I’m not sure if I’ve ever – in my nearly two-years here in Burkina Faso – had so much fun, gotten so little sleep, spoken so much French (not Mooré), and felt like I was truly making a once-in-a-lifetime impact on Burkina’s future leaders: its top-achieving, underprivileged youth. All in one incredible 3-week span.
I just returned from another week of camp, only this one with over 100 kids in the city of Fada N’Gourma, about 400 km to the southeast of where I live. The camp I wrote about in my last post, le Camp des Leaders de L’Avenir, was a camp that a few friends and I decided to throw together in about a month and a half here in our own region, with kids from our own villages, using our own village counterparts and friends to help us teach and monitor the kids. But this camp that I helped run in Fada N’Gourma is part of an even larger organization of girls’ camps that was first started in Peace Corps Romania 15 years ago, and has since spread to 60 countries. It’s called Camp GLOW: Girls Leading Our World.
Last year a group of ambitious volunteers decided to bring this incredible experience to Burkina Faso, only with a twist: they’d call it Camp G²LOW, Girls and Guys Leading Our World. They decided that the best way to bring about gender equality is to include both girls and boys in the discussion, and give them both access to new ideas and information and ways of thinking. So that’s what they did! After trial and error last year they’ve put together a great model, and that’s what we ran with this year in the city of Fada N’Gourma. We brought together about 100 of the top students from the surrounding area who have recently completed the equivalent to our 8th grade and spent an entire week discussing life skills, leadership, gender equality and sexual responsibility. And although it was exhausting to the core, it was one of the most empowering, rewarding, and exciting weeks of my service.
One of the difficulties with bringing together students of the same grade level here in Burkina Faso is that their ages can vary dramatically. While most of our students were between 13 and 15 years old, we had some who were 12 and some who were 19. I could’ve sworn one of the guys on my “team blue” was older than me! (He wasn’t…I don’t think.) But regardless of the sometimes gaping differences in age and background and economic status (city kids vs. village kids), they all worked together exceptionally well, and by the end of the week we all became a (very sleep deprived cause we were having too much fun) family of sorts.
Especially the family of “Blues”! Each of us PCVs was paired with a young Burkinabé volunteer to be leaders of a team of 8-10 students who wore a unique band of color throughout the week. A 25-year-old woman named Rosine and I were co-counselors of team blue. For each color there was a girls’ team and a guys’ team, so our “co-team” was a group of blue-clad boys led by my friend Pat and another Burkinabé male volunteer. Throughout the week we studied together, reflected together, ate together, played together and, as I’m sure none of the kids will forget, won points together towards a camp-wide competition! It was so fun to see my team of girls, from all different villages and of all different ages, grow together and become friends.
Unfortunately the Blues didn’t win the cumulative week-long title of champions, but we did come out with the collective “gold medal” from our very own camp Olympics! On Friday morning, the last morning of camp activities, we put together a string of events such as a team relay race, the long and high jump, a spelling bee, team tug-of-war, and an eating contest. I know none of the kids will forget the fun and ultimate goofiness of that day!
One of my fellow PCVs has put together a short montage of video clips as a keepsake from the week of fun, set to one of the most popular songs in Burkina Faso (and maybe all of Africa) right now: P-Square! Click below to watch and enjoy!
Unfortunately my Internet is being far to finicky today to upload photos, but there are a bunch of great ones taken by our resident PCV photographer Cindy on the Facebook group for the camp, in the album “Camp G2LOW Fada.” (I think you can look at them even if you don’t have Facebook, but if not let me know.) Check them out at the address below!