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Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Update! Yay!

Once again, I apologize to my small but dedicated cadre of followers.  I promised you stories from GLOW Camp and then disappeared for a month.  Sorry!  After staring at a blank document for weeks, I realized that I don’t really have any blog-able GLOW stories because I spent most of the camp sitting in the supply room scribbling notes all over the schedule.  When I wasn’t doing that, I was running around telling people about schedule changes or making announcements in the cafeteria.  There were some really great moments, but I was in the supply room for most of them.

For me, the high point of GLOW Camp was right at the end, when I met with the campers from my school to discuss the possibility of a GLOW club at St. Dominique.  We already have a club based around Nyampinga, a wonderful free publication for girls that’s available in Rwanda.  Since the themes of Nyampinga are similar to GLOW I asked if my students would be willing to teach some of lessons from GLOW Camp in their Nyampinga club.  We drew up a plan and delegated tasks.  We even made deadlines for teaching different lessons.   I gave each of my girls a big hug and told them that I can be happy to go home to America now because I know they will teach for me after I’m gone. 

I hope I was right.  We’re in week four of a six-week term and we haven’t met a single deadline, but the potential is still there.  I’m running out of time, but my girls will be around at least another year.   I just hope that someone will be around to keep them motivated.

Unfortunately, that someone will not be another PCV.  I recently found out that I won’t be replaced, or at least not in 2013.  My headmaster recently decided to fill out a late application for a volunteer, but the application can’t be considered until 2014. In the meantime I hope my site mate, Meredith, will have enough time to stay involved at my school.  She already co-facilitates an afterschool club for handicapped students there so I have high hopes.

I’m in Kigali this weekend for a GAD committee meeting.  We’ve actually been talking a lot about GLOW clubs and how to keep them going after PCVs leave.  We’re working on lessons and resources in Kinyarwanda that can be given directly to Rwandan students.  It’s a start, but we’re also trying to figure out how to ensure that the resources we provide actually get used in the absence of a PCV mentor.  As with all projects, sustainability remains the major challenge.

Project stuff aside, things are going well.  I’m enjoying myself but I’m also definitely looking forward to leaving.  I guess you could say I have senioritis.  I’m ready for new places, new people, new things…new food.  I promise to keep updating as I wrap up my service and start traveling!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

GLOW Camp Muhanga - This Time, No Bedbugs!

Hey, all!  It has been a busy, busy month.  Three weeks ago, my parents visited me for a second tour of Rwanda.  After they went home, I had one day at site before traveling out to Byimana in Muhanga District to set up a GLOW Camp.  You may remember my posts about GLOW Camp in Bugesera last year.  Well, this year I did GLOW again, but as an administrator.  And guess what I found out? Being an administrator is a lot of work!  I’m exhausted, but helping manage this thing was a perfect culmination to my Peace Corps service.  I learned a ton, and now I can say I had a hand in planning one really successful GLOW Camp, the first ever GLOW Camp Muhanga.

Am I proud?  You bet I am!  But more than that, I’m in awe of just how well things came together.  We owe it in no small part to Pamela, a PCV who works with EDC in Kigali. When Pamela approached me five-ish months ago and asked if I wanted to help put together a GLOW Camp I said yes somewhat reluctantly, not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I had no idea what it would take and I wasn’t sure we could do it.  

Over the months that followed I worked with Pam almost entirely through email to plan activities and lessons for the camp while she met with other volunteers to prepare a site for our camp, apply for funding, recruit campers and facilitators and get materials together.  Thanks entirely to Pam’s diligence, our PEPFAR grant came through on time.  Meanwhile I worked up an elaborate schedule of lesson rotations that looked beautiful on paper but that I suspected might lead to a practical disaster.  We also temporarily lost our venue for the camp and had to quickly find alternative dates that worked for all the facilitators.  The two weeks prior to the camp I continued to correspond with Pam about last-minute programming details while on vacation with my parents.  When I finally arrived at the site last Wednesday, it hadn’t hit home yet that it was all actually happening. 

Then the facilitators arrived and next thing I knew I was running all-day facilitator training sessions.  And that’s when it finally hit home.

Apparently ours was an exceptionally well-organized GLOW Camp.  It didn’t feel that way from the administrative side.  I constantly had to resist the urge to run interference when things were already going really well.  Unplanned spaces in the schedule that initially gave me heart palpitations turned out to be golden opportunities.  One night we had a game of trivia that one of the facilitators planned out that same day – question categories included America, Rwanda, music and potatoes.  Another night at dinner we tried to teach the campers how to play the cup game and the rhythmic slamming of cups on tables led to some wild impromptu dancing.  Another day we taught the campers how to play Big Booty, and they taught us how to play a game called Water-Land, where you jump into the circle when the leader yells “Water!” and out of the circle when the leader yells “Land!”  The planned activities were incredibly successful too, but if we had had an unexpected disaster – if we’d forgotten materials for the lessons or if our Outward Bound instructors had blown a flat tire or if all of our sports equipment had somehow gone missing, or some equivalent calamity – we still would’ve had a successful camp.  The combined energies of the campers and the facilitators were just that incredible.

I have a ton of stories to share about inspirational things the girls did and said, about minor crises and victories, about running around an auditorium trying to catch frogs, about fishing basketballs out of piles of pig excrement, and a gazillion other little Peace Corps moments that made this past week the hardest and best week of my service.  But it’s only been a day – I can’t think of any of them now.  School starts on Monday but as the weeks progress I’ll try to share little stories from GLOW Camp as they come to me.  I’m not done yet, but I can already tell that this was the perfect resolution to a wonderful two years of service.

Me with the campers from Gihara - Henriette, Odette, Laurence and Rose