Sonia Moreira used her experiences as a Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders alumna to improve the lives of the indigenous population in Paraguay. As one of the first indigenous Paraguayans to participate in this program in winter 2009, she now works to promote this opportunity for others in her country. Recognizing the need to improve institutions and policies that address indigenous needs, Sonia supported the population by providing services like tutoring and mentoring for at risk youth. By participating in national and international discussions on indigenous rights, Sonia has been able to apply what she learned about indigenous populations in the United States to empower her community and tribe, Guarani Occidental.
“The SUSI program was an excellent opportunity for my personal and professional development,” says Sonia. “Thanks to the program, I committed myself to defending the rights of indigenous peoples, reaffirming the original identity of my country. Once back from the program I understood that, no matter what country it is, progress does not come chance, but through hard work, democratic institutions, and freedom of the people.”
Sonia co-founded an organization called Pypore, meaning “footsteps” in Guarani, which connects SUSI alumni and the indigenous community and seeks to invite and represent all twenty tribes in the country. Pypore engagement with the indigenous population through community and spiritual leaders and indigenous students has increased the number of indigenous applicants from Paraguay from 8 to 18 in one year. Sonia helped in many steps of the SUSI application process including translating the questions from Spanish to Guarani so that indigenous speakers could understand and answer the question to their best ability.
“I now work with the hope that someday I will not see so many children and mothers of different indigenous communities begging in the streets. These two essential things changed my life forever. I know there is a lot to be done, a lot of work ahead of me, but having visited the United States, and understanding its history and its form of government, institutions that work for the people, give me hope that I’m heading in the right direction.”