For years, the Government of the South American nation of Paraguay had a problem. In the lowlands by the Paraguay River around Asunción, its capital city, lived about 1,000 families who went through seasonal flooding. As floods were getting worse every year, the government partnered with other humanitarian organizations to move them to higher ground. In Zevallos Cué, the area earmarked for the housing project, already lived dozens of families in slum-like conditions. The government and partners’ initiative resulted in San Francisco, a neighborhood with brand new apartments for both people groups.
Once people moved to their new homes, however, the government found out that they would need more than new housing to integrate novice neighbors. In a second stage of the community reorganization, nearby Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders clubs were invited to help develop stronger bonds and foster good manners and positive interactions among the newly-moved residents.
“We were acquainted with Pathfinders clubs because we have a partnership with ADRA [the Adventist Relief and Development Agency] Paraguay,” said Soledad Rojas, Communal Living Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), a non-governmental, non-profit organization that worked with the government in the San Francisco project. “Some of [ADRA’s] officers got involved with the social housing project, something which allowed us to better understand the goals of Pathfinders clubs.”
Rojas shared that the goals of this Adventist-led organization, which works with the cultural, social, and religious education of children and teens from ages 10 onwards, seemed to perfectly fit the needs of the neighborhood.
“Working on values, discipline, respect for the environment, cleanliness, and proactive responses to addictions is what these young people need,” she said. “Many of them never had the opportunity of acquiring these life skills, but now they are getting a second chance.”
Starting in early April, several Pathfinders clubs took turns to offer activities in the neighborhood. On Sunday, April 15, 2018, dubbed “Pathfinder for a Day,” 130 club members of the Central Asunción area put a fair together in the neighborhood. In it, they showcased their skills in several areas of Pathfinder training. April 15 also marked the official inauguration of the San Francisco Pathfinder Club, with 50 local young members.
HFHI thinks Pathfinders can make a strong contribution in creating spaces that foster resilience and peaceful coexistence. “It is something essential for families if they are to adapt to a new environment,” said Rojas. “And it is fundamental for the social inclusion of teenagers and their families.”
Government officials also highlight the importance of social inclusion and options for personal growth and development. It is the reason they think Adventist Pathfinders’ clubs are a natural fit.
“We enlisted Pathfinders clubs to assist us in this task, and we are glad the Seventh-day Adventist Church opened their doors wide and was willing to support the initiative,” they said. “From the bottom of our heart, we thank them for bringing a Pathfinder Club to this neighborhood.”