Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Summer Camp Fever

Summer in Paraguay is notoriously slow (and hot). Many people go on vacation, schools are all closed, so what’s a volunteer to do? Well, the most common answer is summer camp. Lucky for me, I have three Peace Corps volunteers close by – my neighbors and my friends, and we decided to work together to do summer camps in each of our sites.

We decided early on in December that we should go forward with our idea. We began meeting after Julie and I returned from our vacation in early January. We started meeting over the lunch hour with our two other friends, Jenny and Andrew. We soon realized that if we met around a meal, we spent most of our time preparing the food, then cooking the food, then eating the food and finally resting after eating too much. The end result was that our meetings were less than productive. We amended our meeting times and soon we were on the road to productivity. We all agreed that the them would be the environment and we all decided on activities that focused on different aspects of the environment. It helped that one of us – Jenny, is an Environmental Education volunteer. The materials she provided us all with were invaluable.

We all worked together on deciding the activities that we would do and who would take the lead on each one. The schedule had us working first in my site (in the compania of Yaguarete Cua), next in Neuva Colombia (Jenny’s site), third in Acuna Andrew’s site) and lastly in Altos (Jenny’s site). I structured my 3-day camp in more or less the same way each day: name game, icebreaker, song, main activity, wrap-up. I was very nervous about how many kids would actually turn up. The principal of the school in the community of Yaguarete Cua is a friend of mine and was eager to work with me from the moment I arrived in site. She is also a very well connected member of her community and by having the camp at her home, I had hoped to get a good turnout. I was happy and relieved to have had at least 20 students every day which is the amount I was prepared to have).

Our first day was focused on garbage. Not a very fun or even interesting topic, but Peace Corps has lots of fun and interesting activities for a range of topics –including this one. We talked to the kids about the kinds of garbage that Paraguay produces and about how long different kinds of garbage take to break down (glass, plastics, etc). The second day was all about animals and all of our activities had an animal theme. Our main activity was more fun than educational – we made bird masks. The kids loved it and it was fun to see all of their creativity come alive when they put their masks on. It was also great for them to have something to take home from our camp. The final day was all about trees and deforestation. Another experienced environmental education volunteer (who is in his final year) came and facilitated a fun deforestation activity that really brought home the importance of trees not only for our own use but for animals as well.

We learned a lot from my camp and each successive camp got better and better. We modified activities and added activities and I was left with an excitement in thinking about the next summer camp opportunity (July, this winter). However, truthfully by the end of the last summer camp in Altos, I was glad to have them all behind us and it feel great to finally be done though. I hope to continue to work with my friends on summer camps, they are a great way to not only spend our time but a great way for kids to spend their time as well – and regardless of the work that goes into them, we all end up having a fun time as well!

Well, now the new school year is upon us and I’ve been asked to work with the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders on issues of responsibility. Peace Corps has a great text called Como Planar Mi Vida (How to Plan My Life). I will be sharing this information with students from both the elementary/middle school and the high school (both schools have 7th, 8th and 9th grades) here in the center of town. I hope to work with the compania (rural) schools on service learning as previously planned. My tutoring program is temporarily in limbo but I’m hopeful that once I get to know the students and teachers better that we might still be able to get the program going. At this point, I’m happy to have at least planted the seed of the idea.

In my immediate future (as in the next few days) is moving day. I’m moving out of the place that I’ve been living since September and am moving to the first floor of a 2-story building. It’s a large, lovely space that comes complete with a garden, patio and barbeque area. So, despite having recently completed my sixth month in site, I’m back to settling in anew.

Well friends, until next time…