August 24th-31st, 2019
Camp Glow was possibly the most stressful, exhausting, and time consuming week of my Peace Corps service. However, it was equally one of the most rewarding, inspiring, and uplifting weeks of this past year and a half.
Camp GLOW stands for Girls Lead Our Worlds and is focused completely on gender equality.
In Ethiopia, 71 percent of women have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Jimma Camp GLOW aims to educate students from grades 7 to 10 about the prevalence of gendered violence, provide life skills to decrease gender-based violence, and increase agency and self esteem through lessons of leadership, confidence building, and interpersonal strength. Additionally, Jimma Camp Glow will provide lessons on personal health, such as WASH topics, HIV/AIDS, STIs Reproductive health, and care seeking. Moreover, camp GLOW will construct important activities that will highlight goal building for the future, and the importance of volunteerism for one’s country.”
Us 6 volunteers around the Jimma zone got together and decided that a Camp GLOW would be of the utmost importance and decided that we wanted to host a full 7 day camp for the students. (WHY DID WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES!? 7 days?! 😂)
Each of us were required to bring 2 boys and 2 girls from our sites along with a Ethiopian Counterpart to help us with translations and transporting the kids to Jimma. The camp was held at the Jimma Preparatory School that had multiple buildings that was great for teaching, sleeping, and an eating/cooking space. The facility fit our needs perfectly and was donated to us by the director for free if we involved four of his own students from his school. DEAL sir. DEAL!
The following read will be a quick synopsis of the 7 days and tons of pictures for your eyeballs to enjoy. 🙂
Day 1: Arrival
When the first kids started rolling in, we had set up games for the kids to play and keep themselves preoccupied while we gathered the troops. Naturally, everyone arrived later than expected so we had to knock out a couple of beginning activities. Once all the kids had arrived we served them lunch and had them eat in the library. The kids were nervous and sat next to each other in their collective groups. It was beyond eerie. So I made sure to holler out to them, “Dubata!” (Talk!) and they all said okay and tried to make little conversation.
After lunch we had the kids make their own personalized folders to hang on the walls and each night we gave them an allotted time to write nice comments on scrap paper to other people and put them in their respective folders.
Then we played a couple American games like musical chairs (yes I included myself in these games because I am and will forever be a child 🤷🏽♀️),
follow the leader, and had a water balloon toss, all games that at first made them raise their eyebrows in a questioning manner to ending in laughs and smiles.
We then split the kids into 6 groups with their respective volunteer. This way we could mix the kids up from their sites and it also allowed us an easier way to split the kids by groups later on in the week. Once placed in a group they were then to decide on a group name, flag, and chant that they would embrace throughout the week.
The kids placed in my group were from left to right: Iziden,Wozifa, Me, Abeba, Abdu, Jaber, and the little one in front named Intisar.
Our group name was “The Lovable Lions” and here is our flag and chant. ROARRRRR.🦁
We ended the day with a basic conversation about the rules and regulations of camp, fed them dinner and put them to bed, and it was off to the races for us volunteers to get everything ready for the following day.
(Each day we ended the night by having a team meeting with volunteers and counterparts discussing the good and bad of the days and what we could improve on. After we sent the counterparts to bed, the volunteers stayed up to prep for the sessions and games for the next day. Late Late nights no doubt).
Day 2: Communication
Day 2 started early with kids moving all around. Excitement was the aura, it was almost palpable as you could see the kids starting to feel more comfortable. In the morning we had sessions on Peer Pressure, Communications, and Making Good Decisions.
In the making a good decision session we taught them the steps in making a good decision (Pausing to think of the consequences of our decisions etc.) and then read them a story where after each sentence we would ask the kids what decision the protagonist should make while discussing her options and consequences. The kids were actually strangely into debating together what she should do.
In the afternoon we had some team building activities like an egg drop contest.
Here they had to use different materials to build around the egg to protect it when we dropped it from the roof of a building. The kids at first seemed a little bit hesitant about how to go about creating the “house” around it, but once one kid started getting their wheels turning, the rest followed suit.
