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This summer, ACE offered five virtual service programs focused on supporting community-based organizations located in Peru, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam for 30 Duke and Stanford student-athletes representing 18 different sports teams. Virtual programs allowed ACE the opportunity to continue to offer impactful summer service experiences for Duke and Stanford student-athletes in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of five programs, ACE student-athletes contributed over 1,440 hours of service.

ACE participants worked closely with program leaders based across the world who facilitated team building, encouraged meaningful opportunities for group reflection, managed community partner relationships, offered mentorship and support during project work, tracked project progress, and organized cultural enrichment opportunities. In addition to their service projects, student-athletes engaged in reflection with program staff based in-country, participated in immersive virtual cultural enrichment activities, and learned more about the history and issues facing the communities in which they supported.

ACE in Place South Africa 2021
Program dates: June 27 – July 16

  • Student-athletes virtually supported SA Harvest, an NGO based in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa that seeks to provide South Africans with access to adequate, nutritious food on a daily basis through their food rescue and distribution platform. The work that the ACE students conducted contributed to SA Harvest’s goal of reaching food-insecure individuals around South Africa. Their research provided SA Harvest with information on nutritional requirements for children and specific food recommendations. Students also presented creative solutions on educational initiatives to promote healthy balanced diets using local foods. In addition to their service project work with SA Harvest, students learned how to cook a Cape Malay Curry through a virtual cooking class, participated in an isiXhosa language lesson, and learned about Zulu cultural traditions.

Student perspective on the ACE in South Africa experience:

“Participating in ACE in Place South Africa expanded my world view and understanding of ethical service. I had doubts about the effectiveness of virtual service, especially without professional skills or extensive history with the organization. My expectations were blown away as our program leaders and SA Harvest both inspired and challenged our team.”

Faith Zhefuss, Stanford Lightweight Rowing, ACE in Place South Africa

ACE in Place Peru 2021
Program dates: June 27 – July 16

  • Student-athletes virtually supported Mujer Peruana, an NGO based in Peru dedicated to the promotion, comprehensive development, and training of Peruvian women. The ACE team worked to support Mujer Peruana’s Warmi Wasi project to build four educational centers in Peru in order to assist over 1200 women with skills development and training opportunities. Students assisted with editing and translating policy documents into Spanish, providing a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Warmi Wasi project, and researching additional grants to which Mujer Peruana could apply. In addition, students learned how to make authentic Lomo Saltado through a virtual cooking class, observed a live Incan ritual ceremony, and participated in a Quechua language and music history class.

Student perspective on the ACE in Peru experience:

“By taking the travel aspect out of the equation, my teammates and I were able to zero in on the service itself and focus on doing tangible, meaningful work for our partner organization that they specifically requested of us.”

Theo Burba, Duke Men’s Cross Country and Track & Field, ACE in Place Peru

ACE in Place Thailand 2021
Program dates: July 26 – August 13

  • Student-athletes virtually supported Shark Guardian, a UK-based organization dedicated to advancing the conservation of sharks and the natural environment in Thailand through conservation, education, and research projects. The ACE in Place Thailand service project focused on marine conservation and reducing the number of sharks that are killed every year for their fins.  The students created social media posts, a blog post, and four short videos to raise awareness and get signatures for the “Stop Shark Finning” EU campaign. Shark Guardian is running this campaign along with other EU organizations to reduce the number of sharks killed and traded in the EU. In addition to their service project work, students learned how to cook Pad See Ew from a local community-based NGO, took a Muay Thai martial arts class, and learned about Thai culture from community experts.

Student perspective on the ACE in Thailand experience:

“Ultimately, this program sparked interests and passions in me that I may never have discovered without this experience. I have a better understanding of Thai culture and appreciate life as they do there–“Sabai Sabai,”or just go with the flow. From understanding a consumer’s impact on the plastic industry to learning the “spin elbow move” in a Muay Thai class, being able to meet and interact with such inspiring people has led me to consider so many different ideas of experiences and careers I hope to consider in the future. This global perspective of being the change in the world was a common theme that I fully intend on spreading to my friends and family all across the country.”

Alana Vawter, Stanford Softball, ACE in Place Thailand

ACE in Place Vietnam Session I & Session II 2021
Program dates: June 27 – July 16 & July 25 – August 13

  • Student-athletes virtually supported Coach for College and assisted Vietnamese college students teaching and mentoring middle school youth living in rural southern Vietnam. ACE participants worked together on small teams with their Vietnamese teaching partners to plan academic and life skills lessons as well as create teaching video content for middle school youth.  In the Vietnam Session II, the ACE student-athletes were able to engage in-real time conversations with the middle school youth twice per week, with a mix of cultural exchange activities and work on English and life skills topics. Over the course of the two sessions, the ACE students’ lesson plans and teaching videos reached nearly 100 rising 8th- and 9th-graders in Vietnam. A strength of the virtual format was the opportunity to hold dedicated activities each day which focused on relationship building between the ACE and Vietnamese college students, while learning about each other’s lives and cultures. Activities included cooking American and Vietnamese dishes together, sharing video tours of participants’ hometowns and schools, and playing interactive games like trivia.

Student perspective on the ACE in Vietnam experience:

“The Vietnamese college coaches that we worked with were this kind of openness personified. The joy and willingness they brought to each session was infectious. Their ability to jump into friendships without hesitation gave us Americans the freedom to do the same. Throughout the course of our three weeks together, I noticed myself adopting their friendliness outside of our evening calls. ACE was transforming my day-to-day self even beyond who I am as a volunteer.”

Laurel Foster, Stanford Sailing, ACE in Place Vietnam Session II

Each student shared final reflections in a blog post at the end of their ACE experience.  All blog posts can be accessed on the ACE website.

After their ACE experiences, student-athletes meet with ACE program staff 1-1 to debrief about the summer and review their Action Plan – an opportunity to create a personal plan to continue to build upon their ACE experiences.  Program teams also gather together for reunions to reflect back on the summer and share Action Plan ideas. In addition, student-athletes have the opportunity to give back to the program by serving as ACE Ambassadors and promoting the program among their teammates and helping the next ACE team prepare for their experience.