Summer camps have always held a special place in my heart. I’ve attended literally millions in my lifetime whether they be theater camp, volleyball camp, day camps or working at a summer camp during college. So of course working summer camps while in Kyrgyzstan has been not only some of my favorite work but also some of the most rewarding. I was lucky enough to be a part of two camps this summer, GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) a summer camp to help empower girls and Serve for Change and volleyball camp that also incorporates anti-bullying lessons.
Last summer I also participated in GLOW and it was really my first project or any kind of work that I did and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those things that just resonated with me right away and I knew this was the kind of work I wanted to do. So this summer along with Chloe and Nicole we wrote the GLOW grant and ran GLOW camp together along with the help of local counterparts, peer leaders and other volunteers. The amazing thing about GLOW this year is that a majority of the lessons were taught to the girls by the peer leaders, so girls their age who have participated in GLOW before and stood out and were chosen to have a larger role as a leader of camp. This for me is the best part and one of the most meaningful parts of GLOW is that the girls are being taught by their peers. Girls teaching girls. I could go on and on about our peer leaders because they are the ones who made this camp what it was an they worked so unbelievably hard and gave creative and well informed lessons and really just kicked ass. They also are the sweetest, funniest and most driven young women that I have the pleasure of knowing and am lucky to know.
GLOW lessons consist of anything from anatomy, sexual health and reproduction to art hour, self-esteem and finding your passions. The girls participate in a week long camp and then are required to teach 6 lessons in their community. Then we all gather for evaluation day in November and we talk about the lessons we’ve given and the impact we’re making.
We were really lucky this year not only because of how driven our peer leaders were but because of the wildly active girls we had at camp. Now for us this was a bit of a struggle but in the best way. It’s hard when you’re trying to run a camp and have girls that are outspoken, want to lead and sometimes have a hard time waiting their turn to speak, raising their hands and realizing that maybe they aren’t peer leaders but actually campers. But this is the kinds of girls we want. We want these outspoken knowledgeable young women. Girls that aren’t afraid to talk about condoms or feel confident enough to stand up and talk about their self-esteem. So while they make us want to pull our hair out at camp, they’re the ones that will be running GLOW camp in the event that PC Kyrgyzstan isn’t here anymore. So it’s a pretty good problem to have.
Serve for Change!
This was a new camp, Sarah wrote this grant and I was originally going to be a writer on this as well but just was too bogged down with other grants and couldn’t have my name on another one. But was of course more than willing to help in any way possible with planning and organizing and running. Volleyball is another thing that has always been a very special part of my life. It’s my favorite sport and truly a huge part of my life and means a great deal to me. So getting to share this with the girls was very special to me and especially the girls that feel the same way about volleyball that I do.
The focus of this camp was primarily anti-bullying and has a similar set up to GLOW in that we will have an evaluation day in December and the girls will give six lessons in their village. Listening to these girls talk about bullying and experiences they’ve had and what they want to do in their villages is inspiring. I also could have cried when some of the girls who went to GLOW stood up during a puberty lesson and explained what menstruating actually means and that period blood isn’t dirty or something to be ashamed of. They also knew right away that no a tampon can not take your virginity. These are both huge myths in Kyrgyzstan and to hear the girls standup and say with confidence that they know it’s not true and explain why is absolutely why we do this work. Girls should be informed about their bodies and they should understand the changes that are happening and that there is no shame in being a woman.
These summer camps are some of the most fulfilling work that I do and seeing the girls change over the course of a week and become more informed is amazing and just a joy to see. Hearing them speak confidently about women’s health, their bodies, sex, self-esteem, leadership and bullying makes me the happiest I could be.