YSEL Ethiopia 2014 Summer Camp

I recently wrote about the transformative effect of youth summer camps in Ethiopia while describing Mekele Camp GLOW 2014.  As foreigners we are able to synthesize a little piece of America here in Ethiopia for a week or two at these summer camps; there are rules, people speak English, punctuality reigns, and I understand what’s going on most of the time.  This contrasts with my normal life here in Ethiopia where I’m never quite sure what’s happening as I negotiate this mysterious country.

I just attended the Youth Solidarity and English Language (YSEL) summer camp for a few days in Debre Zeyit and was blown away by how American this camp was.  This camp transformed a little piece of Ethiopia into a real American summer camp.  The camp is held on a beautiful compound which had nice dorm rooms, excellent food, friendly staff, immaculate landscaping, and even a functional computer lab.  However what really made this feel so American was the English only rule: All students must speak English, ALL THE TIME.  This means I could once again eavesdrop on student conversations, classes didn’t waste time with translations, and I had to bite my tongue over and over again when I instinctively responded in Amharic or Tigrigna.  I felt American again.

The reason for this English only rule is so students improve their English language abilities, obviously, but also because English may be their best form of communication.  Ethiopia is home to more than 80 local languages and although Amharic is the official language, many people don’t speak it well.  All of the 44 students attending the YSEL summer camp were interviewed for their English abilities and are pretty impressive English speakers.  Since these students come from all 11 different regions in Ethiopia, and represent a huge variety of peoples and cultures, it makes as much sense to use English as the lingua franca as using Amharic.

The 2014 YSEL-Ethiopia Crew

The 2014 YSEL-Ethiopia Crew

This is the second annual YSEL camp in Ethiopia.  The camp is organized by the NGO American Councils for International Education and is fully funded by the US Embassy in Addis Ababa.  It’s a pretty interesting program that developed from the American Councils’ international exchange program.  The American Councils for International Education facilitates exchange students around the world and Tom Toomey, the YSEL Ethiopia Camp Director, has been working with youth from Afghanistan for years doing similar camps.

These camps offer a great way for students from all over these diverse countries to come together and work as one group.  According to their press release, “the goals of the YSEL-Ethiopia program are to improve English language skills, develop critical thinking, build leadership skills and create solidarity among the 44 students from the diverse areas of Ethiopia.”  These high school students rarely have a chance to interact with students from other regions and this camp provides a forum to create new friendships and share ideas among the leaders of tomorrow’s Ethiopia.

Students from around Ethiopia performed a variety of cultural dances at the talent show

Students from all over Ethiopia performed a variety of cultural dances at the talent show

In order to attend this program, students had to submit a comprehensive written application.  Over 300 students submitted an application and around 100 were selected for interviews with Camp Director Tom Toomey and Assistant Director Endalkachew Tesera.  These students represent the best of the best and aspire to become astronauts, doctors, engineers, and pilots.  Ultimately 22 female and 22 male students from all 11 regions in Ethiopia were selected to attend the month-long summer camp.

They will be taught by Peace Corps Volunteers from the Education sector.  Paul, one of the teachers mentioned how exciting it was to be teaching students with such a voracious appetite for knowledge.  They want to learn!  I was lucky enough to be invited along to facilitate a few sessions about “burning issues” in Ethiopia and how it’s up to youth to make changes and improve the current state of this country.  Over the course of 3 days we brainstormed, rehearsed, and filmed 8 different public service announcement videos that the students can bring back to share with their communities after leaving camp.  The idea for this session originally came from Shayna‘s session at the 2014 Mekele Camp Glow where we filmed 7 dramas with great results.  The YSEL-Ethiopia students loved it and they all participated in creating messages about drug abuse, corruption, work ethic, cleaning the environment, and immigration.

Peter leads students in his Academic writing class

Peter leads students in his academic writing class

Jennifer taught geography

Jennifer taught geography, among other things

Merre lead a reading of the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" during her reading class

Merre led a reading of the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” during her reading class

Paul's homeroom class laughing during an icebreaker game

Paul’s homeroom class laughing during an icebreaker game

While at camp I sat in on some classes held by Education Sector Peace Corps Volunteers Paul, Jennifer, Pete, and Merre.  On Friday night there was a talent show and on Saturday we visited a local factory where they build everything from bicycles to buses to tanks.  It was a fun few days to spend with these great kids in this little American summer camp, which just happened to be in Ethiopia.

