Last Update: 7/9/2014 6:56 PM
>by Athalia Markowitz
In 2011, as Peace Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary with festivities in host countries across the globe, Evan Frazer was in the second year of his service as a Youth Development Volunteer in the Northern Andes of Peru figuring out his next step. He enjoyed being a volunteer. His primary project was to teach work skill classes in local elementary and high schools with a great counterpart. He also helped build a town library and participated in filming a movie as secondary projects.
At the 50th anniversary celebration at the U.S. Ambassador’s house in Lima, the Peace Corps Director of Programs and Training mentioned that he was working on creating a connection between Peace Corps and the Special Olympics. The fact that he told Evan about this project was not a coincidence. Evan had been a volunteer with the Special Olympics in his hometown of San Jose, CA from sixth grade through high school; in fact, Evan’s entire family was involved in volunteering with the Special Olympics. When Evan went away to college at UC Davis, he stopped volunteering with Special Olympics, but it was definitely something he missed being a part of. So, as soon as he heard about this opportunity, Evan applied to extend his service for a third year and was accepted. As a third year volunteer, Evan now split his time as a Youth Development coordinator three days a week and working with the Special Olympics three days a week with his counterpart Ivan.
Ivan Huapaya was the Director of Sports Programming for the Special Olympics Peru. Prior to this role, he had been the coach for the national youth fencing team and had been in the Olympics as a fencer himself. He was in his mid-40s, of short and stocky build. Nonetheless, Ivan was a man full of energy and enthusiasm. From the first meeting, during which Evan presented his ideas for how Special Olympics could ramp up service learning throughout the country, Ivan was all-in. Evan wanted to create volunteer opportunities for college students studying education and special education, not only so they could give back, but also to learn how to relate to people with special needs. From day one, Ivan took Evan under his wing. When Evan started working at the Special Olympics, he was given a desk at the edge of someone else’s workspace. However, after just a few months, Ivan invited him to come sit in his office, and from then on Ivan and Evan would spend their days talking not only about Special Olympics but about their lives and aspirations.
Ivan welcomed new ideas from Evan about how to get younger people involved with Special Olympics and would validate his ideas in public meetings and discussions with potential partners. Together, Ivan and Evan created and perfected a presentation that they would give in different colleges and meetings with heads of sports ministries – Ivan would speak about sports and their importance for people with special needs, and Evan would speak about service learning – something that he himself as a Peace Corps Volunteer was a relative expert in. After meetings or visits around Lima, Ivan would take Evan to hole in the wall dining establishments, showing him a side of Lima that most foreigners never got to see.
During Evan’s year working with the Special Olympics, Ivan supported him in the development of a leadership program for Special Olympics athletes who had a higher cognitive level. The leadership program was designed to help these Special Olympians become leaders in their own right and give back to the organization as volunteers themselves. After a presentation by Evan and Ivan at a physical therapy program in one university, a committed group of students began to volunteer with Special Olympics and helped provide training for the leadership program. Along with training on topics like sports safety, the physical therapy students volunteered side-by-side with the Special Olympics leaders visiting an orphanage to give donations to the children. Ivan and Evan’s sports and service-learning program was a collaboration between Special Olympics and Peace Corps,. It was the biggest accomplishment of Evan’s service, and it would not have been possible without the support of his counterpart Ivan, who had enough faith in him to invest time in seeing this vision come to reality.
Since his return to the United States, a little more than a year ago, Evan has kept in touch with Ivan, and the physical therapy students continue to work with Special Olympics, as does Peace Corps with a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Evan’s place. When asked what made Ivan a story-worthy counterpart, Evan said: “Ivan was someone that had many things he could be doing for more money, but he loved working for Special Olympics and with athletes.” Seeing Ivan doing something he loved reconfirmed for Evan, that working for something you care about matters more than any other possible recompense.