In 5 days, I will be left with only 12 months to go as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The journey thus far has been so and so. The first year went by slowly and confusing. I struggled to find what I wanted to do within the organization I am based with. I always told myself I didn’t sign up for Peace Corps to be a camp counselor but this past week, I found myself at camp for the second time this year. Crazy huh! The first camp was a boy’s leadership camp in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province. I was invited to this camp by fellow Peace Corps SA27 volunteers and I must admit, I had a great time. So during this short school break in April, I decided to have my own camp for high school learners in my village. Ok, that’s half lie. My counterpart who I took to a Grassroot soccer (GRS) training in October kept pushing me to do a GRS Holiday Camp and I gave in.
So, on March 31st, I took 33 high school students (co-ed), grades 10-12, to a boarding school right outside the provincial capital, Polokwane. I trained 4 other people from my village how to run GRS (PC SKillz) activities to assist me at the camp. We were joined by another Peace Corps volunteer that brought the number of camp counselors to 6 (including me).
Grassroot Soccer (GRS) or the PC Skillz program creates simple and powerful connections between soccer and life. The Peace Corps SKILLZ approach helps young people have meaningful and relevant discussions about life, take small steps to achieve their goals, stay strong when faced with challenges, and protect themselves and others from HIV and AIDS. Peace Corps SKILLZ uses soccer language, metaphors, and activities to address key behaviors that drive the spread of HIV in South Africa, such as unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, older sexual partners, and gender-based violence.
All activities at the camp ran smoothly. My favorite activity at the camp was Gender Stadium. For gender stadium, participants form two circles, an inner and outer circle. One sex, male or female, occupies the inner circle at a time and talks about issues affecting that particular sex such as gender norms within their communities and cultures. While the inner circle speaks, the outer circle’s job is to listen and be quite. This active brought up some sensitive things such as gender base violence. It was interesting to hear how these teens thought they should be treated in a relationship. Some words that stood out for me during the gender stadium for both sexes include:
“it is okay to beat a woman, women are like children sometimes. You have to correct them sometimes. This time it is not spare the rod and spoil a child. It’s spare the rod and spoil a woman.” – Male Participant
“It is never okay to beat woman. You cannot say you love someone and then beat them. You have a problem with a girl/woman, you must talk to them.” – A different Male Participant
“If a man does not beat you [a woman] for your mistakes, you [woman] will keep repeating it.” – A Female Participant
“Women, let’s remember that men are key to this world. We must listen to them.” – Another Female Participant
“Just because I am married or in a relationship with you does not make me your slave, a captive. It is never okay for a man to hit a woman.” – Another Female Participant
The camp counselors in addition to some participants made sure we drove home the key message which was it is NEVER okay to hit a woman, whether in a relationship or not.
All in all, this was a successful camp. The learners learned about the consequences of engaging in risky behaviors that led to HIV such as multiple partners, older partners (sugar mommas and sugar daddies), unprotected sex, and substance abuse and sex. The learners enjoyed themselves and did not want to leave on the last day. They have already started contacting me about when the next camp is going to be. I am glad I had this camp and might another one in July with fellow Jersey PCVs. Shout to Taylor Crosby for helping me out at this camp. Now she is some of the learners favorite American. That’s okay. Lol
Until next time, enjoy some pics!Post 12 : Holiday Camp In 5 days, I will be left with only 12 months to go as a Peace Corps Volunteer.