Peace Corps loves summer camps. I had the (mostly) pleasure of participating in two back-to-back summer camps a couple weeks ago. I originally volunteered for one, a TOBE (more on this later) camp, but after another camp was left shorthanded I decided to help with that one also.
At the camp, the kids were split into four teams. I led Team Seattle, obviously we ‘won.’ The 5 day camp was filled with sports, hanging out at the beach and teaching the kids about topics like leadership and teamwork. My team was awesome. My kids were creative and really fun to hang out with. Most of the kids had learned quite a bit of English and they were some of the most ambitious kids I’ve met.
As the sports camp was winding down, the TOBE camp was beginning. They overlapped by a day but conveniently for me were at the same location so I easily moved from one to the other. TOBE was an entirely different type of camp from the sports camp. TOBE stands for ‘Teaching Our Boys to Excel’ and goes along with GLOW camps (Girls Leading Our World.) These camps are funded by Peace Corps grants and entirely planned by current Peace Corps Volunteers, many PC posts around the world host these camps. The idea behind these camps is to teach boys in Kyrgyzstan about a variety of topics they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed too such as leadership, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS and sex ed. All of the volunteers’ counterparts also came with us to this camp. The camp was conducted entirely in Kyrgyz so our counterparts were instrumental in making the camp a success.
The kids weren’t split specifically into teams but each volunteer’s city or village invited a number of the boys. Along with the invite to the camp came the responsibility for the boys to lead clubs in their village/city when they were done on a variety of topics. The goal was for the reach of the lessons we taught to extend beyond just the boys that attended. The camp was a big change from the Sports Camp as that was mostly about fun with a little English thrown in and TOBE was about trying to teach the boys some serious topics. Along with my counterpart (mostly my counterpart,) I led sessions on healthy relationships, public speaking and leadership. I think they were mostly successful. The boys understood my Kyrgyz more often than not and for the healthy relationship topic we were able to use some girls who were there for another session as guinea pigs for the boys to demonstrate how they’d talk to girls. This of course led to a lot of embarrassment and laughter which was pretty hilarious to watch.
The camp wasn’t all great. I did manage to get food poisoning or something like that near the end. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say you’ll have to trust me that simultaneous diarrhea and vomiting while using a squat toilet is about the worst thing in the world. Just add me to the list of people in our group who’ve gotten sick, it’s a long one. But as time as time passes, bad memories fade and good stay. Photos help. Here are more photos of the good parts of camp:
Videos of each group performing their skits