Saturday, January 22, 2011
This is a few weeks overdue, but I really wanted to tell you guys about camp GLOW. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and this was a week long girls' empowerment camp for girls ages 13-15 from all over Uganda. It was held December 5-11, 2010 and 150 girls attended. This was the first time for Uganda to have camp GLOW and I am excited to continue it this upcoming year. I was fortunate enough to not only participate in the camp, but to be a camp counselor to a wonderful group of 7 girls. Here's the website so you guys can check it out (my picture is on the main page!) http://campglowuganda.yolasite.com/
Like I said, the camp was about a week long and each day had a different message:
Monday:"We GLOW with self esteem," was all about ways to build up and improve self esteem
Tuesday: "We GLOW when we work together," was about team building and the importance of team work
Wednesday: "We GLOW with good health," was about healthy living and habits
Thursday: "We GLOW with goals," was about how to plan for the future and make positive and reachable goals
Friday: "We GLOW as leaders of Uganda," was about how to spread and teach the lessons and messages of camp GLOW to other girls throughout Uganda
Each counselor had a Ugandan co-counselor so the girls could benefit from both the American and Ugandan perspective on the different topics. My co-counselor was Namusisi, the math tutor from my college. She was absolutely wonderful with the girls and was able to present information to them in a way that was easily relate-able. At our college, she works with me on my girls' club and does such a great job of answering difficult, and sometimes tricky questions, about sensitive topics like HIV/AIDS and sexual health. I was impressed at how excited and energetic she was throughout the week. There were a few hiccups along the way, but overall I was glad that I brought her with me.
Since there were so many girls, they were broken up into animal groups. My group was the chimpanzees. Each day 3 or 4 groups would move together to attend the different sessions. There would be a healthy living, GLOWing, arts and crafts, teamwork, and lifeskills session every day that would all go along with that day's message. Every counselor was responsible for teaching a topic. I taught about puberty and our changing bodies under healthy living on Tuesday. I started with an activity asking the girls to identify the different changes men and women go through during puberty, as well as the similar changes. For the most part, the girls understood these changes. Another Ugandan counselor taught about how to take care of your body during puberty. At first the girls were incredibly shy, which isn't that surprising coming from a culture that doesn't generally encourage women to voice their opinions. As the sessions went on, the girls began to open up and write down questions they wanted answered. I was asked everything from "Do I have safe days," to "If I bathe in cola, can I rid my body of HIV," to "What is masturbation." The girls were so thirsty for information!
Throughout the week it was such a wonderful experience to see the girls come out of their shells and become more and more comfortable talking during sessions, asking questions, voicing concerns, and readily contributing their opinions. I think camp GLOW has the potential to do amazing things for Uganda and, again, I'm so blessed to have been a part of it.
I could go into so much more detail, but the website really does a much better job. Here it is again... http://campglowuganda.yolasite.com/ Please check it out and let me know what you think. The camp GLOW team did a wonderful job bringing camp GLOW to Uganda and I'm sure they would love your support and encouraging words. Thanks for reading!
PS-off to Egypt this upcoming week then meeting Dad in India...blog posts to follow!
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
The holidays this year were, needless to say, much different than any I've ever experienced. Being away from home during this time of year has been challenging but many of you know I was incredibly blessed to have a BIG part of home come to me for the holidays. Mom, Mar, and Ang made the very long journey to my side of the globe to not only see, but also experience how I’ve been living the last 10+ months.
Before I say anything else, I need to express how proud of them I am. They were troopers! From the beginning they were adamant about doing things the way I do them, which means public transport, budget hostels, local food, hand washing clothes, pit latrines, cooking on a seguri when your gas tank runs out, and the like. Absolutely freakin troopers! I’ve had the better part of a year to get used to this lifestyle and to adapt to it and these 3 just snapped right into it. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely bumps and snags along the way, but in the end I wouldn’t change any part of the experience I was able to share with them. They not only had a look into the Peace Corps lifestyle, they also experienced the challenges and struggles we face here in Uganda on a daily basis…but they had the extreme scenarios of just about everything. From 3 hour bus delays to hotel reservation screw ups and lost bookings to getting sick from malaria prophylaxis to being harassed and singled out and having to deal with communication break downs, I need to once again commend the strength of these 3 incredibly marvelous women. Let’s just say that anything that could have possibly gone wrong did, and my family handled every single thing with EASE! You guys rock and I hope you took as much from these last few weeks as I have. I love you all!
I can’t even begin to explain what it meant to have my family with me for Christmas. After living here for a while I feel pretty confident in saying that I have 3 solid families. I have my family from America, my PC family, and my family here in my community. I was fortunate enough to celebrate Christmas with all 3 of my families this year. I opened my home up to other PCVs who made the trek across Uganda so we could all be together. My community family was beyond generous when welcoming not only my visitors from the states, but my PC visitors as well. People came to the house to greet my family, they brought jack fruit and bananas. We got cabbages and vegetables from one of the tutors at my college. I took my Mom and siters in town to meet my "vegetable lady." This little old lady is the cutest and sweetest Ugandan woman I've met. When she saw me walking towards her with my family she left from behind her stand and came to give not only me, but each member of my family the biggest hug I've seen a Ugandan give. To top it all off, she gave us "bonus," which means free vegetables, but in this case I'm pretty sure she gave us more free veggies than what we actually bought. Brother Lawrence organized an English mass for us on Christmas morning that was actually run on “American Time” and lasted an hour where we read the readings and picked the songs we wanted to hear. Brother also went out of his way to organize and arrange transport for the 13 of us making the trip down to Lake Bunyonyi for New Years. That man is such a blessing and is one of my best friends here. I think it meant more to me for everyone else to see how much I value my connections to my community and to see the relationships that I’ve made this past year. It’s one thing to explain how you integrate into your community to others, but when they are able to actually experience it, it’s absolutely priceless. Thanks to all who contributed to making a very memorable Christmas. You guys are fantastic and I wouldn’t be here without any of you.
On a side note having family come to see me really made me reflect on how I’ve changed. They went outside of their element into mine where I was forced to take the parental role. It was definitely difficult and probably one of the more challenging things that I’ve done here so far. There were some things I probably could have handled better but I feel like they got a genuine taste of the things I go through living here and the ways I cope with certain challenges. One of the more difficult things was hearing myself described as “hardened, intense, and frustrating.” That was a bit of a wakeup call, but looking back those descriptions are absolutely dead on. I have changed and the changes that I’ve made have been necessary to my survival here. Don’t worry guys, I’m still the same old Ashley, just a bit…modified.
If you get a chance, talk to my family and get their take on things to have both sides of the beautiful and memorable picture that was December 2010. Thanks for taking the time to come and spend it in a third world country. I miss you guys already!