Camp GLOW Mekelle 2015
*The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
Camp GLOW is a program developed for Peace Corps volunteers to utilize throughout the World. Camp GLOW has been used in 60 Peace Corps countries. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and is primarily a girl only empowering program. This program is designed to help develop girls to become leaders in their communities; because they are often oppressed and encouraged to be more submissive culturally. Boys are often more outspoken and assertive, and so girls have a more difficult time in school and other life situations.
For our camp we decided to bring both boys and girls to empower both sexes towards a gender equal Ethiopia. To do effective gender work, both sexes must be present and this is a great platform to introduce many of these ideas. Our hope is to help change perspectives in both boys and girls through the different programs. This year, I was Co-director with our friend Avak. Swathi (from Quiha our site mate) was the logistician, Jake was the monitoring and evaluation coordinator, and Chris was in charge of finances. To get funding for the project, we had to write a grant and send it to headquarters in Washington D.C. for approval. This allowed us to get about $4500 for the project. We also utilized funds from Wautoma’s Grace United Methodist Church congregation. All the adults volunteered their time for the whole week which helped our program be successful.
For our program, we brought 43 students from the more rural communities (where PCVs are located) around Mekelle that were aged 13-16. We had 13 Peace Corps Volunteers and each brought approximately 3 students. Each student had been selected through an essay style application. In addition, they have worked with the volunteers in each of the communities either in an English classroom/club, gender club, girls club, computer club, or through other programs. First, the volunteer thought that the students chosen would benefit from the program and also the student had to describe why they would want to participate in this type of program, and how they will utilize its information to help his/her community. We also had 8 Ethiopian counterparts from our communities who volunteered their time to help with the cause. We also invited 5 junior counselors who may have previously attended a camp, but are too old for the current program. We also invited 8 counterparts who worked with PCVs in their sites or past PCVs from the Mekelle area.
The camp focused on areas such as gender equality, healthy lifestyles, leadership, finances, family planning, nutrition, and building self-confidence. This camp used many activities from Grassroots Soccer curriculum to deliver messages about HIV prevention and life skills in fun and interactive ways.
We challenged gender norms from around the world and stuck to facts about sex and what culturally we place on each gender. We had a career panel later in the week that allowed students to ask questions to some role models from Mekelle area. We had professors of different subjects and a lawyer to answer questions for our campers. They discussed how to be successful in school, in work, and other important topics that the kids often don’t get to be inquisitive about. The campers really enjoyed having this opportunity, and I think the panelists enjoyed giving advice to the upcoming generation.
In the beginning we placed each camper in a color team. We had 4 girl teams with 6-8 campers and 2 boy teams with 6-8 campers as well. We tried to mix up kids from different communities so they would have the chance to meet some other new kids from other areas and back grounds. The teams were headed by a PCV and an Ethiopian counterpart and one Jr. Counselor. Each team had specific colored bandanas and we all wore our green shirts the whole week. The funny thing about the T-shirts is most Ethopian clothing is small for each size. So, we ordered a lot of mediums and larges, but they were actually true to size, and some of us ended up drowning in our larges!! These teams did most everything together from sessions to eating together at meal time. There was also a color team competition that resulted in one winner on the last day. They earned points daily by having cleaned their rooms, throwing garbage in the garbage cans, being punctual for all programs, going above and beyond by cleaning or helping someone else. They also lost points for breaking rules, throwing litter on the ground, leaving their belongings such as water bottles or notebooks laying around, or other unappealing behaviors. The kids were very competitive and it made the challenge fun. At the end of the week on Saturday morning, we awarded the team with the most points their prize, Snicker and Twix bars as well as bragging rights. It was great to see them working on professional behaviors without really knowing it.
Each day was designed about the same schedule wise. We had hired in a caterer to do all the cooking, which was nice, since none of us wanted to get sick. So, most days started with the kids getting ready from 6am until 7 and then heading to breakfast. We usually had egg sandwiches and fuul (a bean based mixture, like a thick bean stew) since most of our kids and adults were fasting (vegan eating) until Ashenda (a holiday that just passed this last weekend). After breakfast the campers headed to the soccer field to participate in a soccer based program designed after Grassroots Soccer (a South Africa based non-governmental organization developed to work on HIV prevention and life skill building through games and discussion) until 10 am. Then, they all headed back to the cafeteria and we had chai/bunna (tea/coffee) break with some belous (cactus fruit) and banana break for 30 minutes.
Once everyone finished, they went to their first classroom session that lasted an hour and a half. Once complete it was lunch time for another hour and a half. We had “bayinetu” which is an Ethiopian dish that is all vegan and has approximately 5 different stew type foods that are primarily lentil based (it’s one of my favorites J ). Then, they headed to their next two classroom sessions (1.5 hours each) with a chai/bunna break in between. All this ending at 5pm so the kids could have an hour of free time before clubs. The club sessions went from 6-7pm and then it was dinner time. For clubs we had exercise club with Evan and Chris, cooking club with Natalie and Kirsten, creative/art time with Brianna, and Human Planet video with Jake. For dinner, we usually had rice, churro, or spaghetti with salad and injera for dinner, on rotation each day. After dinner they had 1 hour of free time with bedtime/lights out at 9pm.
