Saturday, May 18, 2013


I am on such a high after a successful week at GLOW.  For over a year a group of 14 female PCVs in my group have been working together to create the 2nd Annual Camp Glow.  With GLOW (Girls Leading Our World we are working to encourage female empowerment in our rural communities here in Swaziland.  In order to make GLOW possible we fundraised using a PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program) Grant where we asked family and friends in America to support our project to improve the lives of people in Swaziland.  With that grant money we organized a workshop called TOT (Training of Trainers) which took place in January and was hugely successful.  The other portion of the money was allocated for Camp GLOW.  Camp GLOW was a week-long Camp which brought together 49 girls ages 13-19, 21 Swazi counselors from the January workshop, and 17 PCVs.  Each PCV brought 1 counselor from their community and 3 girls to participate in Camp which means that that this camp was able to bring  girls from every corner of the country, including the most rural and disconnected corners of the country.

Kelly R, co-director of GLOW and I at Mabuda Farms 
I am so thankful for the support of everyone back home who made GLOW possible.  GLOW is the hot fudge and the cherry on top of my Peace Corps Service.  It is the culmination of all the work I have done throughout the last 2 years.  The most special thing about working with GLOW in Swaziland is that overcoming gender roles, encouraging female empowerment and health education is so needed here and through girls clubs and Camp GLOW I am really able to see an immediate impact of the work with the girls I invited to Camp.

Clerisse Lemke, GLOW Director with one of her campers
Camp was awesome! On the first full day of Camp was all about sexual and reproductive health, an important topic since many young girls in Swaziland don’t have an option to make decisions about their own bodies or the knowledge about how to make decisions if they are given the opportunity.  We talked about anatomy, hygiene, STIs, contraceptives, abstinence and alternatives to sex, having a child by choice, and healthy relationships.  It was a day heavy with information, and throughout the week we worked on giving the girls the confidence to be able to use this information to benefit their own lives.

The second day was a lot of fun as we explored the girls’ creativity.  A Swazi art gallery, Yebo! Art has an Art Outreach Program that we were able to benefit from for the second year running.  With Yebo! The girls were able to express their creativity through painting, poetry, and decorating their t-shirts with their own unique screen prints.  It was great to see the girls really get into the sessions on art day since they don’t have art classes in school and creativity and ingenuity isn’t celebrated in this culture.

Some of the artwork created by campers on Art Day.
The last two days were all about leadership, teamwork, goal setting, and looking to the future.  On the last night, the girls participated in a talent show where they were able to display the courage and confidence they have been working on all week.  The girls really had talent!  We watched cultural dancing, hip hop and gum-boot dancing, singing, skits, and poetry.  One of the best moments of the week happened during the talent show one of the deaf girls concluded her group dance with a solo and the crowd erupted with sign language applause!
Sizakele participating in the leadership activity while Bandzile looks on.

There were many other great moments from camp that I will always remember.  I was so proud of the counselors we trained in January who came to camp and really stepped up into the leadership roles.  They were expected to lead the health sessions we taught them three months ago, and with only little preparation they did a fantastic job.  We really relied on the counselors for leading sessions and translating because some of the campers were young and all of them came from really rural areas where the standard of English is below average.  Also, during the poetry session I enjoyed watching one of my campers perform a poem about how HIV affects her life.  I enjoyed washable sanitary pad making, as a sustainable and less expensive option for a girl’s time-of-the-month.  I enjoyed the open and honest conversations and questions the girls asked of us about health, sex, and relationships.  It showed success in creating a safe and welcome environment.  I enjoyed watching campers try to learn sign language and engage the two deaf campers.  I enjoyed watching my shy campers gain confidence throughout the week and come out of their shells.  I enjoyed the camaraderie and enthusiasm that was built throughout the week. And lastly, I enjoyed working with otherPCVs on the GLOW Organizing Committee.  We did such a great and comprehensive job planning the camp that there were no major setbacks or incidents. Everything went according to plan, more or less.  Together, we have set a high bar for next year’s Committee.
My girls and I - From the left:  Counselor: Fisiwe Dlamin, Campers: Siphiwe Shongwe, Bandzile Ngenethwa, me, and Sizakele Dlamini

Close of Service Conference
The day after GLOW Camp finished the GLOW Organizing Committee along with the other remaining members of my group came together in the capitol city for our Close of Service Conference.  We all met two years ago as strangers in a hotel in Philadelphia, and now we are preparing to finish our service in two short months.  This was our last conference together.  It was designed as an opportunity to debrief our service, to talk about all the good things we did and skills we gained and to start planning our next steps as we prepare to re-enter America.  The conference was held at a beautiful hotel south of the capitol city called Forester’s Arms.  It was such a treat, decorated in country-chic with such comfortable beds, delicious food, and beautiful views the week was beyond any expectation.

The last day we were honored by a visit from the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps.  She traveled all the way from Washington DC.  As we sat in the conference room, she was so genuine and told stories from her Peace Corps Service.  She asked us all to introduce ourselves and our favorite part of our service.  When it was my time to speak, I motioned to all of us on the GLOW organizing committee.  We were all wearing the GLOW t-shirts my dad had made for us which made a huge impression on the Director.  She could really see how proud we were of the work we have done. I also mentioned my work I have done with hand crafts in my community.  Afterward she bought 3 baskets from me that I was selling for the women in my community.  It is so cool to know that the work from the women in my community will be displayed in the office of such a powerful woman in Washington!

What a great two weeks!  What a way to end these two years of service and so proud to have had the experience.  Only 9 weeks left in Swaziland.

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