Most of the time in a normal school setting, thinking outside of the box is unseen. They are all taught in the same way and the time allotted for creative and new ideas isn’t really seen. Most the time kids try to memorize what was taught and never defer from it. So when doing this activity I had a feeling that it would be a little confusing at first but it was so exciting to watch the wheels turning in their heads.
And guess who got to drop the eggs from the roof top? Boop Boop Woot Woot! Your girl Izzyfachizzy.
In the evening I taught a session about how to manage stress. Asking students to think of times when they were stressed out and how it made their bodies feel. Then I introduced a list of things the kids can take part in to help relieve their stress and then we ended the day with a Yoga session.
Most the kids had no idea what yoga was and at the beginning when we were moving through sun salutations they asked… “This is sport?” and I told a few to just wait and once we started getting into more difficult poses you could see the “Oh, this is actually hard” expressions on their faces. (Yeah…I told you so, don’t diss my yoga).🧘🏽♀️
Day 3: Leadership
Day 3 morning sessions were about self esteem, self confidence, and playing “pat on the back”. During the self-esteem lesson we had the kids describe how they felt when people would say positive things to them and how they would feel when people would say negative things. We then went around and had each child say something that they were proud of and encouraged them to compliment their selves. It was mind blowing how it was a difficult task for some of the kids. I wanted to squeeze them and say but you are SO special!!!
In the afternoon we had lessons over good and bad leadership and had a surprise visit by volunteer Eli who brought with him robots. Yes, little baby robots that we could control with our phones by an app. I was just as into it as the kids were. We had them try to move the robot in squares and follow a certain path. They loved having to brainstorm and type in the right actions.
After that, I held a Disability session that I absolutely LOVED directing. I split the class into 5 different stations to rotate through. The five stations included 2 stations having them do things with one arm, another was focused on having one leg, another one had the kids being blindfolded and directed through an obstacle course without being touched, and lastly, I had the kids put in headphones that blasted a white noise and the students had to try and understand a hearing person talking at them.
(Deaf people in Ethiopia, especially in the rural villages, are not typically taught sign language and are expected to try and understand a hearing person talking to them through lipreading). Then after all of these stations I gathered the troops and explained to them that Deaf people DO and CAN have a language which is sign language and taught them as such. They enjoyed it, asking question after question and trying to sign with me for the rest of the week.
We then ended the evening with an Amharic movie called “Yegna” meaning “Ours”. The movie featured a group of 5 girls in a band going to perform in Addis Abeba. The girls came from all sorts of different backgrounds from homeless, to abusive households, to well off households. During the competition they choose to perform their own song that describes how we should respect the women of our country and win first place at the competition. The kids were zoned in the entire time and even applauded at the end.
Day 4: Gender
Day four was focused on defining gender, gender roles/norms, and the influence of gender. This was one of my favorite activities as I led the gender roles/norms class. I had done this activity in Chime and was excited to see how it would go with males involved instead of just girls. The activity has three posters titled boys/girls/both. At the beginning I would ask them to place the sticky note on the respective flipchart that went along with what work was on their sticky note. For example a sticky note might say “Make coffee” and they had to put it under female, male, or both. I didn’t give much description as to where they should put it, just read and stick it where it belongs.
Then I asked them to redo this activity but to think of bodies only. Not culture. I told them based soley on the physical body who could perform these tasks. Once again the activity was done and usually they kept part of their culture in their responses. Having “make coffee” still under the female card. I would then go through the cards asking why they put certain jobs in certain places.
This allowed for discussion and it tied me into leading a discussion with the students. When discussing a card and why it was put under the female or male side I would let someone speak (Usually a male spoke first) and then ask the opposing sex if they were right or wrong. I loved seeing their faces contort while a boy was talking and I would give them the space to answer back. Encouraging them that it was a safe space and to speak their minds. One of my absolute favorites!
