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At a glance: Paraguay

A young girl dreams, despite adversity

Seven-year-old Amada loves learning and going to school. “If it were possible,” says her grandmother, “she would even go to school on Sundays.”  Download this video


By Magalí Casartelli

After floods forced her family to abandon their home, a young girl in Paraguay holds on to the hope that education will guide her to a better life.

PUERTO FALCÓN, Paraguay, 13 August 2014 – Amada Zuleide Maldonado, 7, is the kind of girl the indigenous Guarani culture describes with the word juky – graceful. Amada comes from Chaco'i, where the Parana and Paraguay rivers converge, 30 miles from the capital, Asunción.

Her mother was only 15 when the girl was born, and Amada was raised by her grandmother, who says she has brought her up as one of her own. The young girl is an avid student, and would go to school every day if she could, her grandmother says. In her native Guarani language, Amada speaks with the fluency of one who feels comfortable with who she is and what she says.

Seeking shelter

In June and July, heavy rains caused the rivers to flood, and an estimated 245,000 people fled their homes in search of safer ground. Among the displaced were 145,000 children and adolescents.

© UNICEF Paraguay/2014/Crespo
Amada stands in front of her class at the mobile school.

Amada moved with her family to a community shelter before the floodwaters reached them. Their neighbors did the same, leaving their village as empty as a ghost town.

Her new home is a room 3 metres square, a precarious structure made of wooden boards and corrugated iron. Although they are far away from the worst-hit areas, there is still water everywhere, and even inside they keep their boots on.

Around 60 families live in this temporary settlement, and the Paraguayan government assists them with basic food and a medical station.

There is also a mobile classroom with full-time teachers, so that Amada and the other children here can continue learning, despite the difficult circumstances.

Extra effort

Marcelina Gaona, the director of the mobile school, has groups of students from three separate institutions. The classes combine several levels, with children ranging from preschool age to grade 6.

Some of the students, as well as teachers, still live with their families in flooded areas, and they must make an extra effort to get to school every day.

© UNICEF Paraguay/2014/Crespo
Amada, left, with her classmates and their teacher outside the mobile school.

“Many of them live in their homes and hold on at the top of them,” Ms. Gaona says. “They manage to come to school by canoe.”

An abandoned house

The water is still too high for a car or motorcycle to reach the area of Chaco’i. Sitting with her aunt in a tractor provided by the local council, Amada leads the way on a trip of about 12.5 miles (20 km) to her family’s abandoned home.

Their three dogs still refuse to leave the house and have stayed to keep watch.

"I miss them,” Amada says.

Inside, the house is full of mud, and the family’s possessions are scattered about. Further along is the local school where a few children and a pair of teachers carry on with their lessons, even after almost everyone has left. Amada says she misses them, too.

Amada likes going to her new school, she explains, but her old one shows how people still find a way to learn no matter what.

"My dream, when I grow up, is to be a professional, to help my people,” Amada says.



UNICEF Photography: Environment

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