After being in the country for over five months, I have experienced many of the shortcomings of the Fundación Paraguaya.
I will begin with my deepest concern; it seems as if FP has the internship program to make money. In the 2010 income statement that I saw, FP makes $80,000 USD off of the internship program. Now this would be okay, if it was a good internship, but many times staff and internship coordinators are not helpful. The internship currently costs $550 Mar - Oct and $400 Nov - Feb. In 2010, it cost $400 year round. A few years before that it only cost $350. They say that the price has increased because costs to maintain the interns have increased; however, I do not believe that the cost of living has nearly doubled. Furthermore, I doubt FP ever turns down interns. For these reasons, I believe that FP may have begun the internship program with the thought of providing a good experience, but it has now turned into a revenue source.
If you decide to do this internship, my recommendation is that you only pay one month upfront, or plan to pay upon arrival. They try to pressure you into paying it all at once by wire transfer, but they won´t make you. This way if you don´t like it, you can quit. Also, you can continue living at the intern house for $350 per month whether you are an intern or not.
My next concern involves the quailty of the internship. Because they allow anyone to come since it is a revenue source, sometimes there are 20 interns at once, usually in June and July. Even when I was the only intern in the micro-finance office, the supervisors were not helpful. Supervisors sometimes don´t even know they will be getting an intern until the day the intern arrives, and then they are stuck with someone and have to find work for them to do, which creates more work for the supervisor. In the micro-finance office, all the interns are given the same project, something to do with the micro-franchise kits they have developed. The kits, like "kit mujer" or "kit bebé" are a kit that FP sells to its clients who in turn sell to their friends and neighbors; however, the kits are pre-packaged with, for example in the "kit mujer", one bar of soap, a bottle of shampoo, and feminine pads. For the past five months, I have seen about 8 interns set out on the task to figure out why these aren´t more popular. To me, it´s painstakingly obvious, women want to buy their items separately because they might want a different brand, size, quantity, or don´t need one of the items. Furthermore, the micro-finance office employees are prefectly nice, but tend to exclude interns from their activities, which is not preferable if you want an integrated experience.
My recomendation if you decide upon this internship is to not work in the micro-finance department. I have heard that the Junior Achievement and Agricultural School departments are much nicer to the interns, integrate them, and give them useful, meaningful work.
The coordinators drop like flies in this organization. In my personal experience, starting in 2010, I have had contact with Michael Graham, Ceci Martinez, Alicia Woo, Mariabe, and Saide. I am not sure of their job description, but it doesn´t seem too difficult: Organize interns and keep the house maintained. However, they tend to be unresponsive, unreliable, and not punctual. Current interns never know when a new intern is arriving, and have been woken up at 3AM to the door bell not knowing who is outside. The coordinators tend to not care about the situation of the house. We went a week without hot water because the plumber kept cancelling. The head of the internship program, Sara Hooper, from Argentina, is also rarely helpful and is generally too busy to care about the interns because almost all of her work revolves around being Martín Burt´s right-hand lady. In general, they are great at selling the internship, but most of what they say about it online is false. You may not literally be getting people coffee, but you may be entering 700 shoe sizes into an Excel Spreadsheet or even organizing jewelry in the storage closet.
The house is nice, but they say it is a great deal. For $350, you get a house, a nice pool, intermittent wifi, A/C, a maid that cleans the kitchen and patio, and you share a room with between 2 and 4 other people unless you are lucky enough to get one of the two private rooms. The girls sometimes share one bathroom with 8 total girls, and it is a mess! As much as they try to convince you that it is a great deal, you can find shared living spaces with all the above and a guaranteed private room and bathroom for $400/month or even a furnished one bedroom apartment for $500/month + utilities. However, if you intern, you will pay the $550/$400 no matter if you live there or not. To summarize, the house is old, but nice, with all the basics, but it takes forever to get anything fixed. I would recommend bringing your own pillow because the mattresses and pillows are really old, used, and worn with no padding. Also, check for bed bugs, I found dead bed bugs on my mattress, but I haven´t been bitten yet.
To wrap up, I would never pay to do this internship again. I was pressured into paying 5 months upfront, and thank god I didn´t pay all 10. I quit the internship after 2 months and found a new internship, where I actually feel like a member of the team. I continue to live at the intern house because you cannot ever get a reimbursement, which is why I do not recommend paying upfront. I have not met a single intern (and I have seen about 14 passing through so far) who was completely happy with all aspects of their time here. Instead of getting interns excited to work for a non-profit, it completely turns them off of the non-profit world. I, on the other hand, am completely satisfied now that I have left and have found a FREE internship that is fulfilling and worthwhile.