Skip to main content
My ENGAGE program is different than most in the sense that my team will not be working with any particular constituency or community. Before the pandemic, we were planning on spending the summer in Paraguay where we would work with community leaders, activists, journalists, academics, and politicians to develop policy solutions that would enable Paraguay to make better use of its national resources in meeting the UN Sustainable Development goals for the country. In particular, the ITAIPU Dam, the world’s largest source of hydroelectricity, lies on Paraguay’s border with Brazil and supplies enough electricity to power the country threefold. Our goals were to help Paraguay better use this energy and its subsequent revenue streams to develop. Naturally, however, our plans changed after COVID. Now, our focus has broadened to include public health concerns in both Paraguay and the region. Currently, I am working on building a public health observatory for COVID-19 information in Latin America. As preparation for our research on the ITAIPU dam and its potential impacts on medical infrastructure in Paraguay, the team is compiling all necessary data from the region to generate a clear image of how the virus is affecting the continent. Our goal is to isolate patterns in health resource deployment and identify succesful policy responses. 
I considered myself relatively knowledgeable on Latin America after having spent a summer conducting research on the region, but I have had the opportunity to take a deep dive into the economics and politics driving development in each country. In Paraguay, especially, I have been surprised at the unique nature of the challenges and opportunities facing the country. Paraguay has the most unequal land distribution in the world, but it enjoys extraordinary access to cheap renewable energy. During my first week I was also able to glimpse at the inner workings of the United Nations Development Programme, an institution I am considering working for in the future. It was gratifying to see the good work they are doing but also interesting to hear how bureaucracy and local politics can impede meaningful change. I am most looking forward to engaging with politicians, business leaders, and community organizers in Paraguay to map solutions for the most efficient and equitable applications of the country’s surplus energy. Our supervisor has been incredibly clear with us about our expectations and long-term plans. We have a clear idea of our short-term goals and are learning more about our endgame impact each day. Considering our partner organization is the Paraguayan government (or potentially the people of Paraguay), I have numerous outstanding questions about how we will interact with our partners. I still want to learn more about the specific governmental structures we will be interacting with.