It’s after 10 on a cool Friday evening in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, but in the living room of an apartment where enthusiastic young people have gathered to discuss their projects, the atmosphere is warm. They are determined to “do something” for their country. They want to change things not just with words, but with actions.
The young people, ranging in age from 15 to 26, are members of Reacción Joven de Cambio (Youth Change Reaction). Established in 2010, the movement promotes initiatives to raise young people’s awareness about corruption.
In 2012, Reacción Joven de Cambio implemented the Transparency Talks Project, which consisted of workshops for student leaders in secondary schools in Ciudad del Este, Asunción and Pedro Juan Caballero. The goal was to strengthen efforts to fight corruption in Paraguay. Last year, Paraguay ranked 150th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
This discussion session has an unusual format. On Skype, participants are greeted enthusiastically by 22-year-old David Riveros García, the group’s Founder and President. His school awarded him a medal of honor and, thanks to a scholarship, he now studies International Affairs at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa in the USA.
The venue for the meeting is Sofía Masi’s apartment. The 24-year-old communicator is group’s Executive Director. She is considered to be its driving force on “the battlefield.” Other participants include Rodolfo Ríos (22), Felipe Franco (25), Loida Larrosa (26), Liz Benítez, Sebastián Núñez (24) and Junior Colmán (17). César Fernández (22), Keila De Souza (16) and other volunteers could not make it to this meeting. All of them donate their time to this cause.
The group sits in a circle to listen to David on the other side of the computer screen. Most wear t-shirts with the inscription “For a Transparent Paraguay” surrounded by an outlineof the country. They talk of projects, aspirations and challenges.
“I’m sure we are all motivated by the same thing: a better country for the next generation - for those who are barely crawling today - and a sense of responsibility, love and passion to serve our communities and our country,” David says.
“We want to change the country. Here we are all working towards that mission,” says Sofía. Most of the group’s volunteers are university students, but after the first discussions in 2012, they were joined by some high-school students.
Members tirelessly raise awareness among teenagers and young people and also organize activities that make an impact. First was the Transparency Talks Project, where CDs containing the World Bank’s anti-corruption toolkit were distributed among the students to help them identify cases of corruption and learn what measures to take to combat them.
In fact, the students at one school reported the principal, who was eventually fired.