You GLOW girl!

This week I took two of my girls and a counterpart, Dorine, to Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) in Kisumu. It’s a camp started up by Peace Corps volunteers just a few years ago and is growing like a weed. It’s all about empowering the girl child, particularly with sex education, HIV/AIDS and condoms. There were about 50 or 60 girls here, plus maybe 20 volunteers and counterparts – all staying on this nice church compound outside of kisumu. Both hearing and deaf girls attended, and each day had a central topic – for example, Monday was communication and saying NO, Tues was future planning/goals, Wed: sex, Thu: HIV/AIDS and Fri: condoms/rape. Packed week, but so important. Classes went until 4 every afternoon in separate groups (our deaf girls had their own classes separate from the others) and then the afternoon was games or field trips.

So, that’s the outline and too much really went on to give much detail, but it was possibly the best week in Kenya so far. Tiresome, yes, but also very productive and rewarding. We had 14 deaf girls from all over western Kenya and it was so great to see them grow through the week. Monday they were so shy, not asking questions or anything, not volunteering to participate at all…. and then Thu and Fri we couldn’t even teach all of our lessons because they had SOOOOO many questions and comments, and they were hanging out together all the time and storying. It was awesome to see them come out of their comfort zone.

This week was also really eye opening about a great need throughout Kenya – sex education. Even though we often laughed at the questions/comments we received from the kids (and even counterparts), it was actually pretty shocking at the lack of knowledge/information shared regarding this particular topic. At the end of the week, even though we didn’t really have enough time to really thoroughly communicate all of the details and specifics we would have liked, all of the kids went home with new information, and hopefully the ability to make better decisions and improve their lives.
Friday was the best day here at camp, I think all campers would agree. For one, we were tired of teaching and ready for a break, but also, like i said, the girls were really outgoing and mingling, storying, having so much fun. We went to the Impala Sanctuary (don’t let the name fool you – there are more than just impalas there) and the airport after our classes. Not only was it MY first time seeing some of those animals, but also for the kids! They live here are haven’t even seen all of those animals! It was pretty cool to see their reactions. I spent the day roaming with Nefrine, my class 7 girl I brought from Nina, and it was just so special. We went from pen to pen and storied about the animals, identified all of their strange features (like, the rhino’s huge penis, which she said our condoms would not fit on) and then even had time to revisit the monkeys – her favorite. It was so nice and relaxed, the perfect ending to a hectic week.

On the other evenings we had a talent show, dance party, pad making, arts and crafts, sports, and visited the deaf VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV/AIDS). The VCT was pretty awesome, too, because all of the workers were deaf and the kids couldn’t believe that they were deaf adults. They insisted that the adults/workers were lying and that they could really hear, which was pretty entertaining. They all watched the process for testing for HIV/AIDS and were able to ask the deaf adults questions about their education and families. It was a pretty informative trip.

So, on top of all of the benefits of sharing new info with the kids and seeing them really grow and make new friends, it was awesome to spend time with MY friends, too. I shared a room with Kia, who lives pretty far from me, so I don’t get to see her much – and this was the perfect opportunity to get caught up and share stories, frustrations, highs and lows with someone who understands and goes through the exact same situations. There were several other volunteers here, too, so it was just a good chance to let loose and be yourself – regardless of how strange it may seem to Kenyans. It was a safe place, a fun time and an overall extremely successful week..

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