In the afternoon we focused on defining sexual harassment and had a gender privilege walk. During the privilege walk we had the boys and girls line up side by side blindfolded. We then asked the boys and girls different privilege questions. Based off of our questions they would either step forward or back. Most questions that made the kids step back were questions that kept them busy and from succeeding and questions that made them step forward were more privileged based. At the end we had them stand where they were and undo their blindfolds. All the men were usually at the front of the class and all women (including myself) were standing behind the men. From there we went into a discussion of the privilege men have in this country and how the boys can better support the girls.
In the evening we talked about gender based violence and then had a relay called “Walk a mile in her shoes”. During this relay we had the boys split into two groups and have to perform a series of tasks in a competition form. The first station had the boys put on a dress and girl shoes and tie a scarf around them with a “baby” (soccer ball) in it.
Then they went to the next station where they would wash dirty laundry for 15 seconds,
next was to peel garlic,
then they had to “feed the baby” for 15 seconds
and lastly, they had to run back to the start with two full jerry cans and pass the dress off to the next boy.
At each station we had the girls judging and making sure the boys were doing each activity correctly. It was HILARIOUS to watch the boys but also a learning point for them to realize how much work a girl has to do throughout the day.
We ended the day with a “Gender Stadium” where there are chairs circled up with an inner and outer circle. We start by having the girls sit in the inner circle and ask them a series of questions. Here they answer and the boys are not allowed to talk and must listen to the girls. After about 30 minutes we switch and the boys do the same. That way they can say what they need to while the opposing sex has to listen.
Day 5: Reproductive Health
In the morning we split the girls and boys into their separate groups by sex so we could talk about puberty and girls/boys reproductive health. Most the time these topics are not talked about in the rural areas (usually these topics are not talked much about in schools or even with parents) So the kids usually have a ton of questions which leads to great conversations. Once we started talking about the menstrual cycle we asked the girls about pads etc. and let them know that we would be making reusable menstrual pads that they can use at site. Pads are generally expensive to buy at stores in town so most of the time the girls end up missing out from school because they need to stay home so they can stay clean. These reusable pads are made out of extra fabric where the bottom layer has plastic sewn in and then there are two cut outs from towels that can be inserted to help be absorbent. These cut outs can be removed and washed as needed.
The girls had a kick as we turned on music, danced, and sewed together pads. One girl even wanted to take materials home because she knew some of her friends didn’t have access to pads and would love to have one of these. (Sustainability at its finest eh?)
Then after lunch we discussed STDs and HIV basic prevention. Once again, the kids know very little on these topics and since they are prevalent we thought it would be a good time to discuss such topics. During the STD discussion we also wanted to teach the girls the importance of using a condom and how to put one on in case a situation arises and the male doesn’t know or doesn’t want to.
I had a kick out of this as I had the wooden winkies to help demonstrate hidden in a black bag during the entire class. When the time came to demonstrate I asked the class “Guess what we get to do now”. They looked at me with questioning looks and I whipped 3 wooden winkies out with a big smile on my face. The girls faces went from pure terror to laughing hysterically. Then with just my luck another male volunteer opened our classroom door to grab the keys (How dare he not knock) and I tried to hide the winkies behind me as best as I could because I could feel the girls feeling worried and embarrassed for me.… It led us all into a laughing fit and me in tears. The girls had fantastic questions during it all and we ended the afternoon on a high note.
The kids then had more lessons more focused on HIV and in the evening we played a sexual health jeopardy that was made by Kiya. We were all SHOCKED at how competitive the groups became and we loved that they always went for the highest amount on the board. No worrying if they would lose it and the next group would get it, they went all in for it which I loved.
Day 6: Goals
In the morning of day 6 we discussed about identifying goals, goal setting, and a life tree. In the life tree section we had the kids think about their lives 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years from now. In doing so they were to draw a tree. At the bottom they named their “Roots”; what are the things they have now, what support do they have now, family, friends, etc. Then we asked them to think about what they would like to have accomplished in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years from now. On the top left we asked them to name things that they needed to have to help them reach these goals and on the top right things that would keep them from reaching these goals, lack of money, etc. A lot of the kids have their eyes set on University which was beyond exciting to see. Oh how I hope and pray this can be a possibility for each one.
