This is a guest post by Robin, a Mi Momento 2016 Counselor.
Throughout my service I have had the pleasure to send two girls to camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and two boys to Camp CHACA (Boys into Gentlemen). On both occasions I escorted them to the bus station as they nervously said goodbye to their parents and boarded the bus with the other PCV counselors.
Upon their return the transformation was immediately visible. The two girls Aysen and Silvia were crying as they hugged their counselors goodbye and tearfully boarded the bus with me to take them back home. On the bus home from Managua you could see the enthusiasm light up their faces as they recounted the activities from camp. Similarly, the two boys who I sent to CHACA—Yasmir and Cristofer—could hardly contain their excitement as they discussed all the topics they had learned about.
When I nominated Yasmir he had originally expressed hesitancy in applying. He said when he had shown his mom the application she laughed and said to him “Why did they nominate you? You don’t have any leadership qualities.” It nearly broke my heart. Not only did he attend camp, he returned with a new sense of determination and maturity to prove his mother wrong. These camps are so important, not only because they discuss topics of gender equality, but because they show these youth that they are worthy, empowered and leaders of change.
When the opportunity to be a counselor for Camp Mi Momento was announced I knew immediately I wanted to apply. Watching my students participate was such a humbling experience and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it myself. Not only that, I wanted to bring my counterpart who helped me select the four youth that we sent to previous camps. She has been an inspiring part of my service and I was excited to give her an opportunity to participate as well. Camp Mi Momento (My Moment) is a special version of Camp GLOW organized in collaboration with the Global Orphan Foundation to execute the same gender-based camp curriculum as GLOW but for girls living in orphanages and protection centers around Nicaragua.
Twenty-eight girls from three different centers were selected to attend the camp along with eight Peace Corps volunteers as counselors and four Nicaraguan counterparts. Three representatives from the Global Orphan Foundation also attended the camp along with a professional videographer they contracted to document the camp.
Each PCV and Nicaraguan counterpart worked with a small group of 4-5 girls throughout the week, leading them through small discussions, team building activities and slept with their group in the same cabin. Throughout the four days of camp we discussed topics such as gender, sexuality, assertive communication, the portrayal of women in the media, condom use and HIV/AIDS. The girls discussed in small groups and were given the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment. For many of these girls these topics were foreign and uncomfortable to talk about. For example, the discussion of gender and sex challenged participants to think about the difference between biologically determined characteristics (sex) and socially constructed norms (gender), a concept that many of them many never have been exposed to.
I was humbled and proud to see how the girls responded with insightful questions, curiosity and an open mind. While not all agreed with everything we discussed, their openness and willingness to discuss these topics shows great progress.
On the final day of camp each group performed a small skit or song to summarize what they had learned throughout the week. I was blown away by their creativity and the amount of information they had absorbed. Several of the skits included scenarios that advocated for fair and equal treatment of people of all sexualities and others spoke about safe sex practices and HIV testing. In my group the girls chose a scenario of an abusive relationship, narrating the experience of a girl who learns to use assertive communication to speak up and defend herself against her boyfriend. All the performances demonstrated the powerful messages that are at the heart of Camp GLOW.
This is why these camps are so important. These girls are the future of Nicaragua. They have dreams. They are powerful. This is their moment to shine.
– Robin Swanhuyser
Peace Corps Nicaragua TEFL 64
Mi Momento 2016 Counselor
This post was originally posted on Robin’s personal blog: Swan Travels.