Some girls were meant to shine, but you were meant to GLOW

I don’t even know where to begin. First, I have to thank everyone back home who sent beautiful donations and positive vibes for the camp. “Huge success” is a huge understatement.

Melissa, Ellen, Julie and I made a great team. Melissa and Ellen are phenomenal teachers back home, and we had a perfect balance of good cop/bad cop. There were problems with the toilets and showers, but that’s to be expected when the majority of 63 girls had never used them before. Two other PCV’s, Andrew and Asha, came to the camp too to help us out. Andrew was our cook, and did an AMAZING job of feeding a huge group with delicious meals.

We started the journey to Camp GLOW on Thursday, with the girls singing songs the whole bus ride. You could tell that they were shy with the girls from the other schools, at times even competing with them over what songs to sing.

We arrived at the resort and it was beautiful- two swimming pools, playgrounds, the works. We let the girls have free time and then brought them together for an “I Can’t” funeral. The girls wrote down things they thought they can’t do-sing, cook, swim- and we burnt all of their pieces of paper in a campfire. It was a beautiful moment and a good way to get started.

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The next day was full of sessions about their bodies, puberty, and sex. The girls were ages 12-15, so we discussed how their body was changing and how they’re physically and mentally not prepared for sex, but since people in the village refuse to discuss it, we wanted to give them the knowledge beforehand. We did a condom demonstration on a banana, and my 60 year old South African counterpart put the banana in my mouth for an example of oral sex. I think I was giggling more than the girls were.

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After a long day of sessions, we let the girls swim in the pool. For many of them it was their first time in the water, and I can’t get over how brave they were. There was a huge waterslide that even I was nervous to go down, but they were sliding into the water nonstop. Supervising 60 first time swimmers was hectic to say the least, but they were all well behaved and natural-born fish.

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The big bad slide

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The next day, we discussed peer pressure and how to say no after we tye-dyed T-shirts!! The girls loved that activity and looked great in them when they dried.

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Chair Sit

There was one issue with one of my girls, Pabalelo, which caused a lot of stress. Girls from a different school accused her of saying they were ugly and looked like men. She vehemently denied, saying she was joking back and forth with a different girl. We’ll never know the truth, but there were a lot of upset girls afterwards. A little later on, all the girls started playing a game where they stand in a circle and choose others to dance and sing. My girls from my village were only calling other girls from my village, so Pabalelo got mad and told them to pick new people. When she was chosen, she ended up picking one of the girls from the village she supposedly insulted. I was so so proud of her. From that game, I think all four of us felt a shift within the girls, when they were coming together as a group and not divided by their villages.

After the game, we talked about conflict resolution, forgiveness, and how to say no. The most powerful moment for me was during my lesson on “how to say no” when I threw my Blackberry on the floor. All the girls audibly gasped, and I explained how I do not need to accept phones, or chocolate, or anything from men in exchange for sex. (“Sugar daddies” are a huge problem in South Africa, responsible for the massive prevalence of HIV in young girls.) You could see it click for the girls, how their body and their health were their number one priority. We made them hug themselves and scream “I love myself” over and over and it was such a powerful moment.

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Playing with the projector

That night, we held a talent show, and one of Melissa’s friends was our excellent emcee. They were practicing beforehand outside when all of a sudden the power went out. The girls were unfazed, and continued to sing and dance under the stars. Such a moving experience. During the talent show, the girls KILLED IT. So much talent, performing songs and dances.   All my girls performed an awesome dance while one of my favorites, Naledi, did a rap by herself. I was so proud of her and crying and screaming the whole show like a proud soccer mom.

The last day, we finished up sessions with a lesson on gender, making sure they all knew they could be anything they wanted, including president. We handed out certificates, and again, I cried like a proud mom as everyone hooted and hollered for each other.  We got on the bus and were ready to leave, but clearly needed a reminder that THIS IS AFRICA so the bus didn’t start and we jumped it with a tractor. Casual.

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That night, finally back in my village, was a weird feeling. I was in a GLOW bubble for so long, and in a flash it was over. While I was relaxing outside, two girls from the camp, Naledi and Baratang, came to visit. We got on the topic of deceased relatives, and before I knew it I was holding these girls explaining how Naledi’s aunt, Baratang’s mother, and my mother were all watching over us from heaven, so proud of each of us. Then, to change the topic, I gave let them start drawing. Baratang wrote a letter to her mother, saying she loved her and knew she was her angel. Naledi wrote down reasons why she was happy to be a girl. Her reasons were 1. She can lead the world and 2. She can say no to have sex. She also told me now that if she sees a man who has been charged with rape, she will remember all we taught her, including self defense. That was the perfect validation for me that these girls retained all the information we gave them. At the next girls club, the ones who attended the camp were so eager to teach the others the songs, games, and lessons. Throughout the whole experience all I’ve been saying is they are so brave, and I am so proud. This was a project I will never forget and I hope the girls won’t either.
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Now I’m relaxing in Pretoria until I leave for Mozambique Wednesday. Time is flying, and I don’t mind it!

1 Comment

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One response to “Some girls were meant to shine, but you were meant to GLOW

  1. Laura Dent

    I love you more each time I read your postings. I am so proud of you and your Mom in heaven is so very proud of you as she guides you with her love. The impact you have on these girls is forever.

    Laura Dent cell: 727 687-8785

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