciate their hard work!

To view the award-winning TV Spot, please visit

To learn more about WWF Paraguay and Coca-Cola’s OPÁ? Campaign, please visit

Lucy Aquino Invited to Speak at Coca-Cola Partnership Workshop in Buenos Aires

The Coca-Cola Foundation invited Lucy Aquino, WWF Paraguay Country Office Director, to a workshop being held for all partnership organizations in Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 28, 2010. Lucy has been asked to give a presentation on the OPÁ? Campaign outlining campaign objectives along with its great success in Paraguay. OPÁ? focuses on the preservation of water throughout Paraguay, with strong emphasis on the relationship between water and forests.

WWF Participation in ADAPTCLIM Conference in Asunción

The ADAPTCLIM International Conference focusing on the challenges of climate change and adaptation in tropical basins was held in Asunción, Paraguay the week of September 6th-10th. The event was promoted by “Proyecto SINERGIA" (SYNERGY Project), whose aim is to involve science and society in the challenges of managing water resources in the context of Climate Change on the Paraguay River Basin in South America. SYNERGY Project is a Brazilian initiative - joined by partners in Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia – who aims to bring the project’s objectives to an international level and to give an indication of how the region is preparing to adapt to such changes. The conference allowed scientists working in tropical basins to discuss vulnerabilities, impacts, adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

ADAPTCLIM was supported by WWF Paraguay, The National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT), Guyra Paraguay, the National University of Asunción (UNA), The Catholic University of Asunción (UCA), and the Center for Scientific Research and Development Association (CDA). Other international sponsors included: WWF Brazil and The Nature Conservancy. The "SYNERGY Project" is funded by the National Research Center of Brazil (CNPq).

WWF Paraguay had a particularly active role as María Fátima Mereles, the Director of Conservation for WWF Paraguay, was one of the four keynote speakers for the conference. She spoke about “Sustainability and Climate Change”. In addition, Dr. Fátima Mereles, in conjunction with Dr. Oscar Rodas of Guyra Paraguay, (a local environmental NGO,) presented work on behalf of the two organizations known as “The Vulnerability of Forest Remnants in the Chaco Boreal, Paraguay in the Face of Global Climate Change”.

Volunteers Come Visit WWF

In early September, WWF Paraguay invited all of our volunteers to join us in our office in Asunción for the opportunity to learn a little more about the OPÁ? Campaign, our work to protect Paraguay’s water, protection of the Atlantic Forest, and to have the opportunity to talk with some members of our team and some of the experts we have on staff regarding their environmental concerns.

The volunteers gained a wealth of knowledge from the meetings, and left better equipped to educate friends and family on important matters in conservation. It also strengthened our network of informed volunteers whom we can call on for campaign-related events, public outreach, and other circumstances when we need a few extra hands to spread our message.

We were joined by John Luis, a Peace Corps Volunteer who is stationed in the nearby town of Aregua, who runs educational programs in his town’s 42 schools to teach children the importance of clean water and how to prevent contamination. Other speakers included Carmen Vitale, Cinthya Duarte, Laura Gomez, and Amanda Parker.

Visits to Radio Stations with Volunteers

In mid-September, as a part of WWF and Coca-Cola’s OPÁ? Campaign, WWF Paraguay visited numerous local radio stations, (including: Rock and Pop, Radio Ñanduti, Radio Chaco Boreal, Montecarlo, Radio 970,) along with our well-informed volunteers to educate the public at large about the campaign, the work we do, and our organization as a whole. The radios were excited to invite us in with such a strong and simple message of conservation with the goal of awakening public consciousness. OPÁ? seeks to educate Paraguayans about the importance of protecting water reserves, with strong emphasis on the relationship between water and forests.