Stephen McBay and Kevin Ryterski served as Community Economic Development volunteers in Paraguay. After their service, they found a way to continue to serve. Through their company Artezanz, they are working with the Artisan Community, both established and up and coming, to create an online marketplace where global goods can be made available to anyone. Kevin and Stephan give the artisan direct access to the site, so they can remove the need for a middleman and sell their products directly to you!
Photos from Stephen’s Service
Photos from Kevin’s Service
Stephen McBay and Kevin Ryterski’s Peace Corps Stories
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
Stephen: I served as a Community Economic Development volunteer in Paraguay, South America from March 2015 to May 2018. My site was a large urban center where I lived and worked in an orphanage with close to 100 children of all ages. I primarily created and facilitated an IT course for the organization I worked with. We created a youth group to monitor the computer lab, organized countless IT workshops, and extended past our community to include people from the greater city.
Kevin: I served with my wife Clare in San Juan Bautista, Paraguay from 2015 to 2017. I was a Community Economic Development Volunteer and my wife was a Community Health Volunteer. I worked primarily in the areas of youth entrepreneurship, small business consulting, and literacy education.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
S: My favorite Peace Corps memory was about 2 months into living in site. I was still not yet confident in my Spanish and was feeling anxious about living with so many kids for 2 years. One day, it started pouring rain and the older kids stayed outside to play. I decided to just get wet, so I ran out and started playing with the kids. We got incredibly muddy but had so much fun. After that day, I felt more connected to the kids, my projects started gaining more interest, and my confidence in Spanish miraculously increased. Sometimes you just have to jump in and get wet.
K: My fondest Peace Corps memory was when my wife gave birth to our first son Leo during our service.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
S: My least favorite moment in Peace Corps was when my college computer finally decided it had had enough. I surveyed my options and decided buying one from the U.S and shipping it down was the best move…it wasn’t. My computer was stuck in customs for nearly a month. The officials wanted me to pay a tax that was literally more expensive than the computer. I eventually folded, and paid half of the tax. It all ended up ok, but the month was very aggravating. This had nothing to do with Peace Corps as an organization; it is just a reality of living in a developing country.
K: My least favorite memories were the long bumpy bus trips with no bathrooms.
What do you miss about Peace Corps?
S: The things I miss most about the Peace Corps are the unique moments with fellow PCVs and community members that will never happen again. I was incredibly lucky to come into the country with a lot of like-minded and ambitious fellow volunteers that challenged me to be better. My community humbled me in ways I never expected and in many ways improved me as a person. I still have those things…but the specific moments that caused the transition, I’ll miss.
K: We greatly miss the friendships we made in our community. We met some incredible people and their impact will stay with us forever.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
S: I have learned that every problem has a creative solution. Sometimes the key is to stop thinking so much and just start acting. In many cases, action causes growth and the things that once seemed impossible to do, slowly start to become more and more realistic.
K: There is great value in putting yourself in an uncomfortable position.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
S: “Ani achuchu” — Don’t get mad. Paraguay has two official languages: Spanish and Guaraní. Ani achuchu has a much broader interpretation in Guaraní and is a good response for pretty much anything. It was my go to response when I didn’t know what was going on.
K: Ha upéi = What’s Up, Traquilopa = Relax
Introducing the first Artisan led, global marketplace.
Created by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers – connecting the artisan community directly to you!
- Shop Global: Free yourself from borders with our digital shopping passport. You no longer need to travel to a country to bring its influence into your life.
- Buy Direct: The artisans set their own prices. They are in control of what they earn for their work, and they benefit from a global community of customers purchasing and reviewing their products.
- Change the Story: Artisans are entrepreneurs, ready for the opportunity to share their unique creations with the global marketplace. With one click, you can engage with the most talented individuals on the planet. Empower them to manage their own success and share cultural goods across the world.
We are currently on the ground in Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile and Guatemala. Together with the Artisan Community, both established and up and coming, we are creating an online marketplace where global goods can be made available to anyone – no passport required! Giving the artisan direct access to the site, they can remove the need for a middleman and sell their products directly to you!
We are starting in Central and South America because we live here. With your support, this idea will go global.
Find out more: https://artezanz.com