July 16, 2009

Camp GLOW Revisited

"The toughest job you'll ever love." This is the Peace Corps slogan and I think it is 100% appropriate. While at times I find myself frustrated, sad, hopeless, and pessimistic, I still find at the same time I love my job. I love being here in Macedonia immersed in another culture and experiencing life so different from what I've known. I love being able to share and learn on a daily basis. I love finding out about myself-what I am capable of, what are my limitations. I have found that I have been tested in so many new ways here in Macedonia and I like the challenge. One area of my service, however, hasn't had the same level of difficulty; it has been a joy throughout from conception to implementation. That activity has been Camp GLOW.

For those of you who may not have read last year's post on Camp GLOW here is a summary: Camp GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, is a week-long leadership camp for young ladies from across Macedonia. The mission of Camp GLOW is to develop the inherent potential found in the young women of Macedonia by providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary to become active leaders in their communities. This is done through experiential education that celebrates diversity, builds academic and social competencies, and promotes English language literacy, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and creative expression. This year I served as the Program Coordinator and feel extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity. Not only am I proud of the changes and improvements made to the program, I have learned so much from this long process, the other leaders and the campers.

Staff greeting campers as they exit the bus

This year's camp was held in beautiful Pelister National Park outside of Bitola in southern Macedonia. Eighty campers and 30 staff members (Peace Corps Volunteers trainers and alumnae counselors) were involved in this awesome program. One veteran staff member said this year's camp was, "by far the best Camp GLOW." I was beaming.

In addition to the variety of pertinent topics covered and grueling schedule, the camp was conducted entirely in English. High schoolers from around Macedonia representing the ethnic diversity and complexity of Macedonia came together in a common language and transcended the tensions prevalent within the country. I was so impressed with their English language abilities--the girls were able to coherently and eloquently discuss issues facing their country, such as human rights and democracy, nationalism and patriotism, women in society, women in leadership and goals for the future of Macedonia. These are difficult things to address even in one's native language, but the girls took them in stride.

Like last year, the final evening ended in an emotional candle lighting ceremony. The girls each had the opportunity to share something about the week--something they learned, something they will take home with them, something they were surprised about, anything. One of the common themes was that girls made friends with people outside their own ethnicity. Seeing how things went last year I wasn't really surprised, but I was extremely moved as they shared their experiences and stories. One girl, an Albanian from western Macedonia, said she had found her "twin sister" and could not believe she was an ethnic Macedonian.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

Moments like this give me great hope for the future of Macedonia. With young people being exposed to new ideas, open-mindedness and appreciation of diversity is just around the corner. I know first hand how camps and experiential education can have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of participants and I am more than confident when I say that this program has made a difference.

I am so proud and thankful to have been part of this program. Thank you to everyone who donated money and supplies for this program. You have made a difference in the lives of these girls. Thank you.

Be a Woman. Be Yourself. Camp GLOW


Beth said...

Thank you so much for posting this, the camp sounds like a fantastic experience for the girls and one that they will reflect on for their entire lives.
Beth (Sara's mom)

Beth said...

Thank you so much for posting this, the camp sounds like a fantastic experience for the girls and one that they will reflect on for their entire lives.
Beth (Sara's mom)

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud to be your Mom - you're the gift that keeps on giving!

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