Peace Corps volunteers in Nicaragua for nearly five years have talked about creating a gender-based camp for boys. Excitingly, July 12th, 2015 Peace Corps Nicaragua celebrated the successful completion of its first gender-equality camp, Camp CHACA. Taking place in the Tísey reserve south of Estelí, among clouds, mountains, and pine trees, 45 youth boys learned about the pertinent topics of gender, sexuality, paternity, and violence.
These 45 Nicaraguan youth boys were given the unique opportunity to travel to a new community and unite in a common purpose; in the case of CHACA, to learn how to be a gentleman. True to the purpose of the camp, the name CHACA is an abbreviation for “Chavalos A Caballeros,” (Boys to Gentlemen) using the local Nicaraguan slang for boys.
While the youth participants enjoyed many activities, hikes, and games, the foundation of the camp, promoting gender equality, was also very interactive and enjoyable. Using a small group format and Promundo’s Proyecto H curriculum, each of the nine sessions throughout the camp were divided into a 30 minute training followed by a 30 to 40 minute breakout session in small groups where youth were able to talk and reflect in a confidential manner. As a result, the youth were greatly challenged to reflect on the reasons they make their choices. “I now know what it means to be a man,” said one youth in reflection to the camp. Another stated, “I never knew I could have fun without being bad.”
Most of these youth are rarely exposed to opportunities to learn and discuss these pertinent topics. Throughout the camp many participants reflected with statements like that of one youth who said, “I have never heard any of these things before, we don’t talk about them in our community,” and another, “I’ve never talked to anyone before about what it means to be a man, I can’t wait to share it with my friends.”
At the end of camp, each of the 45 youth returned home using the Nicaraguan public transportation with new hope and insight as to what it means to be a man. Near the end of a couple youths’ nine hours of travel, one made a comment making fun of a girl outside the bus at a stop, something that is normally acceptable in Nicaraguan culture. The youth to whom he was talking to responded, “C’mon man, let’s behave like gentlemen.” The youth who made the remark nodded his head. CHACA was a success.
– Tim, HE 63