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Published: August 18th 2006
On the Road
We were sooooo excited, and they were soooo cute. Imelda, Elisabeth, Aichath, and Giselle
I am happily exhausted. Guillaume, Derique, and my mosquitoes have welcomed me back into my home.
I spent the entire past week entertaining fifty girls, 10-14 years old, in Porto Novo, Benin. I have a t-shirt to prove it. I love that age group, and I had so much fun translating time-killing games and playing endlessly. Follow-the-leader, Simon Says, Heads-up, Seven-up, Charades, we even translated the B-I-N-G-O song.
Aïchath, Elisabeth, Gisele, Imelda, and I left Sunday, July 2, for Camp GLOW. We had to wait for a taxi- the chauffeur I had found did not arrive, so I had to track down another automobile. The car ride was wonderful. Only one of the girls had been to Cotonou, and only barely at that, so I often heard, “Are we there yet? How much farther? Where are we?”
When we did arrive, the girls made nametags and were given notebooks and folders. (“Are these for us to keep?” I was asked. “Yes.”) The volunteers then explained the use of the facilities and the rules of the camp. There was the usual treat-each-other-with-respect and be-sure-to-thank-the-cooks, but there was also how to use toilets, how to use showers, and stay away
Pick me, pick me! They all say, whether or not they have an answer.
from the swimming pool. Then we settled in and ate dinner, and played UNO and I’m-going-on-a-picnic until bedtime at 23h.
For the next five days, the girls mostly enjoyed but sometimes suffered through sessions on social roles and the importance of girls’ education, sexual education and family life, HIV/AIDS, study skills, nutrition, soy and moringa information, environmental protection, and money management. Some of the presenters did an excellent job including the girls, and the girls just soaked in all of the information. Since I am not in the school system, I am not familiar with the curriculum, but I am certain that Camp GLOW provided information, new and old, in a very open and interactive manner. In my opinion, the best sessions were on AIDS and another on plastic bag recycling. The girls aptly listened and asked very interested questions. The plastic bag recycling received gasps of wonder- the woman had developed a manner of crocheting and knitting purses and bags from cleaned, cut-up, and once-trashed plastic bags. The woman makes absolutely beautiful purses from the Beninese equivalent of the Wal-Mart bag stuck in the tree on the side of the road.
But not all of the sessions
The center had a small playground, which the girls loved. This is the only playground like it that I have seen in Benin.
were like school. We spent one evening making necklaces, which was a very popular activity. The girls also learned how to fold crêpe paper and other decorative tissue to make chains and snowflakes. One afternoon was a field trip to Centre Songhaï, with the magnificently efficient compost, pissiculture, animal raising, and much more, and another afternoon to the cultural museum. Everyday after lunch the girls chose between the Internet, sports or the marché. The Internet and the marché were very popular because of the novelty- obviously the Internet, but the marché of a foreign town is a must-see for any visitor. One night we watched the movie “AntZ,” another night was a dance party. On the last night there was a campfire after each team, blue, yellow, red, black, and green, presented a skit on something they had learned during the week. Those girls are good little dancers and actresses.
It was an excellent week. The events were well organized, and the girls were kept busy and interested. I loved watching girls be girls, their beautiful and intelligent personalities blooming under tender loving care and freedom from daily home duties. Camp GLOW may be the only camp I know
I helped the Green Team spell their name. That is verte, of course, not green.
of that the campers say the food and lodging are better than home. Camp GLOW is one-of-a-kind. There is no similar week of vacation in Benin for girls. Girls go on vacation to see another home, but never leave their household duties.
The only real grating issue for me was the mixed message the girls received about abstinence and condoms. I saw obvious uncertainty in response to the questions about whether the proper action was to say no, or to buy condoms, or both? It was very confusing. The girls are young enough, or should be, that all they need to hear is that girls their age should say NO NO NO.
I enjoyed the camp enough that I am seriously considering organizing the event for next year. A non-governmental organization is very interested in the camp as well, so it might become a partnered event. Although if I was a “directrice,” quoi, I might not be able to play follow-the-leader or help the campers spell their team color with their bodies.
I leave you with many pictures and a few of the most laughable moments with my girls. Thank you so much for your financial and
This is all of us! About 50 girls, 20 volunteers, and a few of the local sponsors, as well.
Elisabeth, on the bridge, seeing another across the way-
“We’ll be on that?!”
“Honey, why do you ask that? We are already on one.”
“We’re already on one???!!!”
Elisabeth, after peeing-
“Honey, why are your arms wet?”
“I turned the water on to chase the pee down.”
“Where did you pee?”
“In the shower.” (This said with an incredulous look at my stupidity.)
“Oh, you can pee in the toilet too. That’s better than the shower.”
Aïchath at Internet, but what state of America did she research?
“It starts with an “m”… But here is the capital and major city and average temperature.”
“Those are all in Florida…”
Imelda’s headache was soothed after being able to “promenée” a little; that is, go out on the town.
7 juillet 2006 Vendredi
Well, it’s over. We celebrated by drinking a beer around the campfire . The fire was excellent, the beer normal…
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