Monday, July 11, 2016

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!!!

When I think of summer, I am brought back to my weeks at camp.  I remember making friendship bracelets, playing capture the flag, singing campfire songs and eating all the foods my parents would never let me have at home (ie. Fruit Loops and doughboys!)  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was so excited to learn about the summer camp programs that we offer to youth here in Benin.  Starting on Sunday, I kicked off two weeks of campy fun all over the country.

Welcome to Camp!!
Camp GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, is a program offered to girls who have completed 6-4 eme level, the equivalent of American middle school.  This year there are several different GLOW programs across Benin, but I volunteered to coordinate the camp in Parakou, a city located about 4 hours north of Adourekoman.  For the last several months, I have been planning, budgeting and preparing for the camp with my two amazing co-coordinators!

This Sunday, I packed up a car, filled it with supplies ranging from soccer balls to moringa powder and wooden phalluses to friendship bracelet string.  In addition to being fun, camp is educative.  We have organized sessions on malaria, hand washing, leadership, goal setting, women's health, financial literacy, and so much more!  I invited 6 girls from Adourekoman to participate this year, and they all arrived early, smiling ear to ear and excited to head up!

Discussing the myths of malaria transmission!
Whether I was a camper or a counselor, I used to always get butterflies as I drove to camp for the summer.  This year, while riding shotgun in a Beninese bush taxi, those butterflies were back.  I couldn't wait to get started.  The trip was painless, which is a miracle itself here.  We arrived at the school where we are holding the camp, which functions as a technical school during the year, helped the girls install mosquito nets in their bunk rooms and gave them a tour of the site.  Its a great location, complete with three bunk rooms, a shower hall and multiple soccer fields and basketball courts.  

Once all the teams had arrived and settled in, the directors welcomed everyone to camp, taught the special GLOW cheer and played a couple rounds of lumberjack ninjas, my favorite game from the wonder years.  Dinner was akassa with fish, a treat for the girls, and afterwards they were all excited to go hang out and meet their new friends.  The girls have come from 8 different villages, so it's fascinating to watch girls interact in French and see them sharing their different cultures.

During "choice" time, the girls can choose between yoga,
self-defense, art and computers!
This morning, we started with a visit from the tailor, who measured each of the girls for school uniform dresses, which they will receive at the end of the week. John and I followed that with a session on malaria before another volunteer conducted a lesson on nutrition and a visiting volunteer taught the girls about the benefits of moringa and helped them plant seeds.  The afternoon was spent playing sports, learning the essentials of hand washing and making up team cheers.  

Over the course of the week, the girls will be participating in team activities that will force them to make friends, try new things and learn about a variety of different health and life skills.  Even after one day, there has been an amazing transformation as some of the girls have stepped out of their shells and emerged as leaders among their colored teams.

Tonight we capped off the day with ice cream sundaes.  Since ice cream is hard to come by, we used Fan Milk, a icy milk cream concoction that is sold in plastic sachets and squeezed into your mouth.  Each girl got her own sundae, complete with whipped cream, chocolate fudge sauce and crushed peanuts. Let's just say, there were no complaints here!

Camp continues this week with the girls, and I will be bringing boys down south next Sunday for Camp BRO (Boys Respecting Others).  Stay tuned for more camp updates and photos!

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