Dickinson College Student Helps Fight Poverty Through Fundación Paraguaya

Valentina Gheorghiu and Martin Burt

Valentina Gheorghiu ’19 is spending the better part of her summer 4,700 miles south in Paraguay, working with Fundación Paraguaya, a microfinance and entrepreneurship NGO. Here, she poses with the organization's founder and CEO Martin Burt.

Valentina Gheorghiu ’19 Finds Meaningful Experiences via South America Internship

Summer is internship season, and Valentina Gheorghiu ’19 (environmental studies) is spending the better part of her summer 4,700 miles south in Paraguay, working with Fundación Paraguaya, a microfinance and entrepreneurship NGO. The internship stems from a February Clarke Forum event in which Martin Burt, founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, had a discussion with President Margee Ensign as part of the forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty series. Burt—a member of the board of directors of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and of the Global Foodbanking Network—told students in a subsequent classroom visit to email him if they had any interest in interning for the foundation.

Gheorghiu took the initiative, and now she’s become a vanguard of sorts.

“Valentina embodies what we expect from our interns: curiosity, hard work, the ability to work with others and the capacity and eagerness to learn new things,” says Burt, whose Poverty Stoplight and Teach a Man to Fish initiatives are being implemented across the globe. “She has been a great addition to our self-sufficient agricultural and poverty-elimination program, and her work will be continued by local students as well as future interns. From what we have seen from Valentina, we are more than happy to host other Dickinson student interns.”

Read on, as Gheorghiu runs down her internship with Fundación Paraguaya and Poverty Stoplight, from Paraguay to Carlisle.

Can you tell us a little about your internship?

I’m doing my internship in a small town called Cerrito about 30 miles from Asuncion, Paraguay, working with both the self-sustainable agricultural school and the Semáforo (Stoplight) program. At the school my main focus is in agriculture; I work in “la huerta” (the garden) with plant production as well as working to create a new irrigation system that’s both sustainable and cost-effective. With the semáforo group I work with volunteers to survey the surrounding communities to help them evaluate their level of poverty with a stoplight system—red is below the poverty line, yellow is around the poverty line and green is above. I additionally partake in “capacitaciones” (workshops) for the indicators that they choose to work on.

What’s the mission of Fundación Paraguaya and Poverty Stoplight?

The mission is to implement practical and sustainable solutions that help eliminate poverty and create living conditions that are decent for all types of families.

Is the Stoplight something that you could work with in the Carlisle area as a separate project?

Poverty Spotlight is a program that has already been implemented in different areas of the world and even in part of the U.S. It is our hope that with a relationship between the Fundación and Dickinson we can bring it to Carlisle. For that reason, Mr. Burt (as well as I) expressed interest in my learning and understanding how the program works. At the moment, it’s only a theoretical plan, but by the end of my internship maybe we can establish more definitive plans.

How do you see this internship helping you take concrete steps toward your professional future?

While I may not yet know where my future might be, my time interning in Paraguay has given me a variety of work experience that I don’t doubt will be useful in my professional future. Being able to immerse myself in a different culture and use different languages has helped me to be more adaptable to different settings and environments. This is a skill that will be beneficial for me in future work.

Learn more about internships at Dickinson.


Published August 10, 2018