Young Adult Volunteer Program transforms lives not just for a year but for a lifetime
June 15, 2023
Yuriko Beltran doesn’t ask for much — just an opportunity to change the world.
Which is exactly why the 23-year-old entered the PC(USA)’s Young Adult Volunteer program.
“I like the fact that I actively contribute to change, which is what the YAV program mainly seeks to accomplish,” she said.
The YAV program, an ecumenical, faith-based year of service in sites across the U.S. and around the world, has been changing the lives of young people ages 19–30 for nearly three decades. In addition to service, the YAV experience emphasizes living in intentional Christian community, spiritual formation and vocational discernment.
Beltran, a native of Peru and a recent communications sciences graduate of the Pedro Ruíz Gallo National University in Lambayeque [lahm-bai-EH-kei], is completing her 2022–23 year of volunteer service at the Peru YAV site, managed by PC(USA) mission co-worker and site coordinator Jenny Valles.
“This is a program where young people can experience dramatic transformation in their lives through their experiences serving in different parts of the world alongside our global partners,” said Valles, a native of Moyobamba [moi-oh-BAHM-buh] who now lives in Lima with her husband, the Rev. Jed Koball, also a PC(USA) mission co-worker, and their son Thiago. “To be able to accompany the young adults in a personal way through these experiences is such a privilege and makes this ministry both fun and meaningful for me.”
In 2021-22, the Peru YAV site underwent its own transformation in that it was staffed for the first time by two Peruvian YAVs — like Beltran — under Valles’s direction.
“The Peru YAV site had to shift during the pandemic when it could not accommodate U.S. young adults due to the health concerns and safety of the volunteers, host families and partners,” said Destini Hodges, coordinator for the YAV Program in Presbyterian World Mission. “Still yearning to bring transformational ministry to young adults through mission, Jenny decided to develop a plan and shift her attention to work with young adults locally. It was a great cross-cultural mission engagement experience to have the Peruvian YAVs engage in the virtual orientation and bring their perspectives around Christian identity, race, poverty and social justice to the table with their U.S.-based counterparts.”
Beltran said that she was attracted to the Peru YAV site primarily because of its emphases on protecting the rights of the LGBTQIA community, empowering women to become agents of change in their communities and “reorienting the culture toward protecting our bodies, water and land.”
“I believe that being able to hear firsthand the testimonies of people who face a certain problem and the goals they set to generate positive changes makes me identify and empathize with people and their needs,” said Beltran. “It is nice to be able to meet people who care about achieving a positive change in their environment. This motivates me and fills me with admiration.”
Young adults like Beltran, who seek to transform not only themselves but also the systems that perpetuate injustice in the communities where they live and serve, are supported, in part, through the Pentecost Offering, one of the PC(USA)’s four Special Offerings.
Not only do gifts to the Pentecost Offering benefit the YAV program, but the Offering also supports the Office of Presbyterian Youth and Triennium and the “Educate a Child, Transform the World” national initiative. A hallmark of this shared offering is that 40% of it is retained by individual congregations for local ministries, while the remaining 60% is used to support children-at-risk, youth and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
“Having the opportunity to deal with people and know their problems directly is important for me,” Beltran said, “since I can then generate strategies to support their efforts from my strengths and abilities.”
Emily Enders Odom, Associate Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Pentecost Offering
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Lord, let us never forget the greatest commandment — “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Amen.
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