Microfinance Internships in Paraguay

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An internship with Fundación Paraguaya offers an unique opportunity to gain professional experience in the field of microfinance and spend time living and working in Paraguay!

Our Microfinance Program serves small and emerging micro-entrepreneurs who are largely ignored by other microfinance institutions. We focus in small loans, but offer more than just credit. Thanks to our particular business model, we also provide a wide range of educational, business and community development services to our clients, their families and communities. Of our more than 57,000 clients, from rural and urban areas, 86 % are women.

Our work in the world of microfinance through microcredit and training demonstrates how fostering entrepreneurship in people with limited resources and who are financially excluded can strengthen precarious jobs, promote the creation of jobs, and increase gender equity and augment family income.

  • Practical work experience in development projects; experience working with an internationally recognized NGO in Paraguay.
  • Live, see and experience actual field projects (e.g. live at the Organic Agricultural School, interview the microfinance loan recipients, and much more).
  • Learning by Doing: take part in the innovative poverty elimination approach through inclusive microfinance and education that pays for itself.
  • Opportunities to establish professional contacts and develop professional skills.
  • Pricess experience living abroad, get to know Paraguayan culture, improve Spanish skills, learn Guarani (Paraguays indigenous language).

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2.25 Rating
based on 4 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 0%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 25%
  • 1-2 rating 75%
  • Growth 1.5
  • Support 1.3
  • Fun 5.8
  • Housing 5.3
  • Safety 7.3
Showing 1 - 4 of 4
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No, I don't recommend this program

A fundraiser, not an internship

After hearing such great things about FP, I was very disappointed to see that the main purpose of the internship program is to raise funds for the organization. They charge an exorbitant amount for housing and give their interns very little respect. Most of my summer was spent fighting for any sort of respect or legitimate work from the organization. This was true for almost every other intern as well. The few exceptions didn't work with the microfinance team.

2 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Obvious Money Grab for the Foundation

When there are 20 interns spread over three offices that have a total of 50 employees, you know you have a big problem. The foundation is currently making nearly $9,000 on interns this month, enough to pay the annual salary of two of its staff. Considering the complete lack of attention and commitment the foundation pays to interns, it is rather obvious they are in it for the money and not the welfare and experience of the interns they bring in.

On the job, there are several problems. One, the aforementioned people problem. FP works in a number of fields, but the vast majority of interns want to work in microfinance, during the summer there are more interns than there are employees in the office. This leads to little guidance or structure from the staff, and no involvement in the day to day operations. The second problem is the lack of a defined internship period. Interns stay everywhere from 3 weeks to six months, the staff has no idea which is which and therefore is not very compelled to involve interns. More committed interns will suffer. This is not the fault of the staff at all, who are very sharp, very busy, and have bigger fish to fry. It is the fault of the internship program becoming so unnecessarily large for the sake of profit that interns become a burden rather than an asset for the staff.

The selection process of interns, or lack thereof, is where the money grab becomes ever more obvious. A classic example is allowing an intern who speaks no Spanish to come to the Foundation, despite the fact that it is impossible to work here without at least an intermediate background in the language. The intern coordinator more or less ignores these potentially huge issues and accepts them so long as they pay $550 a month. The intern is now paying to take Spanish courses on top of the internship fee, and may not be involved at all with the foundation proper.

As for housing, interns are housed in rather nice but poorly maintained house. While the extra amenities such as a pool and a grill are fantastic, the essentials such as running water, functioning roofs and overall security are suspect. They have squeezed interns into the bedrooms between 2 and 5 to a room, the most challenging being rooms of 3 and 4 girls respectively. Sharing a bathroom among 7 girls has proven very challenging, especially as they are the last to receive water in the house from the tank that provides it. There are leaks in multiple rooms which have gone ignored after multiple promises for action, and many interns have come home to soaked beds or armoires dripping water onto clothes. These are all things that I would be willing to cope with in the developing world were we not well aware that nice apartments with individual bedrooms rented by interns in other organizations cost $200-250 in town, and we didn't have to share half of the house with the microfinance office.

Finally, the attitude of the internship coordinator has been so terrible that she is an ongoing joke among staff and interns alike. When an intern was very ill and felt the need to go to the hospital, she recommended taking the bus despite being 1 block away in her office with a car. When the aforementioned intern without Spanish asked what he could do, she replied 'what would you suggest'? Finally, when approached concerning the request for lockers after another robbery, she replied that one should guard their things at the house as if it were the supermarket.

I enjoyed myself in Paraguay, but this was in spite of all the struggles I had with the internship in general and the coordinator in particular. What saddens me most is the so many people with a desire to work in the non-profit world left jaded by the experience and potentially turned off from the sector entirely after their experience with Fundación Paraguaya. I would strongly recommend against this program, although it has potential, changes are badly needed within the program.

1 person found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

They Only want you for your Money

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.

Internship Quality:
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.

Internship Coordinators:
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.

Intern house:
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.

2 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Expensive for a sub-par Experience

While the internship coordinating team is great, unfortunately their readiness and willingness to work with interns does not transfer over into an intern's actual supervisor. While you get to have some great experiences with FP, you also have a lot of moments of absolute boredom with nothing to do. It seems like an intern spends a lot of money to sit in the office and do nothing all day because their supervisor is either always gone, unwilling to help, or just doesn't have the time.

2 people found this review helpful.