This is a guest post by Kelsey Schrenk, a Camp GLOW 2017 counselor.
Change is slow, but profound. That is how I ended my last blog post, after reflecting on the transformation of my male students that attended Camp CHACA. Although I didn’t attend the camp myself, seeing the impact it had on my boys greatly motivated me as I started to work on the planning committee for Camp GLOW.
The planning side of Camp GLOW was stressful, and at times, discouraging. Writing a lengthy grant and the idea of convincing strangers to donate seemed like a daunting task. I also had Nicaraguan parents write me and tell me to my face that their daughters couldn’t go because they weren’t “acostumbrados” (accustomed) to letting their girls leave the house. Not surprisingly, I got zero pushback from the male students’ parents when they applied for CHACA. These setbacks were difficult, but forgotten once I finally arrived to Camp GLOW with my girls.
I can’t put into words what this camp meant to the girls, to the counselors, and especially to me. The ability to create a safe space and simply let the girls be themselves was fundamental, and the training and presentations they received, transformational. Observing girls learn about what I assumed to be simple topics, such as their own anatomy and why they have menstrual periods, was eye-opening to the lack of education and explanation these young women receive about their own bodies. Participating in deeper discussions, such as what is means to LBGTQ, and critiquing advertisements that objectify female bodies, revealed their openness, frustrations, and inner strengths. Listening to a 13- year-old girl tell me that boys “siempre piden mas” (always ask for more), showed their vulnerability and self-consciousness in a male-dominated society.
In total, the 48 girls received nine different presentations about topics ranging from self-esteem, assertive communication, to sexuality, that were co-facilitated by a Peace Corps volunteer and her respective counterpart. The Nicaraguan counterparts were essential to the camp’s success, as their cultural considerations and Spanish helped put everything into a Nicaraguan context. But we also had time for fun, as the girls played games, learned camp songs, and hiked to a beautiful lookout point.
For these reasons (and many more) Camp GLOW is an essential program to promote gender equality, goal-setting, and prevention of young pregnancy. While it’s difficult to point to immediate successes, my hope as grant administrator is that I will be able to track these girls as they share their new knowledge and skills through presentations, campaigns, and other activities in their local communities. Change is slow, and frustratingly slow when it comes to gender equality in Nicaragua, but I have no doubt that it is indeed, profound.