Friday, 8 February 2013


It's been almost two months since we wrapped up camp, sent the girls back to their families, and began to reflect on the week.  The Christmas and New Years Holidays found most of the volunteers with their Peace Corps families, however a few lucky ones were able to make the trip back to the states to see their real families. Our co-counselor and campers enjoyed the break from school and are now getting ready to begin the first term of the new year; Ugandan schools follow the calendar year rather than the school year the United States uses.  

With the beginning of a new year and 160 more girls educated and empowered, we are looking forward to seeing GLOWing ideas and projects being shared in the villages where we serve all across the country.  Maybe some us us will eat pita with our girls while others make friendship bracelets.  Perhaps we'll see an increase in school attendance due to better menstruation management with RUMPS or more assertive communication.  Very likely we will witness the start of a GLOW club set up to share the skills and information learned with the campers' friends and sisters.  I know that we're all looking forward to seeing the changes firsthand.  

Once again, thank you so so so much for your support for this project.  Without it these girls would not have had the chance to attend such an amazing week, be exposed to so many new ideas and meet so many new people.  Your contribution is invaluable.  

-Camp GLOW

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Day four gimme more!

We have reached the apex of the week. Tomorrow is the last day; the day the boys' camp comes for field day, the day we present certificates of appreciation and participation, and the day we watch a slideshow and see just how far we've come.  After the excitement of yesterday and with the preparations being made for tomorrow's big activities, today felt more relaxed.

Drop Everything And Read - today's topic? Women in Uganda who have achieved amazing things 

Practicing using a mosquito net so malaria is kept at bay

Today the girls talked about their futures and planning ahead to get the best results.  Counselors and staff led sessions that asked girls to imagine themselves in 10 years and draw a picture of what they expect to be or do.  A lot of girls drew lawyers and doctors which was very encouraging since those are things that are usually seen as men's jobs. A few things that were taught earlier in the week came full circle as the campers made purses and used their sewing skills they'd learned when they made reusable menstrual pads on Tuesday.

Sewing purses! Putting together several projects from the week - tie dye and learning to sew with RUMPS

Bethany and Mikael showing off their camper

A pretty gnarly bug

Emily with her Busheyni co-counselors

A clue for the scavenger hunt, placed in the Teamwork classroom

Girls on a mission - questions hidden all over campus, the right answer points them in the right direction, a wrong answer sends them on a wild goose chase

Jacque leads 'Red Light, Green Light'! It's amazing the things we can take for granted, not many of our girls had ever seen a traffic light in real life

Lining up...


Walking like an Egyptian

Crawling like crabs with seagull Mary chasing them along

Camp competition: Flour, water, or air? The counselor who gets flour takes their group to lunch

Day three, combatting HIV

This post is a day late. It's a day late because we have been running around, keeping girls healthy and happy, and hosting a myriad of visitors. The girls have opened up a lot since arriving and are much more silly and crazy now.  It's one of the more rewarding things about spending a week here - watching them progress from being almost fearful and obedient to being open, empowered, and confident.  The theme yesterday was "GLOWing with Strong Bodies" and our topics ranged from HIV prevention to family planning.  Camp conveniently coincides with World Aids Day on December 1st and Aids Awareness Week.  Regardless of a Peace Corps Volunteer's assignment in this country, we are all serving in HIV Education since the virus is so prevalent and again gaining ground.  Heather and Robyn taught sessions on transmission and prevention and Emily and Peninah taught about family planning.  Both of those ladies are married women, so it was meaningful for the girls to learn that when they are married and in a relationship they can still make choices about when they want to begin or finish having children.

Erica taught the girls to make pita bread in the IGA session as a way to vary their diet and perhaps make money selling snacks to their friends and neighbors.  Many of the campers had not tasted pita bread before and were excited to learn a new skill that yielded such delicious results.

Pita making supplies, Erica was the most organized I've ever seen anyone

Taking a moment to be goofy, Leah you have charcoal on your forehead

Heather being an HIV prevention rockstar

Rolling out the pitas

Grilling the pitas on charcoal sigiris

After lunch the girls were treated with a visit from the US Ambassador and the Country Director of Peace Corps Uganda.  Ambassador DeLisi spoke to the girls about the importance of keeping themselves healthy so they can have the best future possible.  He encouraged them to follow the ABC's of HIV prevention which are to Abstain while they are still young, to Be Faithful to one partner when they are old enough to be in a relationship, and to use Condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs.  These pieces of advice are the bread and butter of the HIV prevention message in Uganda and it covers most everybody from young to old.  Ambassador DeLisi stayed with us to watch a presentation by TASO (The Aids Support Organisation) that used music and drama to address ideas about remaining abstinent while the girls are still young.  Music and drama are widely used in Uganda as they're more traditional methods of communication and interaction.

