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The most difficult part of this DukeEngage experience is, by far, the remote aspect of it. I’m lucky to have a personal connection to the country that I’m researching about, but it’s difficult to not be able to be there in person. It would also be much easier to connect to and work with my team in person. In a way, this off-brand experience is giving us things to bond over. However, it is not the same as being on the ground.

I think more than all of this, however, the aspect I’ve had to reflect upon the most is how working remotely impacts the content of my work. It is so crucial when working in sustainable development to work through an asset-based approach. It is important to focus on what a community has to offer rather than starting by looking at all its problems. When working remotely, it can be easy to focus on statistics that convey the shortcomings of a community. Without faces, names, stories, and experiences, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. This is why I’m so grateful to our director for making a big effort to connect us more to the community. Much of our research has been in the form of zoom interviews with incredible Paraguayans in various disciplines and professions. Hearing their stories and putting faces to these statistics is an important part of centering our work on the community. I hope that at some point in the future, I can continue this type of work while in Paraguay.