When Sydney Yap received her first email from the ACE program in Fall 2020 as a first-year on the Duke Volleyball team, she wondered about the impact virtual service could have. After reading more about the ACE commitment to meaningful civic engagement, Yap decided to apply for ACE…even if it was happening “in place!” She believed the ACE “opportunity felt like a chance to stop whining about everything I thought was wrong or unfair about the world [in the past year] and instead take impactful action where I could.”
“I was blown away by the attention to detail given to assuring that my teammates and I felt engaged with the Peruvian community.”
– Sydney Yap, Duke Volleyball
After participating in ACE in Place Peru, Yap says, “I was blown away by the attention to detail given to assuring that my teammates and I felt engaged with the Peruvian community.” Catherine Purnell (Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving) pointed out how the cultural enrichment activities such as an Incan land blessing ceremony and a Peruvian cooking class where they learned to make Lomo Saltado helped deepen understanding between the ACE in Place Peru team and the community with which they were partnering. ACE in Place Peru program supervisors Nicole and Ricardo incorporated these cultural activities to establish a sense of community over Zoom as the 5 participating Duke student-athletes jumped into their project work with their community partner, Mujer Peruana.
Incan Land Blessing Ceremony. Image courtesy of Theo Burba.
Mujer Peruana is an NGO that specializes in creating more accessible education for women in low-income or abusive environments. The ACE in Place Peru team specifically supported Mujer Peruana’s Warmi Wasi project, a program dedicated to fundraising for the creation of four schools in Lima which will provide more accessible education to women.
“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
Though the program took place virtually, the ACE student-athletes received what Olivia Tighe (Duke Women’s Swimming and Diving) called a “hands-on ‘laptop’ experience” focusing on NGO grant writing and fundraising. She and her ACE teammates supported Mujer Peruana by translating documents between English and Spanish, writing monitoring and evaluation forms, and researching grants. For the final presentation to Mujer Peruana, the student team presented entirely in Spanish.
Olivia Tighe logging onto a Zoom meeting. Image Courtesy of Olivia Tighe.
Although Theo Burba (Duke Men’s Cross Country and Track & Field) and the other Duke student-athletes did miss some of the in-person connection points, he recalls how the virtual format of ACE in Place also offered some unexpected benefits. Burba describes that one of these benefits was a more sustainable service model. He notes, “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.”
Paige Knudsen (Duke Women’s Rowing) sums up the nuances of virtual service programs well, concluding that virtual volunteering “requires the time and effort of the project along with understanding something possibly thousands of miles away; however, if you are willing to put in the time and the effort, it can greatly impact you and the organization with which you are partnering.”