Sunday, August 26, 2012


For the past three weeks I have been in a town called Léo preparing for and helping run a camp for Junior High aged young people. A number of you made contributions so that we could hold this camp, and I thought you might like to hear a bit about it. I will, of course, be doing an in-person report to the two churches that gave such generous support to the camp.

The camp took place on the campus of the Provincial Lycée. It has a fairly large campus, with about 10 classroom buildings with 2 classrooms in each one. They look like they have been here for quite a while.
It is clear that a German gymnasium (high school) provided a lot of financial help for the school at sometime in the past because various buildings and furniture have labels in German showing they were provided by the gymnasium.
Those things sitting on the desk are water filters.  One of the things we talked about with the students was the importance of drinking clean water.

Our first task was to move all of the bench/desks out of a number of the classrooms. Here are some of the volunteers hauling them to the room where we stacked them.
We stuffed it full! We thought that, at the end of the camp we would have to put it all back, but another camp started the day we left, so we were off the hook on that one!
We set up three of the rooms as sleeping quarters for 20 students each. One of the things Peace Corps is involved in here is to try to reduce the number of cases of malaria in the country. Léo has a lot of mosquitoes, because it gets more rain than much of the rest of the country. In Africa, mosquitoes = malaria, so mosquito nets were needed, two campers per net. At the end of the camp, each camper was given a mosquito net to take home.
There was electricity in most of the rooms. Usually there were four fluorescent light bars, one on each wall, but usually only a couple were working. Here is an example of the kind of electrical wiring you see here.

In each block of buildings usually there was only one room with an electrical outlet. The room where all the women slept in did not have any lights or electrical outlets. Most of the women had brought "bug huts," aka screen tents, to sleep in.

After setting up we did a three day "Training of Trainers" session during which we tried to demonstrate to the Burkinabè who were helping as camp leaders the methods we wanted to use in the camp. Peace Corps favors teaching methods that have lots of participant involvement. This is quite different from the approach our counterparts are used to using in the classroom. Here we are doing the "Human Knot" activity. People stand in an circle and join hands with two other people who are NOT next to them. The task is to untangle the knot created by doing this. 

After two days of that, we looked at all the sessions we would be doing with the students and divided them among ourselves. We spent the third day planning what we would do in each session with the other people working on that session. We tried to have a Burkinabè facilitator paired with a Peace Corps volunteer for most sessions. That was a really good idea because the campers could understand the Burkinabè better than the Peace Corps volunteers, and the Burkinabè could understand what the campers were saying when we Americans sometimes could not. The first week was for girls and the second week for guys, thus camp G2LOW, Girls and Guys Leading Our World. Here is the sign that welcomed them.
Sessions were held in a classroom and topics covered gender equality, sex education, understanding of violence, decision making, tree planting, and health topics like good nutrition, avoiding malaria, good hygiene, and treating diarrhea. The group was divided into five teams and in many sessions the teams met separately to discuss issues of come up with ideas on a topic.

After these discussions, each team presented what they had talked about to the rest of the group.
The first week we have 60 enthusiastic girls. Here you can see them in the classroom, with may wanting to participate. Here, you not only raise your hand when you want to answer a question, you snap your fingers to get the teacher's attention, and sometimes even call out "me, me!"

One of the activities the students particularly like is putting on skits to show an idea. If they can act out the parts of people doing things wrong and others doing things right, or showing the consequences of such behavior, it means they did get the idea. Most of them were interesting and some were down-right funny. Some of the students had clearly seen some over-acting on soap operas and really hammed it up.

While many of the sessions were the same for the girls and the boys, the girls got to put on the camp t-shirts and march into town singing a song (in French) that you may know in English, Everywhere we go, People want to know, Who we are, So we tell them, We are the girls, The mighty, mighty girls!

The march ended at the mayor's compound where each of the five teams planted a tree.
During the boys' week we did not go into town but the boys learned how to prepare what they call peppiners, that is how to plant seeds and get them started in individual plastic bags that you buy safe drinking water in. Here are some of the boys filling their little plastic bags with compost enriched dirt.
Students took a pre-test when they first arrived at the camp and took the same test on their last day. It was clear from our statistics that the campers had, indeed, learned something at the camp. Combining the data from the girls and boys, overall they got 42% of the answers right and on the post test they got 68% right. I did scoring and data entry and I know that this may not reflect the whole story because there were several questions where they had to list three or four things to get credit for the question. A lot of students had nothing to say on a question on the pretest and listed several things on the post test, but just not enough. It was also clear that there were still things they needed to learn, but we only had them for a week (five days, really, because the first and last day were opening and closing ceremonies and travel). In any case, I enjoyed the time with the students, and it was a great way to end my service here in Burkina Faso.

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