Making a Difference: Summer Search to the Peace Corps

“My experience with Summer Search pushed me to believe in myself and realize I am capable of more than I know. The Summer Search family truly saw my potential even when I did not, and when a young person realizes that there are people who are rooting for them, that can make all the difference.”

That’s Dalia Martin Del Campo, a Summer Search Bay Area alumna who is currently making a difference in Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).

Dalia-Machu-PicchuDalia Martin Del Campo at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Using the experience she gained being involved in various community engagement programs while at the University of San Diego, Dalia was accepted into the Youth Development program at Peace Corps Peru. She was placed to work in Acobamba, a community with a population less than 5,000, in the region of Junín, located high in the mountains at an altitude of about 9,700 feet.

Dalia-viewView of Acobamba in Junín, Peru, the community where Dalia is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Once she completes her Peace Corps service in November, Dalia, whose younger brother Kevin is also a Summer Searcher, plans to continue her education and apply to Illinois State University and their unique Master’s Degree program in Sociology with Applied Community and Economic Development.

With just a few weeks remaining as a PCV, in between planning events and running trainings for the local community, she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her Peace Corps experience.

Summer Search: Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?

Dalia Martin Del Campo: As a first-generation college graduate, many people have helped me along the way to get to where I am, and my decision to join Peace Corps was a way for me to give back. I also wanted to explore international development and this seemed like the most fitting and socially responsible way to go about it.

SS: What kinds of projects have you worked on during your service?

Dalia-WorkshopsDalia at her district’s first vocational fair (left), facilitating a Project Design and Management workshop (top, right), and training teachers on non-formal education techniques (bottom, right).

Dalia: Peace Corps focuses on sustainable practices, which means we work on capacity building in the communities where we serve. For instance, I was trained in Project Design and Management, [experience] which in turn I used to train local youth and community partners on — including proposal writing, budget development, and monitoring and evaluation practices.

Also, after an initial six-month community needs assessment, my community partners and I facilitated a training for all the teachers in my district on social abilities and sex education, given that teen pregnancy is one of the community’s most pressing issues. We also partnered with the local municipality and the health center in this initiative to help reduce the high index of teen pregnancy.

Our second project was organizing the first ever vocational fair in my district, where we hosted over 300 students and 14 universities with over 70 guest speakers which was made possible with in-kind donations from the parent association. After the success of this fair, the mayor of my community agreed to put this event under the strategic plan of the municipality so it can be fully funded next year.

SS: What has been the most impactful part of your service?

Dalia-groupDalia (second from left) and other Peace Corps Volunteers and dressed up to dance Santiago, a traditional dance of Acolla, Junín, Peru.

Dalia: Having the opportunity to act as the volunteer liaison for the Diversity Task Force has been one of the most rewarding parts of my service. This committee, comprised of volunteers and Peace Corps staff, focuses on addressing issues of diversity and fostering intercultural competence building from the Peace Corps Peru perspective and the Peruvian perspective through the development of training and resources.

My most proud contribution to this committee has been starting the “How I See Peace Corps Diversity Spotlight Series”, where through our monthly newsletter, volunteers talk about their hardships in service related to their various identities. I believe that through these reflections, we’ve been able to cultivate greater empathy and understanding for the diversity in experiences that volunteers face.

SS: What has been the most challenging part of your service?

Dalia: There have been many challenging aspects of my service, the majority relating to working in a different cultural context. However, hearing misconceptions about Americans coming from Peruvians, especially given our current political climate, has been another challenging and eye-opening part of service. That being said, despite all the negative news coverage they see about the USA, I am able to be an example of the many courageous people in our country who make a difference every day.

SS: What have you learned from this experience?

Dalia: My work in Peru has been a wonderful and life changing experience, but it has also taught me that my passion for social justice is at home. I look forward to coming home and continuing to work with my community and to be an ally to others.

Dalia-hikeDalia and her Peace Corps group hiking in Ancash, Peru.

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