road to peace corps

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During the fall semester of my senior year at Penn, I was job searching. Applying to random jobs I didn't want and knew I wouldn't get with no sense of direction. College was always my main goal throughout my life, but I never thought about after. I found AmeriCorps on the Penn Career site, but I never followed through. When I was brought it up to a friend, I mentioned that it was the domestic counterpart to Peace Corps. My friend, knowing ideally I'd like to go abroad but was having trouble finding opportunities with work visas, asked why I didn't just do Peace Corps. I forgot about it for awhile and then one day, in a bout of job frustration, just Googled Peace Corps. And that was that.

 

I went to a Peace Corps recruitment event at Philadelphia City Hall, where I met the local recruiter and returned volunteers. That experience solidified my desire to join the Peace Corps. I knew I wanted to go to South America because I'm Peruvian and had lived in Brazil prior. I thought it would be the best fit for me culturally. I applied in February 2016 to Peace Corps Paraguay within the Community Economic Development sector. I got into the program at the end of that summer. Due to a medication change earlier that year, I realized I might have an issue with medical clearance.

 

At the end of September I was contemplating my chances of getting medically cleared and decided I would prefer to just reapply to another program that departed a little later. My chances of clearance would be better once I had.a year between my medication change and departure. I didn't want to risk not getting cleared and having to reapply at that point much later and consequently depart even later.

 

By that time, a Community Economic Development position in Peru had opened up departing two months after Paraguay was scheduled, perfect timing. It seemed like fate. I would get to live in the country where my mother grew up and connect fully to that part of my identity by serving my family's motherland. I applied on the last possible day and was accepted into that program about two weeks later. I completed legal and medical clearance and was heartily excited about this opportunity.

 

About two weeks before departure, my Peace Corps trip got cancelled due to destructive flooding and mudslides in Peru. about half of the regions in Peru reported flooding. The ocean off the coast of Peru was almost ten degrees hotter than its average and rainfall in some areas of the country was about ten times the expected amount. Around 100 peopled died, tens of thousands of Peruvians were displaced, hundreds of thousands affected. The local seafood supply was contaminated and infrastructure was destroyed, even in the capital where several bridges collapsed, leaving many parts of the country without any food and water. Peru declared a state of emergency and the next day my trip was canceled. I was devastated of course. Selfishly because this was, in my eyes, the perfect scenario to serve in the Peace Corps taken away. But most importantly, my family's country, my family, and all Peruvians were at risk. I couldn't even watch the news because it would overwhelm me. I had never seen anything like that relentless rain. I prayed for Peru. And for climate change.

 

I was convinced I would say no to any other country offered to me. In another South American country I expected that I would resent not being in Peru, and I wasn't interested in any other country where the Community Economic Development sector was active. About two weeks after the cancellation, I got a call offering Peace Corps Morocco in the Youth in Development Sector. Initially, I wanted to apply to this sector but figured I would be more qualified for Community Economic Development because I studied Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management. The reassignment worked out in my favor since I didn't even have to apply to this position. And within Youth in Development, I'm still able to focus on development of entrepreneurial and employability skills of youth, defined as 15-29 year olds by Peace Corps.

 

This opportunity is not one I would have ever chosen for myself, but once it was handed to me I knew it was right. Peru is already part of me, and I sometimes think I might want to serve there in the future. But now I get to add something totally new to myself. I get to learn from a new continent, new culture, new religion. I'm still new here, but it already feels like home in a lot of ways. I've never been so far outside of my comfort zone and I'm eager to explore what's out here.