I have finally arrived back at site after my harrowing bus experience (Please see previous post) and I need to tell you what an amazing experience Camp GLOW is.
GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World. As I am sure you can gleam from reading my posts and any other posts by any other Peace Corps Volunteer anywhere else in the world, well women get the short end of the stick in all these countries. This camp is an international Peace Corps program. As with all things Peace Corps it has a lot of room to interpret how you would want to do a camp. As long as it promotes girls and empowers them, you are doing a good camp.
This particular camp was orchestrated by group N199, the group that came before me. And let me say, as hard as I think I have it here as the second group, picture yourself in the first group. I don’t know if I would have made it.
Their group is leaving country in about 4 months (oh to be that close to the finish line). I think for some of them this was their last great project, and let me tell you it was impactful. I got to attend as what Peace Corps calls a “Training of Trainers”, which means I got to go up to Pokhara and be their lackey and observe what they did and how they did it, because I would really like to do it here in Dang in 2015.
They did a 5 day camp full of all sorts of activities. Each volunteer brought 4 girls from their village between 12 and 16 years old and a chaperone that was a little older to help out. Over this four day camp they had classes on health, volunteerism, leadership, life skills (like how to manage money), and so many other things. The girls gave presentations and did role plays on all these topics, they were fascinated by some things (sex education) and looked like they were about to fall asleep at some others (important documents you need in life).
But most important was they got to go play, and be kids. I remember my first week at my permanent site I asked my sister what she did for fun, and she outright said “Nothing, I don’t have time”, because between the cooking, the cleaning, and the farming all these girls have to do, who would? When do you get to go be a kid? The boys sure do. There is a word for it when kids, especially boys, get to run around and get into trouble, it’s “chak chak”, to run around. Anytime I have a conversation with a little boy around here I ask if he chak chaks or helps his mother and sisters out. They all say they help, but well…
I remember standing on the roof as they were doing the last photos and saw girls giggling and smiling and wanting pictures with their favorite volunteers and new friends they had made. I asked the other volunteers if the different caste groups represented caused any problems, because we had some from opposite ends of the spectrum, Brahmins to Dalits, and they told me no, no one cared. It seemed like every girl walked out of there with new friends.
They got to make headbands, paint piggy banks, make friendship bracelets, and play games. And every activity they did with a fervor I hadn’t seen anywhere else. I mean they could have decorated those piggy banks for days. They were just running around being little girls, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here.
The N199 group did an amazing job. 9 people who were complete strangers a year ago pulled together this amazing project that I sincerely hope impacts these girls the rest of their lives. I hope we can pull the same off in Dang, because it certainly looks like quite the challenge.
One of the things that would seem to restrict one’s ability to do this is lack of language. The language is hard to grasp, and there is no way even the most fluent of the volunteers could have pulled off some sessions. To get around this they worked with a Women’s organization called EWN. Empowering Women Nepal. Things like Camp Glow are what EWN does as an organization. By bringing in this local organization they were able to conduct these classes while the volunteers orchestrated the event and led the games and other activities.
I think one of the hardest things to admit in country is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. You kind of get dropped off and feel like you as an individual should be leading trainings alone. But that’s not Peace Corps at all, there is no way to do this on your own and really make an impact. Networking and connecting organization and teamwork amongst the volunteers is how you become a successful volunteer.
And hopefully that message came across to the girls. Work together, seek out opportunities, and be good to yourself, be strong and be brave.
I hope one of those girls walks away and tries to make Nepal a better place. Then it will have been a very successful Camp GLOW.
Photos of the event being posted soon!