Volunteer Interview: Madel, Peru

I had the chance to sit down and speak with Madel Leal, an intern currently in Lima Peru. Madel is currently working on her Masters’ in Social Work with a concentration in Community Organizing and Development. Within her school, she works in the Office of Global Activities doing administrative work and web content. Additionally, she does student advising for one of the grants available through the school. Madel has been very active in the community here and her passion shows through her work. She has just completed the first 4 weeks of her 13 week internship.

Q: Why did you decide to do an international internship?

A: Most of my work has been done domestically. I’ve always been passionate about social justice work and working with a diverse population. For me, the biggest motivation [to do this internship] was because I come from immigrant parents so I’ve always felt a connection to Mexico [and Latin America]. My students have also come from migrants, so it sparked an interest of the United States’ relation and other countries. Ideally, my dream job would be community development in different parts of the world. This internship is giving me the opportunity to immerse myself into a culture and see what social justice work looks like outside the context of a western point of view.

Q: What kind of work have you been doing here?

A: My main objective is working in Los Martincitos, working with the aging population. I felt very motivated to put myself in a place where I had no experience with this age group and felt I could learn a lot. It was an option for my internship because Villa El Salvador was built from grassroots efforts [and has faced many hardships]. I thought it would give me a unique perspective on what a community looks like now after facing those challenges. I also work closely with Pedro Pablo (a young adult who is paralyzed from the waist down) at Los Marticitos. I have experience working for an organization in Los Angeles as a volunteer tutor for homeless students. Enrique knew I would be a good fit to assisting with Pedro.
In addition to Los Martincitos, I wanted to get involved in the LGBTQ community in Lima. I knew our CCS In-Country President Enrique co-founded MOLD, which does a lot of advocacy work and research. I knew this would be a very unique opportunity for me to see what LGBTQ rights and activism looks like in a different country. I am able to attend an all women’s meeting on Mondays. It’s a very beautiful space for me to be a part of because we can all come together and discuss real life topics. I’m hoping to assist in holding workshops as well as promoting web activism for the group.

Q: What impact has this experience had on your life and/or career?

A: I’ll touch on the career aspect first. I’m hoping that when I return and enter the job market, it will show employers that I’m able to work outside of my comfort zone and immerse myself in a community and place where I don’t know anyone, but am still able to build relationships with people. I think that will be a unique skill set to have in my career.
Personally, I know I’m going to be doing a lot of growth. Within just a month I have noticed that I have definitely grown a lot, in the sense that I’m able to take risks and not let fear intervene with those decisions. I’ve become more comfortable taking these risks that will benefit me personally and in my professional life. This experience has not only given me more of an open mind and heart to this community, but has also offered a chance for me to reflect on who I am as a person and what role I serve in this particular community.

Q: Going forward, what do you hope to take away from this experience?

A: I hope that at the end [of my internship] that I go back with a clear understanding of my purpose and role as a social worker. I don’t really know what that is going to look like yet, but I hope that I can go back having learned that there are different ways to do things and that our country doesn’t always hold all the answers. Being here and learning from this community has given me more tools to help the communities back home, especially the Latino community in the US. I hope that I evolve into a better version of myself. I want to be able to have the confidence to do what I set my mind, knowing that I have accomplished these things. I hope it will revive this fire inside me and passion to be an agent of social change.

Q: What has been your favorite moment so far?

A: My conversations with Tony (Los Martincitos) have been some of my favorite moments. But I’ll tell you a different moment: I’ve been intentional as far as how I take on every day at Los Martincitos. There was a moment where I was standing outside the main room while they were praying and singing. I stood there and closed my eyes and just listened to the voices in the room. It was a very beautiful moment where you could feel all the hope and resiliency that everyone in that room had. To me, that was a very unique moment because that’s when I knew “I’m meant to be here working with this community.” That feeling of love, hope, and resiliency was so profound. Those are the three principles that I want to take with me going forward from my time here.

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