Part of my April holiday was spent at Camp GLOW. Camp GLOW took place on the coast of Kenya the second week of April. GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a girl’s empowerment camp funded by PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) and facilitated by PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers). Ok that’s enough acronyms for the day.
Camp GLOW, in summary, was amazing! There were 48 girls nominated by PCVs that attended the camp. Most of them had never left their villages before which led to some very interesting experiences. For instance, some students had never used a shower before ( I could see how a spray of mysterious water could be intimidating after a lifetime of bucket baths) nor a Western toilet. One student was terrified of an escalator and stayed on the ground floor of the mall she was visiting.
Besides exposure, the students learned some very valuable information about HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, communication, gender roles, self defence, achieving their goals and many other useful topics. Here, one of my students learns how to put on a condom correctly. We then had a condom water balloon toss to demonstrate just how strong condoms really are.
Many students have trouble buying sanitary napkins. This often leads to students either not going to school during their periods or prostitution for sanitary pads. I taught the students a method of making reusable sanitary napkins which will hopefully give them a longer lasting option than expensive disposable pads.
We also took them to visit a great NGO called Meeting the Goal Post which uses football (soccer) to teach girls needed skills such as teamwork and communication. Our campers played football, attended peer counselling sessions, and learned about the organization, as well as found interest in braiding the camp counsellors’ hair.
One night we had a bonfire with the campers. Don’t you remember having bonfires as a kid? Telling ghost stories, making smores, and cooking hotdogs are quintessential campfire memories of mine. Bonfires remind me of my childhood. For most Kenyans, bonfires remind them of cooking because why else would you use a good pile of firewood? We taught the campers how to make smores (my absolute FAVORITE food. Seriously, ask my roommates, I lived off of smores in college) and they in turn, taught us some songs. Not your traditional kumbaya or girl scout songs, but songs traditional to their different tribes and to Kenya. It was an enjoyable night spent dancing, singing, roasting marshmallows and of course, waking up the next morning with the smell of campfire smoke in my hair to remind of all that fun :)
On the last day we took the girls to the beach. What an experience! Some girls had never seen the ocean before and were absolutely terrified, fascinated, and excited all at the same time, to see the Indian Ocean. My student even brought back a bottle of ocean water for her classmates to taste!
All in all, Camp GLOW was a success. What started out as a timid group of girls became a lively bunch of individuals. I am continually amazed at just how amazing Kenyan youth can be. While the week was exhausting and incredibly hot (hello humidity!) it was also valuable, worthwhile, and memorable for myself, the other counsellors, and the campers!
P.S. Happy Mother's Day all you moms out there! And to my very special American mom, happy happy mother's day! I miss you!