Camp GLOW is a global Peace Corps initiative. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World. In Colombia, teenage girls at schools across the coast apply to have the chance to attend an overnight camp – for many, their first nights away from home alone – to learn about leadership, self-esteem, professionalism, and more. We asked the directors and counselors for Camp GLOW to tell us how they made it all happen.
How to hold a talent show in the dark:
One of the highlights of Camp GLOW is the talent show. It’s always amazing to see the girls come out of their shells, often surprising the rest of us with hidden talents. This year, we decided to try something new by having the campers divide into “clubs” based on their passions. There was a “club” for dance, music, writing, acting and visual art, as well as various solo acts. We were super excited to see the girls show off their talents… and then the power went out. A lot of girls came up to me, bummed that we were not going to be able to do the talent show in the dark. But, if our time in Colombia has taught us anything it’s how to improvise when things don’t go as planned. We lined the girls up along the inner balcony of the hotel, and had them shine their flashlights on the “stage” down below. I pointed out that it was even more realistic because it was like in a real theater, where everything is dark except the spotlights on the performers! We were lucky that various counselors had wireless speakers that we could use for the dance routines. I was blown away by the acts that the campers were able to plan in such a short time. Various campers and counselors overcame their fears and showed off their talents in front of everyone. The night ended with a huge dance party and brownies for everyone. It was definitely a highlight of GLOW 2017.
-Lindsay Schiltz – Director, Camp GLOW 2017
How to get 45 girls to go to sleep:
Camp GLOW was 5 days of non-stop activities and excitement. This meant that sleep was extremely necessary and difficult with energies running so high! Girls were given a half hour to prepare for bed with the idea that lights are out (and everyone is asleep) by 10:30pm or so. Every night some directors and counselors would walk around, checking in with all the girls, and reminding them that it was time for lights to be off. Usually there would be a circle of girls chatting and agreeing that it was time for sleep, until the door was closed and they continued chatting. This continued multiple times until eventually, exhaustion took over! If anyone has any tips or tricks, please let us know!
-Michelle DiIeso – Director, Camp GLOW 2017
How to put on a Mini Camp:
Throughout Camp GLOW, the campers participated in dynamic workshops about leadership, self-esteem, sexual health, community service, and more. To put the leadership and community service aspects into practice, the campers put on a Mini Camp for the local children in town. This was a way for us to say thank you to the town and give something back to the locals for hosting us. The day before the Mini Camp, the GLOW campers chose their roles as directors, station leaders, group leaders and photographers. Then they jumped in and got to work planning activities and preparing materials. The day of, we sent teams of GLOW campers out to round up local children, most of whom already knew about the Mini Camp through advertising that we had done around town. We ended up with a great turnout of around 90 local kids! The GLOW campers did an amazing job running the activities and many of them discovered new leadership skills. Through some of the activities they were also able to pass on their new knowledge about self-esteem, gender equality and leadership to the local children. In the end, many campers said the Mini Camp was a highlight of their GLOW experience and all involved enjoyed giving back to the town that hosted us.
-Kristin Brown – Counselor, Camp GLOW 2017
How to keep morale and energy up for 45 hungry campers during an aguacero
During Camp GLOW, the days are long. The girls start their mornings with zumba or yoga to get the blood flowing for a day filled with learning, adventure and making new friends. The counselors and directors are always working hard to keep the girls energized throughout the day, leading them in a cheer or making sure they get to bed on time the night before. For the most part, the girls power through these long days with seemingly endless energy. And yet every once in a while, as often happens on the coast of Colombia, you find yourselves in an aguacero. Life seems to stop whenever an aguacero hits, and it was simply depressing watching the hungry and tired campers staring out into the rain and yearning for the pizza that they had been promised. Morale and energy were dipping, and the night was still young, with a movie to watch after dinner. But the GLOW ladies are creative and persistent, and seeing that rain dumping out of the sky, two brave counselors ran straight into it and started dancing. At first, it was only two of them, dancing, laughing, and getting absolutely soaked, but their energy was contagious, and soon enough we had formed a group of about 15 counselors and campers out in the rain. I will always remember the campers’ joyful faces cheering me on as I attempted some mapalé dance moves in the center of the circle that formed. For the campers and counselors that (perhaps wisely) decided to stay dry, the group of soaking wet girls dancing around in a circle provided a wonderful opportunity to pull out their cameras and laugh a little bit. Once we were all sufficiently soaked, we brought the party to the rest of the campers, forming a conga line that snaked through the tables where girls were sitting and awaiting their dinner. Music started blaring through the speakers and the conga line grew as more and more counselors, campers and directors decided to join in on the fun. Before we knew it, the food had arrived and, miraculously, morale and energy were higher than ever. I do not know how much time truly passed, but I’m sure it would have felt a whole lot longer if we hadn’t been dancing in the rain together.
–Faron Stalker, Counselor, Camp GLOW 2017
How to give a SEX ED charla to 45 girls
Trying to have a conversation about sex to girls is hard, but having a conversation about sex to COLOMBIAN girls… well that is something different. In many Latino families it is not a topic that ever gets touched by your parents, sisters, or friends. It is a hidden matter. I have been a part of Planned Parenthood and had sex ed charlas before and introduced it to my youngest sister when she was 10 years old. It is a very uncomfortable topic to cover due to our culture’s norms. Therefore, it is important to cover basic terms, understandings of the human body, and changes that occur at different ages. I wanted to make this an enjoyable experience and that is why we had activities where they could move around, an open safe environment, an opportunity to ask anonymous questions, and we even learned how to put condoms on bananas (which were also our snacks). Overall, it was a great experience to expose these girls to a topic that they may have never heard about or will ever hear about again. I am grateful to Camp GLOW and the girls for allowing me to come in and share some knowledge.
-Yesenia Lazaro, Counselor- Camp GLOW 2017
How to promote positivity and group appreciation
When you have 38 girls from all over the coast come together, how do you create an environment of support and positivity? One solution is to write appreciation notes! On the first day of camp, each camper, junior counselor, counselor (and even director!) gets a plain envelope to decorate as they please. Using markers and crayons they create a small representation of themselves on their sobre. These envelopes go up on the wall and throughout camp. Girls are encouraged to write positive notes to their fellow campers and counselors. At first, the envelopes remained empty, as the girls were getting used to each other and the high demand camp placed on their minds and bodies. But as the week wore on, those envelopes started to fill. It was hard to get everyone to line up in the morning or go to bed at night as they were all enthusiastically scribbling notes to their newly formed friends. By day 5, everyone’s envelope was bursting at the seams with encouragements, pick-me-ups and validations. I like to think that every girl keeps her appreciation envelope by her bed, just as I do, so she can read the wonderful things her campers wrote about her to pick her up when she’s feeling down, to relive memories of friendship and growth, or just to put a smile on her face.
-Audrey White, Director – Camp GLOW 2017.