The highlight of my Peace Corps service in Belize thus far was my experience at Camp GLOW from July 23-27. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World, and was initiated in the 1990’s by a Peace Corps Volunteer in Poland. Since that first camp, Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world have worked alongside local girls’ clubs leaders to provide a rich camp experience. Throughout the school year GLOW Clubs meet weekly to develop leadership qualities in participants, to have fun together making crafts, to complete community service projects, and to discover the girls’ potential dreams and goals. The girls who attended this year’s camp in Belize raised money for their week-long adventure and we Camp GLOW organizers also raised money, developed schedules, planned activities, found a venue, developed menus, purchased food, and met throughout the year to bring this camp to fruition. It required a lot of planning and teamwork to make this dream a reality.
Seventeen girls attended, along with their Belizean club leaders and Peace Corps Volunteer counselors. There were also Belizean and Peace Corps presenters, and some of us lucky ones had the wonderful opportunity to stay from Monday to Friday to help in the kitchen and with crafts and activities. Camp began Monday at noon, and many girls left their villages in the wee hours of the morning to arrive at midday. We stayed at Log Cab Inn, a Belizean-owned camp with lovely cabins, a large meeting hall, kitchen, and a pool. It is in the lush green surroundings of San Ignacio Town, and thankfully, it is right off the main road, so that we could catch the bus easily.
The girls were reticent and shy on that first day, but a few hours after they were shown to their rooms, and worked together as teams to decorate their room doors, they began to relax, smile and speak a little more. Most of these 8-12-year old girls had never been away from home before, and had not been outside of their small villages.
I enjoyed working with my new Belizean friends and my Peace Corps volunteer colleagues to cook for the girls and help them prepare a performance for a talent show performed at the end of the week. On that first evening we all breathed a sigh of relief as we went to bed, grateful that everyone had arrived safely and had enjoyed their first day at camp.
Each day began with either yoga or zumba, and then time for reflection in a journal that our friend Meredith helped us create out of beautiful paper. There were other craft activities, including jewelry making from recycled materials. Several speakers and presenters shared their experiences with the girls. There were sessions on a successful high school experience, developing inner beauty, nutrition, female reproduction and sexual health, self-defense, and healthy relationships. Interspersed with sessions, were many occasions to swim in the pool and play games and sports outside. On Tuesday, the girls were treated to a field trip to Chaa Creek to visit the butterfly farm and nature center.
On Tuesday night we all sat around the campfire and Yours Truly, along with two other Peace Corps Volunteers led the singing. The girls ate s’mores for the first time, and learned how to roast marshmallows without charring them. Many girls mentioned that the campfire was their favorite activity at camp that week.
It was a joy for me to work with our truly cohesive team in the kitchen throughout the week. As soon as we finished washing the dishes from one meal, we would begin to chop and cook for the next one, and everyone pitched in, including the girls. It made my heart sing to work with such selfless volunteers (Peace Corps as well as Belizean), who worked tirelessly, cheerfully, and joyfully to provide the girls with a positive experience away from home. I cherish these memories and the close friends I made this past week.
On our last night at camp, every person participated in a talent show, even we camp counselors. I have attached a video to this blog post so that you can see some of the talent that was displayed at Camp GLOW. Thankfully, I was dancing in the back of the dance line, so you do not have to witness my missteps. It was great fun dancing to the song “Hey, Soul Sista” (which we changed to “GLOW Sista”), which was choreographed by our Peace Corps friend, Mallory Begley.
We're all glowing! Check out: Camp GLOW on Youtube