Archive | August, 2010

CAMP SHEBA!

14 Aug


The PCVs in my region and myself (9 of us total) recently finished a weeklong summer camp for young girls. I use the term “camp” loosely, as there really is not a camp culture here in Ethiopia, meaning no horseback riding, archery, canoeing, or daily visits to the snack shack for a candy bar and a soda. It was more along the lines of a series of trainings (siltana in Tigrigna) for adolescent girls. Our camp was modeled after Peace Corps’ Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), but we tailored the name of ours to something more Ethiopia-specific (the Queen of Sheba was Ethiopian, or so it’s been said), and played along the lines of a queen theme during the week for the youngsters.

We selected 25 OVC (Orphans/Vulnerable Children) girls from 2 of the volunteers’ sites, who had just completed the 8th grade. It was an overnight camp, which was a very new concept for most of the girls who attended (some had never left home before). The camp was centered around leadership/women’s empowerment, and the topics we covered during our days included personal hygiene, goal setting, decision making skills, communication skills, HIV/AIDS, positive body image, self esteem, leadership, nutrition, and women’s rights in Ethiopia … We had a few Habesha (Ethiopian) facilitators/translators who greatly helped us lead all the sessions (to bridge that language gap!)Each day we also played games and had an hour of arts and crafts, where the girls were able to be very expressive through art, which is a rarity here. We were fortunate to have a lot of arts & craft supplies sent over from the states from kind people, so the girls went to town with supplies they’d never seen before. They decorated journals, notebooks, Burger King crowns (haha), t-shirts, foam photo frames, made bracelets, etc…typical camp stuff!

Most girls in this country (at least the ones that I have come in contact with) have a heavy workload from a very young age, especially around the house. There are very few machines here, so everything is done by hand – cooking, dishes, laundry, etc…and often times, it is the responsibility of a young girl to take care of a younger sibling or 5. This being said, it was really neat/enriching to watch the girls just be girls and not have to worry about daily chores. Their transformation from shy to loud and rowdy during the week was also uplifting.

We also fed the girls 3 hearty meals and 2 snacks a day, so I hope they all gained a kilo or 2 during their time at Camp Sheba! On the last day of camp, we took the girls on a field trip to a nearby rock hewn church – another new adventure for most of us. Upon our return from the field trip, we had a closing ceremony, where we handed out certificates, photos, and a little gift bag full of useful supplies and treats to each girl. When it was time to leave, a few of our campers cried, which I think is an indication of a job well done on our part. We were all a bit skeptical going into the camp, as it’s never been done before by PCVs in Ethiopia until this year, but overall, it was a great success. We had a bonfire the night before camp ended, and some of the girls spoke about their time, and all of them had really positive and encouraging words and felt empowered by the opportunity to learn and grow as future leaders. I’m glad I was able to be a part of something that will most likely have an impact on the select girls for the rest of their lives.

Side note: We really only had 1 incident involving a camper – one day about an hour before dinner, one of our campers was wailing/flailing/convulsing on the floor of the dormitory. We were told she was possessed by the Evil Eye, or Buda…and was in need of traditional medicine. So, a fellow camper fetched a few cloves of garlic and a bottle of Holy water…the garlic was rubbed on her tongue and the Holy water was flung across her body multiple times…within about 30 seconds, she was “cured”…then later, a wad of cotton soaked in purple rubbing alcohol was shoved up her nose…perhaps to ward off the return of the evil spirit? Not sure…it was one of the strangest things I’ve seen in my time here, adding to the theme of there not being many dull moments. Now whether she really was possessed or is just epileptic unbeknownst to us, I’ll never know…but it was an interesting thing to watch. For Oromiya & SNNPR camps: perhaps put garlic and Holy water in your med kits! You.just.never.know….

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