Sunday, November 4, 2012

9-24 Mini Mini Summer Camp

Opening activity: switch ends of the board without
stepping off.  The girls did quite well, the boys needed a bit
more motivation.
Peace Corps has a few international programs, as in programs that all the countries do or use in some way. The biggest one seems to be youth leadership and development camps called Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) and Boys in Leadership Development (BILD). If you've been following the blog, you've read about two of these camps that I've been two on other islands. This time, it was our turn to run them.

Ideally, the camp should be a week long. Since nothing here has worked out in an ideal way, the first camp was only about 10 hours, broken up over three days. We needed to limit the participants, so we asked that all the student leaders come. That included the dorm captains, the class captains, the head boy and head girl and the prefects. We should have had about 50 but 10 or so weren't back from break yet and a few more didn't show. We finished day one with 38, which I thought was damn good. We finished the camp with 18, which was less good but still decent.

Turns out the English call Telephone "Chinese Whispers"
We started on Friday afternoon. We were supposed to start at 1:30 and sometime before 2:30, things did get going. We wanted to start of fun and make the kids want to come back, so we started with games. The students stood on a balance beam, shoulder-to-shoulder, and had to switch ends without stepping off. That worked pretty well, though the boys gave up until the girls started winning. Then we did a human knot. We used the games to show how leadership is important and talk about the qualities of a good leader. After they identify the qualities of a good leader, they have to identify a role model and say why that person is their role model. Then they identify qualities they already possess and qualities they want to improve on. When they were writing down the qualities they posses, they mostly got stuck. One of my co-leaders told them to look around the room and identify a leadership quality in each of the girls sitting near them. Then he pointed out that everyone had identified those qualities in each girl so everyone possesses some. I thought that was an excellent way of getting around the overly-humble mentality here and a positive self-esteem building statement.

Trust walk.  Yes, we took stairs.
After leadership comes communication. The communication games are a lot of fun. The first game the students each got a sticker on their back which they weren't allowed to look at. Then, without speaking, they had to put themselves in groups. The first question after the game is, “What is communication?” To which they always say, “talking.” Then we think about the game and refine the answer. Again, the girls caught on fast and gave a good definition of communication in three tries. We settled on “sharing ideas.” Then we talked about who is responsible for good communication. The game to go with that is another of my favorites. In small groups, the students elect one person to draw while everyone else directs them. The directors go outside and look at a picture then come back and tell their artist what to draw. The catch is that the directors can't use their hands and the artist can't speak. Through that activity, they figure out that communication needs feedback, like questions and that speech alone isn't very clear. I've noticed in doing that activity that the students who share a local language tend to do better than the ones using Bislama. Bislama is not a specific language and a lot is taken from context, including hand gestures and facial expressions. Of course, the boys got clever and used their noses to point instead of their hands. The girls just used local.

Everyone's favorite game: Lion, Temptress, Hunter.
Rock, paper, scissors with the full body.
The next session is a bit more abstract. Trust and team building are hard concepts to convey even though everyone can recognize them. We talked about why trust is important in a leader and who we should trust. We also talked about how hard it is to get trust back once it is broken. Then we went on a trust walk. One girl was blindfolded while her partner lead her around the school. When the girls were panicking before hand, I asked what they were afraid of. A girl already wearing a blindfold said, “stairs.” That kind of humor is rare and shows how these girls really were a step above a lot of the youth I've worked with while living here.

After dinner, we watch a Wan Smol Bag video. The main idea of that was to give the students a reward for their hard work. It just happened to talk about STIs and responsible behavior and decision making at the same time. Usually, these camps have a sex ed component but we didn't do that this time. I've nailed that one home enough around here, we thought it would be more productive to focus on leadership.

Due to their school schedules, we only had the evening on Saturday. We did an hour and a half of public speaking before dinner. Their practice for public speaking was to interview their friend and introduce her to the class. They had to stand up in front of the class without covering their mouths, looking at the floor, looking at the chalkboard, mumbling, giggling or running out the door. That was a challenge but they all did it and they did it rather well. It helped that the group was down to 8 by then, which made it less scary and they were the students regularly called on to lead evening devotions and make announcements in their classes.

After dinner, they had to organize a skit to do in church in the morning. The girls chose Moses leading the Israelites to freedom by parting the Red Sea. It took some prompting and some patience from me, but by the end of the night, they had taken control of their skit and were making plans. The light-bulb-of-success went off for me when they finished their rehearsals and were discussing what else they needed to do. One of the girls said, “We need an introduction.” Then they wrote an introduction. The same girl then said, “And we need a conclusion.” Their conclusion identified the qualities of a good leader that the story highlighted and explained why they chose that story. I was delighted with that but they kept going. Rather than making a dash off the stage, they decided they would sing a song first and then leave in a tidy line. They picked a song, set a time to rehearse in the morning. I was impressed.

Moses calling the Red Sea back together.
In church, they did their skit. Their voices were loud and clear. The only time we couldn't hear them was when the audience was laughing too loud because the girl playing the pharoah was pretending to ride a horse, including the clop-clop sound effects. I was most impressed when they stayed for the song and did walk off the stage with their heads up in an orderly fashion.

I see the value in these camps in a way I never did as a teenager. At home, we role our eyes at “team building days” in the office or at school, but I'm coming around to them. There really is value in problem solving in an immediate sense and the sense of camaraderie that engenders. For the youth in Vanuatu, there is even more to be gained in self-confidence and supportive friendships. In the US, I never doubted that I was supposed to be confident in my self, even when I lacked that confidence. Here, it seems that the youth don't have an idea of what a healthy ego looks like and these kinds of camps give them an opening to move towards it.

I hope all of that is true anyway. If not, it is fun to play the games.

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