On day four the girls woke up jazzed and ready to go. It was finally the day they were waiting for when we would embark onto the ropes course for hours upon end. However, there were a few serious matters of business to get through beforehand…
After breakfast, Plan Somoto led the girls in games and different relay races from the day before. The girls laughed and enjoyed a bit of sunshine as a start to the chilly day. With this being the last day of sessions, the girls were all anxious to get them over with, no matter how important the topics. Though the ropes course sat in the back of their minds, they participated in three sessions:
- Contraception Methods –led by Plan Chinandega. Because all week the girls were split into two different groups based upon age, they explored this topic at differing levels. The younger group of 12-14 year olds discussed the available methods of contraception in Nicaragua with facilitators from Plan Chinandega. Girls were enthralled with all of the different options available to them. The older girls discussed with a bit more maturity and practicality these methods. During both of the sessions it was stressed that while it is important to be aware of these methods, the discussion was about adult actions.
- Teen Pregnancy –Led by PLAN Somoto. A topic that has been emphasized over and over in different ways to these girls in school, church, and the home, Plan Somoto facilitators tried to debunk some of the myths and talk about the real issues with the girls. It was stressed that having sex is not an act to show your love if you are not ready. Girls also expressed their fears to lose the opportunities they currently have to study and work should they get pregnant at a young age. Many of the girls also recognized that teenage boys do not tend to make good fathers or partners, abandoning their pregnant partner early on. Because the girls had spent so much time together during the week, they took advantage of the safe space to share exactly how they were thinking and feeling.
- Planning My Life – led by PCVs Morgan, Alba, Monica and Jennifer. The final session was attended by a very special guest, the ambassador to the United States, Phyllis Powers. After a few short words encouraging the girls to continue making change in their own country starting with themselves, we dove in to making goals and finding resources who will support their journey to fulfilling those goals. The girls identified people and organizations within their communities that could serve to help them fulfill their short and long-term goals, along with personal attitudes that would help them persevere.
- The girls made a“life plan” laying out their goals for the next year, finishing high school, and after high school. To finish up the session, each of the girls began to think about a project they would like to execute in their communities with the help of other girls who attended the camp and Peace Corps volunteers or NGO’s that nominated them. Girls have the option of doing a variety of different events in order to spread the information they learned at camp to other girls and young people in their communities.
As mentioned, we had the honor to receive the ambassador to the U.S. during camp. Upon explaining who the visitor would be, the girls soon were spreading the news that the First Lady was coming! As the ambassador began to speak, for the first time during the entire camp there was not a word in the auditorium apart from hers. It was amazing to see the weight in this influential woman’s words as she encouraged these young women to keep learning and be the change they wanted to see.
Though the day’s sessions were important and empowering, the girls were antsy to get out into the woods to start the ropes course. Thrilled to be in the same groups as they were in the cabins, each group set out to a different activity where we later rotated. The girls encountered these challenges with both fear and excitement in their eyes:
- Rope Bridge– The girls crossed a wire in the air while harnessed and only using two ropes to grab on to to guide them. It was difficult for some to overcome their trembling nerves (including some of us volunteers!) while others seemed to bounce across in no time.
- Zip Line– In the middle of the woods was a short zipline where the girls were harnessed up and held on to a bar to swing through the trees. Everyone captured in the beautiful site of the surrounding pine trees and coffee fields that the position high in the trees gave us. The girls continued to urge on their friends as some of them screamed while others were caught breathless in surprise.
- Tire swings– Feeling quite like monkeys bouncing through the trees (and loving it), the girls crossed a short distance on tires trying desperately not to fall while the tires swung back and forth.
- Climbing Wall – What seemed to be the most challenging component of the ropes course, many girls chose to stick to the “easier” side of the wall. They focused on making it to the top, but sometimes became very tired from clinging to the rocks and were lowered to the ground while trying not to look down.
After the ropes course activities, we tried to discuss their abilities to overcome the fear they had initially felt in facing those activities. As a metaphor for real life, we all face adversities that can be overcome if we have the resources, support, and right attitude. The girls sat through dinner exhausted, yet reflective over their week of camp. Volunteers tried to keep their energy up for the closing activities that followed.
The closing ceremony has become a tradition of candlelight and reflection upon how these girls will proceed to shine in their communities and this world even after Camp Glow. Each girl and facilitator shared one word to represent how they were feeling after their four days of camp. Some examples were, “empowered, happy, content, inspired, effective, satisfied, excited” and the list goes on. Each girl held her own light in her hands and repeated “I will now blow out this light, but the one that is inside of me still shines.” Afterward, each girl received a certificate as a celebration of her achievements for participating in the camp.
But it wouldn’t be the last day of camp if we didn’t have a party! As we shuffled into the big auditorium with music blasting and smiles all around, the girls begun to celebrate their hard work over the week. We had ice cream, painted our handprints on the Camp Glow poster, sang karaoke, and broke open the piñatas made during the week. There was dancing and singing all night long, proven in the fact that many girls woke up the next day without a voice. Facilitators and campers alike shared much laughter and happiness in the last night of celebration.