July 15, 2008

Girls Leading Our World

When I was told that Peace Corps volunteers in Macedonia conducted a national leadership camp for high school girls every summer, I knew I had to be involved in some way. After years of dedicating a week of my summer, every summer, to a similar program in California, I couldn't imagine not contributing to such a worthy endeavor. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) here in Macedonia proved to be as valuable as I had imagined.

Arrival at Camp

Last week, this camp was realized in Pelister National Park in southern Macedonia. 80 talented young women from all over Macedonia came together for a week of classes, activities and fun. They learned about topics such as discrimination and cultural stereotypes, self-esteem and body image, career planning, women's health, volunteerism, environment, objectification of women in the media, peer pressure, peace education, nutrition and many others. Oh, and by the way, not only did the girls participate and engage in all these topics, they did so in their second language--English!

Team Building Activity

The girls were organized into 8 groups, each group having a Peace Corps Volunteer Counselor and a Macedonian Junior Counselor. These group leaders kept a close eye on the girls, ensuring their attendance, participation and understanding in the classes. The day started at 8:00 and kept the girls busy until 11:00 every night. Although the girls complained about being too busy, by the end of the week they were so thankful that we packed the schedule with such meaningful activities.

Making Friendship Bracelets

Alas, I did not have a group and I found myself missing the interactions with campers which I know can be so fun and rewarding. My role was a little different than I was used to back in California. As one of the coordinators of the camp, I did a lot of the work required to create and implement the program elements. This year, I was sort of an assistant, learning the ropes of the camp, shadowing the other coordinators, tying up loose ends, while next year I'll be running the show. There is quite a lot of preparation that goes into planning and running a camp of this magnitude --recruiting, staff, training, rosters, program elements, schedules, materials, manuals, facilities, not to mention the financial aspect, which another volunteer is in charge of (thankfully). It was a bit of an adjustment to this new role, but I really enjoyed it and found I was kinda good at it. It actually sparked an interest in me in the area of curriculum development and administration. Who knows...

Bube & Me in Tie-Dye
The highlight of my week though was watching the girls I had sponsored to come to GLOW from our town. We had 5 girls attend GLOW as campers and 1 attend as a senior counselor. I was like a proud mother cheering for them as they contributed something to a class or displayed their excellent English language skills. Many of the counselors commented that our girls were, as a group, the best. They had the most developed critical thinking skills, great attitudes, the most fluency, the largest vocabulary...they were great! I was so proud of them.

The Campers From Our Town

Camp GLOW was not only an amazing experience for the campers, but also for me. Every summer after camp, I always feel incredibly empowered, inspired, and rejuvenated. I questioned whether or not this camp would have the same impact on me. Well, it turns out it did...and I'm GLOWing.


tmusichans said...

This is impressive. You are doing great work.
Peace to you!
Todd in Santa Fe

Anonymous said...

Dan and Jillian, What a wonderfull opportunity you both have to influnce the lives of these young people in a positive manner. I can't think of a better goal than to promote SELF CONDIDENCE in the minds of these younsters. If they have SELF CONFIDENCE they can achieve goals that their parents never dreamed of in their lives.Keep up the good work that we are following in your weekly blogs. Grandpa and Grandma K.