Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, April 18

Summer Camp!

I think it’s about time I officially start calling myself a 1st year volunteer; as a new round of trainees have come and work projects are starting to require my attention. One project in particular has taken over my everyday thought process: a girls summer camp.

The idea started in our last phase of training, when we heard an inspiring presentation about a camp held on the other side of the country that incorporates many different sectors of Peace Corps volunteer work. “I wanna do that” was the first thing that came to my mind. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. There are 6 other women in my regional area of the country that also got here last August. We’d already started meeting once monthly for western food, drinks, English, and general relaxation… and of course shop talk. Apparently, we all had the same thought with regards to starting a summer camp in our own region, so a couple weeks after our last round of training we met up for lunch and our first meeting.

We decided on utilizing an existing scholarship program that rewards the top 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls in each class by paying tuition fees for the following school year (about $10) as an incentive for the girls to stay in school. This is a pretty big problem in Senegal as young women have large amounts of household responsibilities that prevent them from studying. If a student doesn’t pass the end of year exam they’ll get held back. If you’re held back enough times, you get permanently kicked out of the public school system. It’s rare that these kids will then get a chance to go to private school, as it typically costs much more. If that weren’t bad enough, still other girls drop out all together because they marry young and get pregnant. So, when finding about a purpose for the camp, we couldn’t help but think about the perfect “work/ life balance” that American women are taught from a young age.

More volunteers were recruited to help with the project, and staffing positions were assigned. Yours truly, with her aversion to children, was appointed chief financier. My immediate responsibilities are to write the proposal to secure grant funding for the project, and when camp time comes I’ll be in charge of the money, but also of monitoring and recording all purchases in order to submit a final report to the grant committee. Other volunteers hold positions such as Camp Director, Camp Food Coordinator, Documentarian/Videographer, Lead Counselor and Camp Counselor. We plan to have Senegalese counterparts that will job shadow our positions so that in future years the whole project can be turned over to the community, thus creating project sustainability without Peace Corps volunteers. We’ve also started a website for the people involved to share files and keep a group calendar of deadlines. It is our hope that this over-documented project will make it that much easier should any other volunteer wish to start a similar project.

As far as day by day, the camp will have one day dedicated to each of the following topics: health (mental health and dealing with stress, malaria prevention, sexual pressures, hygiene, and nutrition), environment (agricultural related topics like container gardening, trash sorting, and composting), gender development (the woman’s role), business skills (costing, pricing, and money management), and future planning (actually creating goals for the short and long term with these girls). In between all that educational bits will be exercise, arts and crafts, and games. In the evening we’re planning movie night, game night, a talent show, a dance, and more. I dare say it’s going to be a hell of a good time, if we can pull it off.

We are fortunate enough to partner up with the University of Bambey (a town a few hours away from Mboro). They're so excited about our proposed program that they offered to donate their campus to host us for the week. Lodging, classroom facilities and equipment, and even their dining hall and staff will be available to us. A major score! This will cut our project costs dramatically and, hopefully, be the beginning of a great program for the University to continue. If we're really successful, maybe in a few years other Universities in the country will copy our model. But I'm getting way ahead of myself and that's out of my service time frame...

Anyway, the whole thing is set to kick off the last week of September, so there’s a lot of work to do now to write all the proposals and to get everyone on board and fix budgets… and then we wait. We’ll receive final word on funding mid-May and formally invite the girls to camp, but the rest of the to-do list won’t pick up again until August or September.

Anyway, wish us luck as we'll probably need it. And if anyone wishes to know more about the scholarship program for the local girls please send me a note and I'll get info to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment