I know it’s February, but it’s time to talk about camp. Actually, I haven’t stopped talking about camp (more specifically, Camp GLOW- Girls Leading Our World), since last summer, when I hung out with 40 amazing young Jordanian women for a week at Mutah University. Every year these girls apply to camp from all over Jordan and are selected by Peace Corps volunteers based on their English language skills and leadership potential. The camp is conducted entirely in English, and the program focuses on the leadership skills and dialogue important and relevant to girls growing up in Jordan.
Camp GLOW has been a part of Peace Corps worldwide since 1995. The program was developed by a group of volunteers in Romania and has since been implemented by 60 Peace Corps countries throughout the world. Every country has a different interpretation of GLOW- in some countries the program runs multiple times throughout the summer and in others it runs for just one week. In some countries girls are educated on subjects like HIV/AIDS prevention and in others they discuss women’s’ development in the workplace or their cultures’ perception of beauty compared to what they’ve seen in magazines or on television. In every country girls and women have different struggles, different challenges, different perspectives on what it means to be a woman in a growing world. What unites GLOW worldwide is its commitment to the development of skills all women need to grow into strong leaders in their communities: self-care, trust-building and teamwork, creativity and perspective taking. and community involvement.
I was struck by my experience with GLOW last July, and since then I’ve been working with a few other volunteers to expand the program beyond the one week program at a university. Girls who want to participate in GLOW face a number of obstacles- not only does the current program require girls to have excellent speaking skills in English, but they also have to be willing to leave their homes and families and travel to a place they’ve never seen before to spend a week with complete strangers. Most teenage girls in Jordan have never spent a single night away from their families. For the past few months I’ve been working on a project that will help remove some of the obstacles GLOW applicants face by bringing the camp curriculum to villages around Jordan. Together with a group of volunteers I’ve created a program called Day GLOW, which matches the goals and curriculum used in the university camp, but that can be led in Arabic by volunteers all over Jordan at a village level. Two weeks ago with the help of four other volunteers, I put the program to the test- and despite a number of issues (we may or may not have conducted the entire camp in another volunteer’s living room, for example), it was a clear success.
I’ll be spending the next few months taking steps to make the program available to other volunteers- writing a manual, putting together powerpoint slides, and materials and leading a workshop for volunteers who will then be ready to put on Day GLOW from villages all over Jordan. It’s been very exciting to see all of this begin to take shape, especially because I know these girls and I know how much opportunities like GLOW can change lives. In the words of one camper last summer, ”I will close my eyes and I will think of my future as a leader, then I will open my eyes and I will realize that it isn’t a dream because I know that women can do everything.”