5/5/14 – 10/5/14
I feel exhausted beyond belief; it’s actually funny because I feel just as tired as the many sleepless nights spent during my College of Engineering days in Boston University. We finally finished the last day of Camp BUILD (Boys of Uganda in Leadership and Development) at the Ocer Secondary School in Gulu, Uganda. Tired and delirious doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel right now at 1am after the final celebrations for the week.
I will be brief in my description of camp, because I aim to post a video documentary about camp within the following month.
This week was dedicated to providing an educational and fun camp experience for Ugandan males aged 16-18. They arrived on Sunday and were sorted into different colored groups that corresponded to different leaders ranging from national heroes such as Nelson Mandela to local leaders such as Tekya Abraham who founded Breakdance Project Uganda. Like other leadership camps, the week progressed with a theme revolving around heroes and villains. Monday and Tuesday were devoted to focus group sessions concerning HIV/AIDS, Agribusiness, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), Nutrition, and Malaria. In addition to these sessions were classes based on leadership, public speaking, creativity, heroes vs. villains, and the sticky issue of gender in Uganda.
Each group was led by a PCV counselor and a Ugandan co-counselor. The sessions were also taught in a similar fashion by PCV and Ugandan specialists. Out of all of these classes, I thought that the gender classes were extremely intriguing. Uganda has a very interesting gender dynamic where men are seen as being very superior to women. For example, a woman must kneel when they meet men, especially if she is that man’s wife. Men are also allowed to have several wives and if a girl gets pregnant in school, then she is forced to leave and the guy who impregnated her can still remain.
The goals of the camp were to empower the campers to become leaders in their own right, as well as to become more knowledgeable in subject areas that are important to emphasize in developing countries such as Uganda. As the week progressed, the campers were given more and more responsibility for the focus group sessions. Then on Friday the campers presented skits, dances, and demonstrations involving the subjects of the focus groups, while incorporating the skills learned through the other sessions.
Another big contribution to the success of the camp was the inclusion of the In Movement, which is an organization based in Kampala that utilizes singing, art, and dance to inspire Ugandans of all ages and groups. Its members, who are Ugandan, have worked with students from schools over Uganda as well as various other camps.
This camp has drained me of my energy reserves, especially as the Media Specialist Staff member. I was in charge not only of documenting the activities of camp and making the Facebook Page, but also of taking videos in order to eventually make a mini-documentary showing what Camp BUILD is all about, and making the end of camp slideshow.
Honestly, I don’t think that there is any easy job at camp. And as the days progressed, the thousands of white ants started swarming in the night, the electricity would go off, the bathrooms would flood, the campers would get rowdier, and the counselors and staff would stink since we couldn’t wash our camp shirts for a week.
But I’m hooked. Even though I was unable to bond on a more personal level with the campers like the counselors did, I felt that I contributed in my own way to the success of this camp by using a skill that I had. With the theme of Heroes in mind, In Movement created a simple song that could be sung by three different groups of people. Two of the groups sing, “We are the ones, we are the ones waiting” in harmony as the third group sings, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Despite its simplicity, as the groups combine and merge together while still singing their distinct parts, I couldn’t help but feel that I was doing the right thing here. I mean, who else can say that they helped volunteer at a summer camp for Ugandan teenagers as a Peace Corps Volunteer
We wanted the campers to know that they shouldn’t wait for someone to help them or to lead the way to a better future, but to understand that they are the ones whom they’ve been waiting; they are their own heroes. I can’t believe that camp and IST are already over, but that’s how time works over here in Uganda.