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Julie Feeney, Paraguay 2001 - 2003

From an interview with Peace Corps Fellows, MU's Peace Corps Fellows Program

Julie Feeney
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Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Julie Feeney joined the Peace Corps right after graduation to help her narrow her career goals: “I knew that I wanted to work in the non-profit sector helping people, but those are very broad goals. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I didn’t feel ready to jump into the work world.”
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From 2001 to 2003, Feeney worked in Paraguay. While there, Feeney served as a municipal development volunteer, working with the local government on matters related to decentralization. “We did everything from workshops on budget transparency to working with the local health center. But my biggest project, I would say, was building a community center in a rural area and working in conjunction with a youth group,” she explains.
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“It was a long, long process. And, actually, I [initially] didn’t want to get involved,” Feeney admits. “But then they started having fundraisers on their own. We did a Peace Corps course on family planning and career goals, and they came every Saturday for three hours. Their dedication really impressed me, so we started working on this project.” Feeney helped the community apply for grants from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the local government. She also helped with the health center’s construction.
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When asked which moments stood out for her, Feeney recalls a hot morning under a shade tree when an elderly man epitomized the Guaraní value of giving. “I really saw how people who had so little gave everything that they could,” she began. “We had been working in the morning, which in the summer can be more than 100 degrees and heats up very quickly, and we were taking a rest under a shade tree when an older gentleman comes with this really, really big bundle on his horse. He stops and takes off the bundle. And we’re talking for a while, drinking a tea everyone shares in Paraguay, and he opens up the bundle, and it’s bananas. He had gathered as many bananas as he could and ridden probably four or five miles just to bring them. Once we had eaten together, and shared for a little while, he got back on his horse and went back home. It was just a really incredible moment for me, realizing how much he had sacrificed.”