Ambassador DeLisi addressing the counselors and staff

Dancing to our camp song

Our Country Director introducing the Ambassador to the girls 

Listening to the Ambassador's speech

Speaking on HIV/Aids prevention

Listening to the speech

Picture with the girls of GLOW

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Day two, together like glue

Day two of Camp GLOW is winding down; the girls have finished their group reflections (today's theme was "We GLOW with Teamwork" for those of you keeping up) and are off to bathe before dinner.  The girls' dorms and bathing areas overlook Lake Victoria so they are treated with amazing sunrises and sunsets when they perform tasks as simple as going for a short call (what we call "number one" in the states).

Sunrise over Lake Victoria, our girls are so lucky! 

Our healthy living topic of the day was the menstrual cycle and general women's health issues.  We want to make sure that these girls go back to their villages with not only a better understanding of their own bodies, but able to articulate and explain issues to their friends and sisters who weren't fortunate enough to attend camp.  Bethany teaches reproductive health to women all over Uganda so she can talk about cervixes, vaginas, and fallopian tubes without batting an eyelash.  She and Eunice made sure that the girls knew the appropriate names and functions for all the lady parts, and could talk about them without burning from embarrassment.  

One of the more important topics addressed by PC Uganda

Many volunteers consider gender development to be one of their most important jobs while serving.  Living in a country where women are still making strides to be thought of as equal to the men, simply being a role model for the youth can have a major impact.  One of the activities we do as PCVs is a game called Gender Roles where participants get cards with different jobs or actions on them and have to decide whether it's something for a man, a woman, or both.  Many people assign 'beauty', 'weakness', or 'caring for others' to women while men get 'chopping firewood', 'digging graves', and 'wants sex'.  The facilitators generally end up leading a great discussion on the difference between one's sex and their gender, and how there are very few differences in what men and women are able to do, apart from their reproductive roles.  Andrew is one of the two male staff members at camp. He has taken girls' education and development to heart during his service and led this session for us today.  

Obviously pre-discussion since 'menstruates' is included, but we appreciate the gender-balance!

We reconvened before break tea to take the camp snaps. Each of the girls as well as the counselors and staff will receive pictures at the end of the week as a memento of the amazing time they've had and the new friends they've made.  It's always interesting to learn the nuances of a new culture, and something the American volunteers have come across here is the fact that Ugandans generally don't smile in photographs.  They are incredibly happy and jolly people, and almost always laughing and smiling when around friends, but a soon as a camera is pointed their way, things get serious.  Candid shots work better as well as lots of joke-telling, face-making, and multiple picture taking.  

The final product, Camp GLOW 2012

With teamwork being the theme of the day, the teamwork session played center-stage this afternoon.  Our activity for the day was called "Islands" where the campers must cross an ocean on small islands only large enough to hold one or two girls.  They must work together to make sure that all team members make it across without falling in.  As they get better and better at the game, counselors take away islands to make it more challenging.  

Island Hopping

Before lunch the girls cooled off with a game of Drip, Drip, Drop, which is simply Duck, Duck, Goose with water :) As apprehensive as they were at first to get a cup of water dumped on their heads, they quickly realized that it would be an amazing way to cool off. 

Drip, Drip, Drop

Sophie soaking one of her campers 

With all the water balloons from the day before, we had to put them to use again

We were fortunate enough to have a visit from the Rafiki Theatre Group this afternoon.  They are a relatively new drama group in Uganda that focuses on combating violence and other issues that are hindering Uganda's development.  Today's issue was tribalism.  Uganda has over 50 tribes and languages which has led to myths and stereotypes being thrown around about one another.  One of the goals of GLOW National is to get girls of different regions together to show them how much we all have in common.  The drama this afternoon highlighted rumors and myths that different tribes spread about one another, and asked the girls to focus on the fact that they are all Ugandans.  

Introduction Drums

Free choice today was a lot drier than yesterday and the girls relaxed in the quad with some yoga.  Most of them giggled and wiggled their way through, but enjoyed simply being able to be quiet and still and stretch a little.  I'm sure the PCVs relished in this session.  

Tree Pose

Little friend checking things out 

Thanks for keeping up with us so far, we appreciate your support and encouragement :) 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Day one and done!