Hats off to the talented PCV teachers, the camp staff (Tom, Endalk, Birhan) and the 4 amazing Ethiopian counselors for making this camp possible!  And thank you, American taxpayers, for funding it!

You can read more about the camp and follow along for the rest of the month by reading the camp blog here: http://yselethiopia.blogspot.com/

 

 

And now here are a bunch of photos:

An activity where students discussed personal values

An activity where students discussed personal values

values

values

An activity where students discussed personal values

An activity where students discussed personal values

An activity where students discussed personal values

An activity where students discussed personal values

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Jen teaching about map projections

Jen teaching about map projections

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Map projections

Map projections

Fun in geography class

Fun in geography class

Paul leads a discussion about public speaking (note: it was backwards day...hence the hat)

Paul leads a discussion about public speaking (note: it was backwards day…hence the hat)

Paul leads a discussion about public speaking (note: it was backwards day...hence the hat)

Paul leads a discussion about public speaking (note: it was backwards day…hence the hat)

More fun and games

More fun and games

Public speaking practice

Public speaking practice

More fun and games

More fun and games

More fun and games

More fun and games

More fun and games in Paul's class

More fun and games in Paul’s class

speeches in Pete's class

speeches in Pete’s class

Reading class

Reading class

Pete's reading class

Pete’s reading class

Jen offers some suggestions about filming a geography video

Jen offers some suggestions about filming a geography video

Students take a break from filming geography videos

Students take a break from filming geography videos

Paul's class watches a TED talk about confidence and public speaking

Paul’s class watches a TED talk about confidence and public speaking

An inspirational quote

An inspirational quote

"Hi! Don't bother me guys, I am not sleeping, I am just dreaming."

“Hi! Don’t bother me guys, I am not sleeping, I am just dreaming.”

Students filming a geography video

Students filming a geography video

Photosynthesis!

Photosynthesis!

A geography video about the layers of the Earth

A geography video about the layers of the Earth

Some burning issues!

Some burning issues!

The Burning Wall

The Burning Wall

An image from one of the dramas: The father at the left discusses sending his daughter abroad for work while she listens in on the conversation

An image from one of the dramas: The father at the left discusses sending his daughter abroad for work while she listens in on the conversation

An image from one of the dramas: a bad diagnosis from the doctor

An image from one of the dramas: a bad diagnosis from the doctor

An image from one of the dramas: poor working conditions for Ethiopians abroad

An image from one of the dramas: poor working conditions for Ethiopians abroad

An image from one of the dramas: Get a job you bum!

An image from one of the dramas: Get a job you bum!

An image from one of the dramas: inappropriate cellphone use - Facebook Addiction

An image from one of the dramas: inappropriate cellphone use – Facebook Addiction

An image from one of the dramas: "I don't have to clean up my garbage!"

An image from one of the dramas: “I don’t have to clean up my garbage!”

Finally, we literally burned the "burning issues"

Finally, we literally burned the “burning issues”

YSEL Got Talent! Assistant Director Endalk

YSEL Got Talent! Assistant Director Endalk

YSEL Got Talent! "Do something, change something, be yourself!"

YSEL Got Talent! “Do something, change something, be yourself!”

YSEL Got Talent!  Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent!  Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! Magic tricks

YSEL Got Talent! Magic tricks

YSEL Got Talent! The judges

YSEL Got Talent! The judges

YSEL Got Talent!  Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent!  Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! Traditional Ethiopian dancing

YSEL Got Talent! "In the jungle, the lion sleeps tonight"

YSEL Got Talent! “In the jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”

YSEL Got Talent!  "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone"

YSEL Got Talent! “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”

YSEL Got Talent!  The night's MCs

YSEL Got Talent! The night’s MCs

YSEL Got Talent: Camp Director Tom leading a song

YSEL Got Talent: Camp Director Tom leading a song

Touring the Bishoftu factory

Touring the Bishoftu factory

Touring the Bishoftu factory

Touring the Bishoftu factory

Touring the Bishoftu factory

Touring the Bishoftu factory

On the bus for a field trip

On the bus for a field trip

YSEL Ethiopia 2014: At the Bishoftu bus factory

YSEL Ethiopia 2014: At the Bishoftu bus factory

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About copelaf

photographer, writer, engineer, eater, traveler, and - occasionally - a thinker.
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2 Responses to YSEL Ethiopia 2014 Summer Camp

  1. Abenezer says:

    hello hello repeat

  2. Pingback: Summer Camps 2015 – Publicity Blitz! | Fotos

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