This week my fellow volunteers from Peru 26 and I were reunited in Lima for our Mid Service training (MST). It was the first time I had seen many them in over a year. During MST we participated in a two-day workshop, during which volunteers gave presentations on their service thus far. It was more or less an opportunity to showcase all of the work we’ve been doing in our community, our current projects, as well as to share the different challenges we face.
People often ask me what exactly it is that I’m doing here in Peru, and while I may give them a general idea, I’ve yet to do a blog post on the real specifics of my work and projects, so here goes…
What projects am I currently working on?
Pasos Adelante (Steps Forward): a sexual education program that educates youth about sexual health, teen pregnancy prevention, self-esteem, and positive decision-making skills, among other related topics. There is a great need for the program in the community due to high numbers of teen pregnancy and the lack of knowledge of sexual health. With the help of my community counterparts, we have implemented the program in the high school, and I am currently co-facilitating Pasos Adelante with 4 different classes, each one with an average of 30 students.
Lideres Ambiantales (Environmental Leaders): an environmental education program with a strong focus on leadership building. The purpose of the course is to develop social skills, promote good environmental practices and to prevent pollution of the environment in Peru. As environmental leaders, they are part of a national youth network dedicated to the improvement of the country.
Inglés Activo (Active English): an interactive class which promotes healthy lifestyles among youth while developing English language skills. The class incorporates physical activity such as dance and aerobics, English language instruction, as well as talks on health, nutrition, and self esteem.
Tutoría: Similar to an ethics or values class, tutoría class teaches students positive behaviors and how to lead a healthier life. I regularly co-plan and co-facilitate 4 tutoria classes each week dealing with a variety of different topics including self-esteem, decision making, goal setting, alcoholism, conflict resolution, bullying, and positive communication, among others.
Chicas Marvavillas (Wonder Girls): a girls empowerment group I started with adolescent girls, primarily ages 12-14, which promotes social development and self empowerment through activities such as talks on self-esteem, values, decision making, conflict resolution, goal setting, and other related topics. The group also incorporates regular physical activity such as dance.
Elementary level- I am currently teaching weekly English classes at the elementary school to four sections of 5th and 6th graders. The classroom teachers are taking the class along with their students, and the following school year they will be introducing English classes into their curriculum.
Secondary Level- I assist the English teachers at the high school level, and I regularly work with 4 sections with an average of 32 students per class.
Dance Club: I instruct a dance class after school with adolescent girls to promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity. The class incorporates popular dances such as salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia, and zumba.
On challenges: Peace Corps service, although a wonderful and defining experiencing, does not come without its challenges. I guess it is true what they say that serving in the Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love”…. Here are some of my top challenges:
- Diet– the typical diet in my community is one that is very carb heavy and consists primarily of rice, potatoes, yucca, beans, and lentils. There is usually some kind meat or egg also involved, but in my experience is served in much smaller portions. Eating fruits and vegetables is not very common, and there’s not much of a selection of produce to buy within the community.
- Health– living in poverty and for some volunteers, extreme poverty, can take a toll on your health. Just this past year I had to be medically evacuated twice for a bad tooth infection, which led to a root canal, bone graft, tooth and tumor extraction.
- Unwanted attention– this is something I face on a regular basis and never ceases to be something difficult to deal with. It can be anything from men hissing or whistling at me as I walk by, to stares, to downright harassment. Whatever the case, it’s never pleasant.
- High-turn-over rates– unfortunately there are a lot of changes in staff in the municipality, schools, and health post so it makes it hard to develop lasting relationships.
- Alcoholism in the community– Drinking alcohol in excess is very commonplace in the community and alcoholism is normalized.
While Peace Corps life has it’s challenges it also has things that make it all worth while..
Here are a few of my favorite things…
The Peace Corps Dance
A fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana shared this quote with me, and I find it to be quite accurate and relevant to my Peace Corps experience:
“During your Peace Corps service, there are three dances.
The first one lasts about a year and you let your socios lead you and tell you where to go.
The second dance is at the one-year mark and now you know the music better, you can start to share what you’re passionate about.
And the last dance is at about the year and half mark, six months before end of service, when you both start dancing together.”