Alvaro Caballero was a teen-ager when John F. Kennedy died, but the Paraguayan works daily to sustain the assassinated president's goal of building friendship among nations.
Kennedy was instrumental in creating Partners of the Americas, a program whereby states in this country become partners with Latin American cities or countries.
Twenty years ago, Kansas-Paraguay Partners was formed. Caballero is director of the KPP-affiliated Information and Resources Center for Development in Asuncion, Paraguay.
In a visit this week to Kansas University, Caballero said a state-by-state linkage is more efficient than a bilateral aid program with a national perspective.
"NATIONAL programs are managed by Washington bureaucrats who have not gone out on the field to see what Paraguay needs," said Caballero, who has been with KPP since 1988.
"People in Washington have lost the volunteer spirit that people in Kansas still have. You've got consultants and advisers in Washington just scouting for contracts.
"They're not into volunteer work. They don't get involved in projects for the love it. While in Kansas, we still have people with the true volunteer spirit," he said.
Lawrence residents and KU faculty art professor Elden Tefft, for example have worked on projects in Paraguay. Larry Moore of Lawrence is KPP executive director.
KPP IS ACTIVE in more than a dozen areas of development, including natural resources, education, health, culture and arts. One product of KPP is Caballero's resource center.
The center, financed by U.S. Agency for International Development, assists private voluntary organizations in Paraguay to design, implement and manage projects.
The three-year AID grant will allow the center to set up an information network, conduct vocational courses, publish a magazine, promote trade and engage in volunteer training.
The resource center is a non-political organization. Assistance projects survive because the community wants them to survive, he said. The fewer the enemies the better.
HOWEVER, Caballero's membership in the opposition political party PLRA doesn't impede his work. He is received by government officials, even if they know his political affiliation.
That wouldn't have happened last year. In February, Andres Rodriquez led a coup that toppled the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner. He has promised to bring democracy to the country.
"One or two years ago it would have been difficult to work with the government, because I wasn't in the political party that was in power. Things have changed in that sense.
"I think the most important change is the new freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Paraguay. The press is a very strong element behind the mobilization of people," he said.
Caballero said that during his brief visit to Kansas he will speak with individuals who might play a role in Rodriquez's planned trip to Kansas State University next spring.
"My work on the presidential visit won't be anything official, but this is what the partnership is all about networking, giving ideas and stepping back when the curtain goes up."