During this hour we usually put on a movie to help the kids settle down and get into relax mode. Then, it was bedtime, and like any other teenager who has never been in this setting before, they did NOT want to be quiet or stay in their room at 9pm (this is when we had out nightly camp meeting). The kids got better each day with being quieter at that time and staying in their rooms until 6am. We would have our meeting to discuss how the day went, good/bad things, suggestions for the next day and we discussed anything else that was necessary. Then, it became our bedtime/free time. Most of us didn’t sleep until at least midnight to be woken up by kids at 4am the next day. We did put the kibosh on that early morning rising and told the kids 6 am is get ready time and any earlier means you cannot participate in the talent show (totally effective!). Thursday we had the talent show and Friday we had the end of camp celebration time. This was our typical day at camp (Sunday to Saturday).
Thursday’s Talent show was pretty amazing. We had kids prepare since Monday for this program, and even though we kept them pretty busy throughout the day, they still found time to put together these great programs. We had such a great variety it lasted almost 3 hours, and possibly could have gone longer if we would have let it. We had poems, drawings, paintings, and other creative works.
The kids developed amazing dramas based on what they learned and what they know of problems for Ethiopians. We had a drama about a girl who was in an early marriage situation by her family, but she ran away to Saudi Arabia to be free and find work. When she was there she was raped and beaten and contracted HIV and came back to Ethiopia for help. Then, another drama about a guard and some boys discussing how to tell if a person has HIV by appearance (very difficult) and how there are many myths about people with HIV and other myths surrounding the disease. There were also a lot of dancers who wanted to show off their moves, mostly Ethiopian dances, and some more hip/hop based dancing. We had Brianna and Evan each sing a song while playing guitar. It was a very special time, unforgettable, and heart felt.
Friday, our last real day of programming was pretty great. We started the day with a program developed fully by an Ethiopian counterpart about life skills. He does this session often at his job where he works with OVCs (orphans and other vulnerable children) and their caretakers in his community. After this classroom session, we had field day and a quiz bowl before the End of Camp Celebration. The field day consisted of games to help develop teambuilding skills and just have fun. They did 3 legged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, limbo, tug-of-war, egg races, balloon toss, and others. Then, Quiz bowl was a lot of fun, it was a great opportunity to review the information they previously learned during the week. It was Jeopardy style and they were each in their color teams to compete amongst each other. It was a lot of fun and super competitive. Jake, Chris, and Ali were the judges and question givers, the most difficult positions I think.
They had questions ranging from 100-500 points each and with each higher point value for the question, the more difficult the question. We ended up having a winning team who earned points for their color team, but everyone was involved to hear and process the questions and answers. Once this fun was over, we had a little free time and dinner. We ended the night with an End of Camp Celebration. We made certificates for each person involved with camp and then we had special awards to give to specific campers. We had 3 for outstanding leadership, athleticism, arts/performance, and one from the Directors.
We tried to pick them and keep them with more girl winners, because the boys sometimes are more outgoing and make it easier to notice their qualities. We involved all the adult leaders and made sure to get their input about the quieter leaders so we could bring recognition to them as well. The awards were given and then we had each color group come up with a word to some up a quality from camp they learned, and then put it on an outline of Ethiopia to signify the taking of these qualities into Ethiopia. The student also lit a candle to reflect they are the lights of the World, and will make a difference in each community they live and work in. After everything was complete, we had a short dance party that allowed the kids one more fun outburst of energy, and then it was bedtime.
Saturday was the end day and everyone went home. Many PCVs say that camp is a lot of work and it’s exhausting, but it is one of the most rewarding programs in their 27 months of service. Evan and I both would agree with this and we have both had some neat experiences in our services, but this was a highlight. I think the interaction with the kids and the teamwork between kids and the staff was just amazing.
We were blessed to have the adults who volunteered and the students who came, they made this week run as smoothly, even with the hiccups. Mekelle University was a nice location and allowed for the resources we needed. We also had different media outlets come to our program throughout the week. We had journalists, radio station employees, and a TV station come to do pieces on our program. This was a huge help from Desalegn (Mekelle area PC regional manager) and the U.S. Embassy, allowing the media and inviting them to the programs throughout Ethiopia.
When we finished up on Saturday, I think we slept for at least 12 straight hours two days in a row. It was great to have a nice rest after the program. We also got our little kitty, Nashef, after we were all rested up. He’s pretty cute and loving! He loves cuddling with us, sitting on our feet, and being a crazy kitten, terrorizing our family’s dog Bobie, it’s kind of funny.
Thanks again to United Methodist of Wautoma for always being supportive through donations and prayers!! We are blessed to be a part of your community! ❤