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Peruvian Young Adult Volunteers are blazing new trails for the program

A dream for the Peru site coordinator became a reality at lightning speed

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Andrea Peña is one of two Peruvian Young Adult Volunteers who will serve in Lima. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — Once again the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program is breaking new ground.

For the first time in the program’s more than 30-year history, two young adults will be serving and learning in their own country. The Peru YAV site will be staffed by Peruvian YAVs under the direction of site coordinator Jenny Valles Koball. The YAVs will live at home and work for two partner organizations in Lima.

Maisha Palma will work with Center for the Development of Black Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP) supporting the organization´s youth and communications program areas. One of her goals will be to promote post-high school education among young women and to generate spaces for dialogue to reflect on the importance of education as a way to improve living conditions. She will also lead reflections and analysis on the impacts of racism and racial ethnic discrimination on the development of young women. On top of those responsibilities, she will also keep the organization´s social media platforms updated.

Maisha Palma, lower left, was interviewed via Zoom by World Mission and Young Adult Volunteer staff. (Screenshot)

Andrea Peña will work with PERUSA, a part of the Peru Joining Hands Network. PERUSA facilitates short-term service trips by Presbyterians to Peru. It also facilitates longer-term partnerships between Presbyterians in the U.S. and global partners in Peru. She will also help maintain the program´s social media platforms and develop materials to illustrate the impact of short-term visits and partnerships.

“The impacts of race, poverty and COVID-19 have afforded the YAV program new opportunities,” said Destini Hodges, the program’s interim coordinator. “Jenny brought us the idea. She said it had been a burning in her heart and I’m so happy we were able to make it happen. Now that we have been forced to do church differently, we are more open to possibilities and doing new things. I think this is just the beginning.”

Hodges said the whole idea came together with lightning speed.

As a mission co-worker serving with her husband, the Rev. Jed Koball, in Lima, Valles Koball had contact with several Peruvian partners. She asked them to recommend candidates. The two finalists were interviewed by YAV and World Mission staff last week and were able to participate in Sunday’s virtual commission ceremony.

The Rev. Jed and Jenny Koball are mission co-workers currently serving in Peru. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

“Their responses were so thoughtful about injustice in Peru and making parallels between the two countries,” said Hodges. “I think the YAVs will learn a lot from one another.”

Valles Koball said the two women were excited to learn that she was a mission co-worker and also Peruvian.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for them not to just receive people from other countries, but to invest their time and experience with our own people,” she said. “Learning in different contexts really helps the YAVs grow and mature.”

Valles Koball grew up in the high jungle town of Moyobamba, Peru. Early in her life, she became the caretaker of her family while her mother worked extremely long hours. Her father was paralyzed in an accident and was unable to work. During her childhood she watched as oppressive poverty and terrorism ravaged the Peruvian countryside. One day, while she and her brothers were hiding from terrorists looking for children to force into combat, her father told her never to stop praying. That was the beginning of her call to mission service.

Looking for a better future, she moved to Lima, where she planned to study business administration. It was in Lima that she met Presbyterian mission co-workers for the first time and learned about the Joining Hands ministry.  She worked for nine years as an office administrator for Red Uniendo Manos Peru before becoming a mission co-worker.

The Young Adult Volunteer program is an ecumenical, faith-based year of service for young people (ages 19–30) in sites across the United States and around the world. YAVs accompany local agencies working to address root causes of poverty and bring about reconciliation. Alongside this work, they explore the meaning of their Christian faith and accountability to their neighbors in the community with peers and mentors.

The class of 2020-2021 participated in a virtual YAV year. The 2021-2022 class will leave for their sites at the end of August. This year’s domestic sites include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Asheville, North Carolina; Chinook, Montana; New Orleans; New York City; Tucson; and Washington, D.C. In addition to Peru, international sites include Scotland and South Korea.

More information about YAV sites may be found here.


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