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Angel P.

“The Peace Corps has given me the opportunity to actualize my passion to serve through numerous developmental projects addressing real needs within local communities.”

Angel P Headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

In many ways, my passion for Peace Corps derives from my lived experiences growing up in America. Watching my family struggle to make ends meet motivated me to finish college and pay back their sacrifices. I always dreamed of giving back to my community after graduating from college, which is why I became an elementary/middle school teacher for a priority school in Baltimore, and then a community organizer and constituent service provider for my native city of Philadelphia.

Providing resources and supporting underserved communities has always been a goal near and dear to my heart, and I was poised to emulate this service abroad. Despite my plans being delayed a few years due to the Covid pandemic, I immediately applied to the Peace Corps as soon as restrictions were being lifted and operations were resuming. The Peace Corps has given me the opportunity to actualize my passion to serve through numerous developmental projects addressing real needs within local communities.

2. What projects are you working on?

Aside from my primary tasks of teaching English and giving remedial reading instruction, I am working on several secondary projects at my site regarding library development, college guidance, youth empowerment, and sports development.

  • Library development: Our school does not have a fully functioning library or adequate reading materials for our learners. To address the needs of remedial reading and literacy development, I am leading an effort called “Project Gabay” to pool in resources from all over the community to help construct a library on our school grounds. We have support from community captains and the mayor to build the library, as well as incoming book donations from Bagong Kulturang Pinoy and GASFI, inc. We hope to gain support for this project by utilizing the Peace Corps Partnership Program grant and reaching out to more donors in the future. In the meantime, I have established a partnership with the local university neighboring our school to give tours of their library to our kids along with an information session of how it functions. To many of our students, this opportunity is the first time they have ever experienced a library; watching their eyes light up with intellectual curiosity was the best part!
  • College guidance: Many of our high school students have pondered going to college upon graduation, but many do not know where to begin when thinking of pursuing a degree. Much of the information about college in the Philippines exist in silos and is not disseminated effectively. I have begun an effort to compile college guidance resources from several websites, government publications, and organizations to share with my school. I have given seminars on everything you need to know about applying to college, financing a degree, scholarship opportunities to avail, course selection, and finding the best college to suit your needs.
  • Youth empowerment: In a collaborative effort with the Peace Corps Youth in Development sector, I have been able to send youth from my school to engage in their youth leadership and volunteerism workshops. We have tried replicating and implementing youth empowerment sessions at our school so as to spread the flame of youth volunteerism and leadership to our community.
  • Sports development: My school is the only school in the Calabarzon region of the Philippines to implement a sports-track curriculum for students wishing to compete at the highest levels of their respective sport. I am currently assisting the wushu (martial arts) team and the chess team at my school by training and coaching the players.

Volunteer teaching a class of students in the Philippines.
Angel teaching in the Philippines.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

To integrate into my community, I leaned on my co-teacher to help introduce me to fellow staff and friends as well as to teach me about cultural aspects of the country. I took a conscious effort not to leave a bad footprint wherever I went, assisting with chores without being asked, giving proper greetings to people I came across, and chatting with the kids. I took many walks around the community until my face became familiar and people became comfortable calling out to me “Sir!” There were many similarities between Filipino culture and Puerto Rican culture, so I did not have a hard time adapting to cultural norms like “Filipino time.”

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

One highlight of my service so far was the library engagement program, which gave an enriching experience to youth. Alongside several teachers from our school, we coordinated with the neighboring university to establish a community outreach activity in which our grade 7 students would be given a chance to visit and learn about the university library. The students were so excited during the walk to the library, as it was their first time on a college campus. After an info session, the kids were given a tour which touched on geography, psychology, algebra, computers, history and more. Seeing so many young students with their heads in books, becoming curious about the subjects around them, was a special moment in my service that I will never forget.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

In my community, I have mostly enjoyed how people do not hesitate to help others if they are in need. I have witnessed many acts of kindness here and have been on the receiving end of it as well. The generosity exhibited here is heart-warming and inspiring.

6. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

Whenever I am not working on a project, I typically enjoy taking walks and finding new cafes in the area or just having a cup of coffee at home while catching up on series on Netflix. After school, I share my passion by spending a few hours teaching martial arts to my wushu players or teaching chess to the chess team. By the end of each week, I feel completely spent but also satisfied in that I am able to share my passions and make an impact in students’ lives.

7. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

In my remaining time as a Volunteer, I am mostly looking forward to the completion of my library project. The construction of a fully functioning library at my school is a massive undertaking and only possible with support from the community’s stakeholders. It was a long process getting as many key members of the community involved as possible, and I hope we may finally see our vision come to fruition. I am currently working to get the project listed as a Peace Corps Partnership Program so that it can receive donations from the public. Having a safe space for students to tap into their intellectual curiosity, do research, read books, and have college guidance available to them will be a game changer for their academic success. This will also be a huge help to our teachers who have been lacking proper reading materials for their classes. The library will continue to benefit the community well after I am gone.

8. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

In the Philippines, there is a concept called “bayanihan spirit” which is to give from your heart without expecting anything in return. It is something beautiful here that may be witnessed everyday if you just pay attention. This idea of bayanihan is at the core of my heart as a Volunteer, and I would like to carry this idea with me back home or wherever I go after service