I'm sitting here in the resource room of Camp GLOW listening to the girls make a thunderstorm.  Blowing breezes with their whistles, pattering rain with their palms on their knees, booming thunder with their feet, and then fading back out as the imaginary storm passes over and heads west (east?) Emily is distracting them from the fact that the evening's activity has been delayed by technical difficulties.  Such is life here and we're rarely thrown off balance by a development like this.

Enjoying a free moment to hang out with a new friend

Writing acrostic poems about their strengths and positive attributes

Day one of GLOW has unfolded wonderfully, there is no other way to say it.  Our campers are divided into 15 groups aptly named after the animals found in Uganda.  We have the Antelopes, Cheetahs, Lions, Elephants, Buffalos, Warthogs, Gorillas, Crocodiles, Ostriches, Monkeys, Hyenas, Giraffes, Zebras, Rhinos, and Hippos all traipsing around calling their calls and cheering their cheers.  Girls learned about tie dye and how this could be something to earn them money in the future.  They worked together to get through a giant "spider web", decided which foods would make the most balanced meal, and wrote down all their most positive attributes.  They also wrote down things they're not good at and subsequently burned those papers.  It was a memorable moment at which they all cheered and screamed.

Getting ready to tackle a tangled web

Shaking things loose before the obstacle course

The sky threatened us with rain all day and finally followed through with that promise in the late afternoon.  Free choice sessions weren't interrupted though as the girls danced, sang, and played football (soccer) in the showers.  We had a great guest speaker who reminded the girls to always put their education first and to not sacrifice their futures for anything.  The counselors and staff watched the girls begin to forge friendships and gain a sense of pride in their animal groups.

About to face off in the piggy-back race

Three-legged race

Water balloon toss

Listening to the guest speaker/singing about how great they are :) 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Bikes, Matatus, and Buses

Can you imagine coordinating transportation for 157 children across a country that depends wholly on faith for the timing and maintenance of their vehicles?  We did that today.  Chelsea and Leah arranged weeks ago with volunteers strategically placed around the country to escort the campers down to Entebbe. We worked together to get money into our bank accounts, chat with bus drivers in the bus parks, and remind the girls 673 times where to be and when to be there.  By the end of the day everyone had arrived safely and camp had begun.

I traveled with the girls from Lira and Oyam districts today.  While others' experiences were somehow different, ours was pretty typical of travel in this country.  Three of us started at 7 this morning, had breakfast in the bus park and then proceeded to wrangle, call, and otherwise track down 19 Ugandan youth.  Since it's a Sunday, the bus schedule was somehow... not there. A bus company that is normally reliable was non-existant this morning and so we had to haggle with other conductors before we found one that 1) had 22 empty seats 2) would take us to Luweero for 20,000/= (about $8) and 3) would leave soon soon.  After four and a half hours of sitting, waiting, sitting more, buying a snickers, and waiting we were on our way.  Once we left the bus park there was a small bit of panic as we coordinated via cell phone to pick up a girl who had not made it on time.  As she finally climbed up the steps, the other campers erupted into cheers and we were on our way. (Again.)

Seven hours, some construction delays, and a bus change later we rolled into camp and were met with a sea of yellow teeshirts who were already busy getting to know one another and singing the camp song (lyrics below).  The evening progressed with a delicious dinner of rice, beans, sweet potatoes and jackfruit, then some skits to go over the rules of camp, and finally bathing and bed time.

The girls, counselors and staff are all on cloud nine to finally be here, and we know the week is going to be all at once hectic, amazing, heart-warming, and possibly the most fun some of us have ever had.  Please be sure to check back frequently for updates on specific projects and activities the girls are participating in.

Bus #1

Bus #2, much nicer :) 

Rolling through Kampala, ready to get to camp!!! 

Registering the girls 

Showing the girls where they're staying for the week

Easily identifiable :) 

New arrival

Watching counselor skits of the camp rules 

Fearless leaders giving out important information

Camp Song

I love my life (x6)

No one else controls my life - no way! 
So Imma live my life today
Tell those mosquitoes to buzz away
Imma eat right, talk right, focus on school today
Right now sex can delay
and Imma live my life today

Come on GLOW girls sing it out
CAMP GLOW (love my life) (x3)
So me I stand strong today!
CAMP GLOW (love my life) (x3)

Proud of myself, proud of my sisters
Women, Ugandans, and my future
I can see it now, clear with goal settin'
I keep it healthy with prevention

Come together as a team, yes
Teach each other these things, yes
Back to the village we go with GLOW
Ready to educate and share what we know

No one else controls my life - no way! 
So Imma live my life today
Tell those mosquitoes to buzz away
Imma eat right, talk right, focus on school today
Right now sex can delay
and Imma live my life today

GLOW girls sing it out