Last week I went to Mekele to work with a few other Peace Corps volunteers to coordinate our upcoming summer camp. Every year Peace Corps volunteers around the world plan, organize , and implement summer camps. Many of these camps, including ours, are called camp GLOW: Girls Leading Our World. The purpose of our Camp GLOW is to “empower a group of adolescents in Tigray, Ethiopia to create positive behavioral changes in their own lives and subsequently their own communities.” This will be done through a week of interactive programming covering everything from soccer, to language, to first aid, to talent shows, to arts, to condom demonstrations. We hope to provide a unique and engaging environment for these kids who are accustomed to sitting in 50 seat classrooms listening to lectures and learning by rote. To make this happen, we’ve all put in hours of work and met a few times to discuss everything as a group.
This last, and final, meeting before camp was meant to get all of the Peace Corps Volunteers and Counterparts on the same page. We started discussing camp goals, objectives, and rules, and then moved into a discussion about how to handle behavior situations and understanding the needs of young learners. If you’re a fancy teacher then you would call this a discussion on pedagogy theory. I thought of it more as a time to reminisce about what we were like as unruly 14 year olds and how the actions of a youngster can often be misinterpreted by adults. The best example came from one of our Ethiopian counterparts, John, who told us a story from his childhood. When he was about 6 years old, his teachers at the missionary school gave him a study Bible. His friend did not receive a bible so John decided to rip his book in half, right down the spine, so that he could share it with his friend. Needless to say the priest was furious about the defaced Bible even though John’s actions were driven by altruism rather than mischief. It’s a good example of a little misunderstanding of intent.
After these discussions we talked about the “burning wall of issues.” Everyone wrote down a few things that bothered them about the current state of Ethiopia. Each person then posted these issues to create a wall which is metaphorically blocking our progress forward. It’s a useful exercise to identify some key issues that we hope to address during camp. These discussions lead into a session about how to create lesson plans and how to use “SMART” objectives to accomplish goals.
One of the main purposes of this meeting was to get our Ethiopian counterparts involved in the planning phase of camp. As Peace Corps Volunteers, it is tempting to commandeer camp and plan every last detail and lesson. However, we realize that to make this a sustainable camp (or at least try) we need to get our local friends involved in planning and organization. We left some spots open on the schedule so that our counterparts could lead their own sessions. These are highly skilled Ethiopian teachers, social workers, health experts, and university students with many valuable things to bring to the camp experience; we wanted to ensure that they had an opportunity to do so.
After two days of working together, we left the meeting with a clear, and ridiculously full, schedule for camp. I thought this meeting was extremely well executed, tip of the hat to Michael, and really got all of us on the same page. Camp is such a mainstay of American youth culture and I’m excited to share this experience with our campers and Ethiopian counterparts. Wish us luck next week as we try to hold it together while we entertain and teach 50 Ethiopian kids. It’s going to be a shit show in all the right ways!