Wednesday, July 25, 2012

YMLP Summer Camp 2012

It is hard to capture in writing what all has gone on in the past month. Even the best writing would never be able to completely capture just how amazing and wonderful my month away from site has been. It started with a group of the most motivated high school boys in the country at the Young Men's Leadership Camp Summer Camp.
The 2012 YMLP Camp flag the boys created with one of the guys from YMCA Kent
For one week 45 boys from all over the country, 13 PCVs, and a handful of HCNs gathered in Tajmiste at a gorgeous mountain house to practice English, learn about the Environment, Social Inclusion, Project Design, Media, and Health, break down ethnic stereotypes, and enjoy some good ole' American style camping (complete with American smores). Words can't even describe how phenomenal these boys are. Sometimes at site it is easy to get discouraged by the lack of excitement in learning English or the lack of support on potential projects. However, being around these boys renewed some of that lost hope. They all came because they want to break down ethnic stereotypes in the country, improve their English skills, and learn how to be leaders in their hometowns. That they did. They broke down the stereotypes they had and made friends with boys from all ethnic groups within the country, something many adults in this country aren't able to do.
Campers and Staff
Almost all of the Staff
I was the PCV environmental facilitator at camp, so I got to know all of the boys during my environmental classes with them. We talked about trash and how long it takes for different items to decay, water quality and even tested the quality of the local water in Tajmiste, and learned how to identify different plants in the area and which animals are edible (even had one boy decide on the spot to pop a grasshopper into his mount). The boys also learned about climate change and carbon footprints, however I was not with them that day. I, instead, helped out the health class learn about sexual health so they could get the American perspective and the female perspective. I was a little nervous this day because teaching sex ed to groups of teenage boys isn't quite what I signed up for, however, it went really well. The boys were very respectful and curious as sexual health isn't something that is really discussed in this country so for some of these boys it was the first time they were talked to about these issues and the first time they were able to get information outside of the internet and YouTube (it was amazing the number of boys who said they got their information from YouTube and Wikipedia). The classes started with a competition for who could yell "penis" and "vagina" the loudest to get the boys comfortable hearing and saying these words without laughing and ended with a demonstration of how to correctly put a condom on a cucumber. One should never underestimate just how loud boys can yell and just how gross lubricated cucumbers are! The boys asked great questions and were very appreciative of having someone take the time to give them some accurate information about an important, but somewhat taboo, subject here.

In addition to teaching classes, I also was the human soap dispenser for the week, which was quite a fun job as it gave me a chance to talk to all the boys three times a day before meals.
The boys waiting in line to wash their hands before meals
Who knew being a soap dispenser could be this much fun!
The boys also got to partake in some fun electives including, Minute to Win It, fencing, egg drop, Turkish language, and many more.
I helped with the fencing class and was killed in the opening because my cap gun ran out of caps and Phil knew how to fence and I didn't.
Cupstacking was one of the Minute to Win It events
During the Olympics the boys had to melt a frozen t-shirt
 The last night of camp, the owner of the mountain house, Boshko, had a special event planned for all of us. There was a presentation by Boshko where he gave all of the staff and coordinators a special tavche gravche dish and a warm thank you for the work we did with the kids. Then there was local Macedonian music, including one of the campers pulling out his drumming skills as he is one of the best Romani drummers in the country and lots of Oro dancing. It was the perfect way to spend the last night of camp.

Camp ended on the 4th of July, so after sending the kids on their merry way home, doing some cleaning of the campsite, and some napping and showering (some had not showered in 10 days while on a "vision quest") we celebrated the 4th quite well. There weren't any fireworks, but we had a lovely bonfire and American smores and I enjoyed one last night in Tajmiste before heading off to the next adventure of the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful summary. This gave me a better understanding of the project than the total of all of the clipped comments I got when asking PCVs about the camp. This, and the GLOW project might be the two best things happening here under the auspices of the Peace Corps. You have already made a lasting impact.