10 months ago, I sat on a bus with my friend and Tico 31 comrade Princess as we made our way to our San Jose for our first IST (in-service training) just three months after arriving in our sites.
Princess and I are site neighbors, and I use the word “neighbors” loosely because we live almost two hours away from each other.
Princess lives in Sabalito, a city of about 1,000 people while I live higher up in the mountains in a rural community of 150 people.
Sitting on the bus, Princess told me about the challenges her community was facing, especially the young girls in the local high school where she worked. She told me the dropout rate for girls was 4.85% due to risk factors such as prostitution and teen pregnancy, and because she lives so close to the Panamanian border, drugs and poverty also play a big role in the high dropout rate.
We both eagerly made hypothetical plans together to do a girls empowerment camp at the high school sometime during our service. I mean, 10 months ago, we had plenty of time to make some magic happen.
Fast forward 10 months later to today and here we are, executing two 6-day GLOW camps after having successfully secured a $2,500 Let Girls Learn grant.
Can I just say we spent like 25 hours on that grant?
**Adds grant writing skills to LinkedIn profile**
So, what’s Camp Glow?
Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a gender empowerment initiative that was created by Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania 22 years ago. The camp focuses on gender equality, self-esteem, health, leadership, and community involvement.
Although Peace Corps basically provides a step-by-step camp manual for leadership and GLOW camps, naturally, as PCVs, we had to put our own spin on it.
In February, Princess and I started planning for the camp with two teachers in the high school. Together, we designed the camp, created the curriculum, and chose at-risk girls to attend the camp.
Here were our “themes” for our camp:
Monday: Gender Equality & Empowerment
Tuesday: Sexual & Reproductive Health
Thursday: Aspirations & Goal Setting
Friday: Community Involvement
Saturday: Graduation & Celebration
During our first 6-day Camp GLOW, 8 girls, ages 15-16, attended the camp. Most of the girls didn’t know each other and the first day, they were all soooo shy. It was adorable.
So now that you have the basic info, I’m going to shush and take you on a photo journey of our first week of Camp GLOW.
Les presento: Week 1 Camp GLOW
We started our camp on a Monday and kicked off the week with Health & Wellness and Gender Equality & Empowerment sessions!
During our Gender Equality & Empowerment session, girls acted out and gave solutions to scenarios they might encounter as women. Here, a woman is cleaning the house while her husband “relaxes” in the living room.
The Shaking Tree: a spot for girls to post questions, thoughts, things they liked, and new things they learned, throughout the week.
The group absolutely LOVED Zumba and yoga. One girl even put a note on the Shaking Tree that said “I realized that yoga is good for you and not boring.”
During one of our self-esteem sessions, each girl drew a self-portrait and wrote positive characteristics about themselves. Because the high school (and many schools here) do not have art class, we wanted to incorporate as much creative expression into the camp as possible.
She did it!
An ongoing activity that we LOVED: Compliment Bags. This activity promoted a positive atmosphere at the camp and taught the girls to give and receive compliments.
Girls worked together in groups to create heroine books that featuring a strong female lead (pretty sure that’s a Netflix category…). They absolutely loved this activity and spent two hours working on their books. We were so impressed.
During the Leadership session, girls worked in groups to build spaghetti bridges (to see which one was the strongest after we piled weight onto them) and also did the egg drop activity where groups work together to create a device to keep a raw egg intact after dropping it from the top of bleachers.
They both broke.
On our second to last day, we took two field trips to show the group different places that they can go to volunteer and get involved in their community. First, we toured a botanical garden and then we went to a retirement home where the girls sang and danced with the old folks. It was so sweet!
And lastly, we completed the camp on Saturday with a trip to my site, Fila Naranjo, where we visited the rural tourism site that I work at. The girls enjoyed the “water slide”, we walked to and swam in the river, and ate a delicious lunch.
After we completed our day, I said goodbye to the girls as they headed back to Sabalito and I stayed back in my site. Even though we only spent 6 days with these chicas, I almost cried as I said goodbye to them after seeing each one of them gain confidence, new friends, and a better sense of who they are and who they can be in the future.
This week, we welcome a new group of 13 girls for our second and final week of Camp GLOW!