It all began in 1983 in response to a request by the local Church. A few members of the Focolare Movement started going to the ‘Barrio Republicano’, a district on the edges of Asunción where there is a huge rubbish tip. The constant humidity and the waste matter that every day is thrown there caused a great deal of illness, especially among children. The families were living on the edges of the river Paraguay in huts of cardboard, sheets of plastic and old corrugated iron. Frequent floods often swamped the whole area, forcing people to be constantly on the move.
‘Faced with such a dreadful situation we wouldn’t do nothing,’ said someone who experienced it all first hand. ‘We knuckled under and started looking for a solution to sort both the health and the housing problems. We looked for a place where the most disadvantaged families could go.’ Small savings were shared and together with other contributions they managed to buy some land a Capiatá, 24 km from Asunción. Roads started to be laid and work began on the first batch of houses, a well was dug and a cistern of drinking water was installed and, finally, electricity was connected.
Between 1992 and 1993 the first 20 families moved in and the district of ‘San Miguel’ officially began. In the meantime UNIPAR (Unidad y Participación: Unity and Participation) Association was formed, a non profit organization that coordinates the various activities working for the area. Currently there are about 70 families and about 300 inhabitants.
The San Miguel Clinic was set up to cope with the health problems. It is a surgery that deals with a side range issues, including the most common infections, nutritional education, campaigns for vaccination and prophylactic medicine, dental treatment and maternity and paediatric consultancy.
In 2002 a nursery school was started and in 2004 a primary school. It is recognized by the government and its specific aim is to provide an education for peace, fraternity and solidarity. The Ministry of Education considers it a ‘model’ school, and has sent teachers from the region to it for further professional training.
The project ‘Health-Education-Food’ was set up both to give continuity to the activities begun and to guarantee children’s ongoing support and education. The Associazione Azione per Famiglie Nuove (Action for New Families Association) gives support at a distance to this.
Much else has been established to benefit the people of San Miguel and the surrounding districts: a free library, a book and stationery shop selling at affordable prices, adult literacy classes, professional consultancy of many kinds (legal aid, child protection, behavioural therapy, ophthalmic programs and the distribution of spectacles, and so on). It is a decisive and coordinated action that brings together the inhabitants themselves, the local authorities, and national and international bodies.
It has been a fundamental approach, right from the beginnings of San Miguel, to encourage small-scale productive activities and to give families economic autonomy. Through the years AMU (Associazione Azione per un Mondo Unito: Action for a United World Association) has contributed to the development of these activities and still today it is involved in Paraguay in supporting micro-enterprise. These projects have solid foundations and realistic prospects because of the skills of Paraguayan people. It is sufficient to consider that in Paraguay there are the greatest number of Economy of Communion businesses in the world – more than 600 of them!
If you wish to contribute to the development of the micro-enterprises supported by AMU in Paraguay please send donations to:
Account name: ‘Associazione Azione per un Mondo Unito’
At: Banca Popolare Etica, Rome branch
Payments should be marked for: ‘Sviluppo di attività produttive in America Latina’