2 weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with PCVs in the regions of Saint-Louis, Louga, and Linguere on a project called Gëm Sa Bopp. It’s a girls empowerment camp that PCVs put on. We invite girls from our sites to come learn about future careers, the environment, menstrual health, and hygiene. In Wolof it means “Believe in Yourself.” The camp is a unique opportunity for young girls to have fun and be themselves. They get to leave their household chores behind in exchange for a week of sports, singing, making new friends, and new experiences.
As much as I want to explain everyday in detail, it would probably end up boring you, so I’ll just do highlights.
The first day we learned local camp songs. To be honest, a lot of them are in old Wolof, or in a context I don’t fully understand. But I learned them or actually- learned to make noises or words like what I thought the songs were. There’s a couple of songs I want to talk about. The first is a greetings song, in English, it means “we greet you, we greet you, in peace in peace, we greet you, we greet you.” The girls sang it before each session to welcome their guest speaker. Another song we learned is in French, but can be sang in any language. It goes like this: “Do you know my name?” “No.” “Do you know my name?” “No.” “My name is _________. Do you know my name.” “Yes, we know your name. We know your name. Your name is _________.” The last song I want to share is one that always makes me sad and happy. “Camp was great, camp was great, when I go home I’ll miss _(someone’s name)_. Camp was great.” My girls sang this song and cried as they said goodbye, I miss them.
For career day my girls drew a Life Map on how to become a doctor. It’s a map that marks all the important and essential elements of becoming a doctor, like graduating high school, going to University, and graduating medical school.
Human rights day was combined with a travel activity. One of our PC staff members came and led a discussion on how to identify domestic violence, and how to find ways to be more than a bystander. One of my favorite sessions was called “Kaay Tukki” which means “come travel.” We had 6 stations where us PCVs shared an element of another country. For example, I did Taiwan, so I taught the girls how to use chopsticks, and we talked about my family background. They also asked me to teach them some Chinese, which was pretty fun! (Yay Peace Corps Second Goal!)
For environment day, the coolest part, was going to the beach. We did a beach clean-up talk and then went swimming. Most of the girls have never been to the beach or even seen the ocean before, so some were nervous about dipping their feet in and others went for it, and others grabbed hold of whatever PCV was near them in fear and excitement. My site mate told me she had 3 girls attached to her at some point:one on her back, and two on either side of her. Unfortunately my phone died prior to this, so I don’t have any pictures of this besides our group photo.
The next day, the girls learned all about menstrual health. Periods are a major barrier to girls education because there aren’t many tools to deal with it in a school setting, so some girls miss school as a consequence. First we had an STDs talk, then we talked about the cycle of periods, which led to period bracelets. Personally, I would love to make one of these. It’s conspicuous, and helps the girls keep track on where in their cycle they are. Then we had a session on how to make reusuable pads from local materials. It’s super easy, and they work!
For the last day we did handwashing and hair care. Then we did invisible friends and certificates. At the start of camp each girl gets an invisible friend, PCVs included. All week we are supposed to make them gifts and send them anonymously. On the last day we stood in a circle and sang another song to discover who our invisible friends were. It was filled with hugs, crying, and laughter.
The end of camp was so special. The girls all traded phone numbers (with us too!), and cried as they were forced to say goodbye to their camp friends (sound familiar? Just like in the USA). Since camp ended a couple of girls have already called to greet me. Hopefully I can visit some of my other girls throughout this next year. After camp, I had a whole new perspective on my service. It was overall an amazing experience that made me believe that Peace Corps is important, and we do important things. After camp, I was on a Peace Corps high where my language was great (because I was forced to stretch my vocabulary in a new setting), I felt like I was capable of anything, and it marked about a year into my service. Perfect timing. I can’t wait to see what next year’s camp is like!
P.S. check out our video of this year’s camp!
Sorry! I know I’m really behind in my blogging. I’ll be posting a lot (hopefully) in the next month so I stay on track.