Margaret Mary Hicks / For The The Post




“Tranquilopa” is a phrase many Paraguayans use to describe their way of life. It also served as an inspiration to four members of the Global Health Case Competition when they decided on their team name.

“Tranquilo” means tranquil in Spanish, and “pa” means everything in Guaraní, which is an official language of Paraguay. The phrase means, “All is good” and is usually accompanied by a smile and a thumbs up, according to Discovering Paraguay.

Thus, Abby Young, Brenna Innocenzi, Fithi Embaye and Ellen Haile decided to call their group “Team Tranquilo” to promote their work to the Paraguayan people.

The team holds the title of first-place winners in the 2016 Global Health Case Competition.

“One of the key points for the Paraguayan people was ... they are always, ‘Tranquilo,’ ” Embaye, a second-year graduate student studying social work, said. “They’re never in a hurry, they’re very relaxed. … Tranquilo is like, probably like their favorite word.”

Embaye added that they decided on that name because they thought it would be more engaging when they present their solutions to the Paraguayan people.

The specific area they chose to focus on is called Bañado Sur, which is a squatter settlement located near a landfill, known as the Cateura Dump, which is one of the largest in South America.

Embaye said Bañado Sur is prone to flooding due to the low elevation and the proximity of water.

According to the group’s research, Bañado Sur receives 1,500 tons of garbage each day within its community, and there are 2,500 families who have homes that cannot withstand floods.

“Everybody’s just kind of living among each other outside and basically, like, the worst conditions you could think of,” Young, a junior studying communication studies, said. “So our goal was to find solutions to these problems. … So we took it from a standpoint of, like, how do we make their daily life easier? And that’s when we came up with a bottle brick.”

Innocenzi, a senior studying exercise physiology, said she had gotten the idea of "bottle bricks" from a friend who had seen children making such structures while traveling the world.

Innocenzi added that a bottle brick is made by taking a plastic bottle and packing it with as much inorganic plastic, such as empty chip bags, as possible. The result, Innocenzi said, is a bottle of plastic that is almost as strong as concrete, which can be used for structures such as houses, community centers and privacy walls.

Embaye also emphasized the need for education on living a healthy lifestyle in Bañado Sur.

“This will hopefully help people clean the community, reuse/recycle plastic that would otherwise harm the environment, and build low-cost structures to improve their quality of life,” Innocenzi said in an email.

Team Tranquilo will spend about two weeks in Paraguay, from May 7-24, to research whether the plan is actually viable in the Bañado Sur community. The total proposed budget of the project is about $80,000.

Haile, a junior studying political science, said she is looking forward to making connections and working with people from different countries.

Embaye said she is thrilled that the group’s ideas may soon become a reality.

“It feels like living large,” Embaye said. “It touches so many people, so many lives and they can go on and go on into the future … that is pretty exciting for me.”

Photos by: Liz Moughon / Photo Editor

Developed by: Seth Archer / Digital Managing Editor