In the afternoon, we discussed about basic financial literacy and becoming a community leader and in the evening we set out arts and crafts (making origami and making friendship bracelets)
and tie dying shirts ( Thanks so much Kiya for bring that from the US of A!) The kids loved every station so much.
In the evening we watched Mulan. Which was a perfect movie of a strong female no? It was in English but it was expressive enough to get the point across.
Day 7: Community Projects
The last day of camp, we started off with some community service overviews, steps to helping our communities, and then having the kids from each town come up with their own projects they want to do in their respective towns. The kids actually enjoyed discussing about the issues they wanted to fix in the towns.
Then after lunch we were blessed with sunshine and no rain and were able to host a GLOW Olympics for the kids. In the GLOW Olympics we had a sack race,
a hold a spoon in your mouth and balance an egg race,
a three legged race,
a water balloon toss,
and lastly a tug of war tournament. The kids were naturally very competitive in each but giggles were released the entire time.
After the GLOW Olympics we opened up the compound and held a volleyball game for the kids who wanted to play and then we ended our last night around a camp fire. Praise the lord the rain held off and we were still able to celebrate outside.
We played music and showed them a little bit of our culture and had all the fixins for smores brought from America by various people. SMOREEEEEEEEEEESSSS. NOM NOM NOM NOMMIES. Us Americans were drooling at the mouth while the kids had questioning eyebrows yet again. But nonetheless they seemed to enjoy the delicious tasty treat.
Lastly, we handed out certificates and our group photo to each kid for completing our camp. It was quite the celebration as we ate, drank sodas, and danced around the fire.
Day 8: Leaving and going back to site
Oh what a sad day, day 8 was. The girls tried to keep their tears at bay. But most failed as they hugged their new friends goodbye. It was beautiful to watch them go from strangers to best friends. All the kids scrambled to write down each others numbers and made plans to go to University together. It had become real that they may never see each other again. That this all was truly a once in a life time event.
More so, I believe the girls for the first time in their lives were able to just be kids. They had no job for a week, no making coffee, no fetching water, no watching their younger siblings, no making food, no washing clothes for the family, they were simply allowed to be.
Not only were they allowed to be kids, they were embraced because they were females. Probably for the first time in their lives they were looked at like equals to the males that were at camp. We looked at the girls and told them YOU CAN. We told them that they were just as important. We did activities that would help the males see the privilege they have and how they can better help support these girls.
I’ll never forget the 4th night or so, one of the quietest girls had come up to me and told me it was that time of the month and needed a pad, I kept it a private matter and took her into our office to look at our assortment. I told her she could take as many as she wanted and she looked at me and in a quiet voice said “I am so happy” with a huge grin on her face talking about the camp. I almost burst into tears right then but it was true…We were watching some of the shyest girls start to step out of their shells. Girls that hardly said but two words in the beginning were starting to partipate and believe in their voices. This, is something that I hope they never lose.
The camp was exhausting for us PCVs but how rewarding it was. Even I myself felt emotional. I wanted to take these kids and keep them in our little bubble of respect, love, and equality. I laid and cried because I knew that I would more than likely never see these kids again. I felt like a momma bear watching her cubs run off into the wild feeling worried something was going to snatch them.
I wanted to protect them from the bad people, from the people that weren’t lucky enough to have learned from us, from the bullies. These kids had to be strong all on their own, to stand up to the people putting others down, we weren’t going to be there with them anymore and that is one of the hardest parts of camp. How easy it will be for them to fall back into what everyone else is doing. I can only put my faith in the universe that the children find the courage to stick up for what they believe and what they have learned.
My heart is swollen with love for the children of Ethiopia.
Gosh how I can’t wait to have babies.
(I mean I can…but I can’t…you know what I mean?)