Let the Games Begin!

Thank goodness for corporate types with money to throw around! The PWC folks are helping me make a first [slightly less complicated] attempt at freeing the puppets. [not cutting the strings per se, just giving them a chance to move themselves a little]

Apparently, the PWC teams from the past [this is the third to come and work with FP] created something called the “Ulysses Cup”—a soccer tournament complete with entry fees, food vendors and prize money. As seems common around here, the first year it was just for students, the second year they included staff and teams from the foundation central office, and last year [when there wasn’t a Ulysses team here at all] the tournament was no longer open to students. LAME.

Y por eso, this year’s team wanted to start a new tradition; something fun, something entrepreneurial, something exciting, something for the students, by the students. So, over a truly delicious dinner [working with them has ruined me in terms of the school food. sad day.] we came up with a plan:

Teams of students work together to develop a plan for an income-generating party. The teams write up a proposal and make an oral presentation, complete with PowerPoint, to a panel of judges [not school administrators or staff] who choose which party plan will be executed. [Citeria include: creativity, potential for profit, thoroughness of plan/risk management, and of course the professionalism of their presentation] PWC provides the budget [1,000,000 Gs : I know, it sounds huge, and it is, but just for perspective, it’s only about $250] and the whole student body works together to execute the plan. The first 1,000,000 Gs they earn from the party becomes the prize money for the winning team. The rest [and the students I pilot tested the idea on were pretty confident they could make about 3,000,000 Gs] goes to purchasing something for the student body; sport equipment, a stereo, software etc.

[My dogged American individualism got challenged again here. We had originally decided that the profit above and beyond the prize money would be divided equally among the rest of the students. Even if it was just 10,000 Gs, that’s more than most of them ever have in pocket at any given time. But with every student I ran it by, the response was the same: “Why would you split it up? We would much rather use it together for something we all want.” I guess I am not certain what the response would have been in an American High School, but I have my guesses.]

Anyway, we announced it last night—and with the exception of the headmistress’s remarkable talent for turning absolutely anything into a lecture [the word in Spanish is “sermon,” and she probably spent a good 20 minutes sermonizing about the evils of celebrating birthdays without including the whole student body, etc.] – it went pretty well. I think it’s sadly indicative that even though they gasped quite satisfyingly at the budget and the prize, they seem wary of getting too excited. Like they can’t quite picture it going the way I said it would.

But, it feels like progress, and I’m determined to do all I can to get the puppeteers to hold still long enough to see these puppets dance.

Que Suerte!

Part of the reason I haven’t posted anything here in about a week [aside from the fact that I am just a bit inconsiderate sometimes—sorry, Mama] is that I have been really busy.
Monday morning, through what I feel quite confident calling a “wink from God,” I met up a Ulysses Team [it’s a leadership development program] from Price Waterhouse Cooper [pretty sure they do investment banking…and do it pretty well] who have been sent here to work on the replication model for self-sustaining education. Que bendicione, no?!

I was walking to the Parador to help Mirta in the kitchen because the usual cook’s daughter was in the hospital with appendicitis. Someone I hadn’t seen before jogged past and I said “hola” as usual. They responded with “good morning” which threw me off, making me realize that it had been a good week since I had heard anyone speak English [Tim having gone off to Argentina and Jorge being on vacation]. The group came to the Parador for lunch and for some inexplicable [aside from calling it what it was] reason, I really wanted to talk with them. Not having any convenient excuse, I simply wandered over to the table and invited myself to lunch.

Turns out that might have been the best choice I’ve made this whole trip. We quickly discovered that we were all trying to do the same thing—and that we each had experience the others lacked [they with all sorts of business models and best practices, me with the foundation, the school and the students]. We’ve had a very productive couple of days, and have now the start of a list of principles of self-sustaining education, as well as a skeletal accreditation system for the Teach a Man to Fish Network [not directly tied to Fundacion Paraguaya, but working closely together]. If anyone is interested, I’ll send you the documents—they’re currently a bit long to post here. I feel really good about both the work and the connections. And really grateful for the prompting.