Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winter Camp!

Last week was the first time in ten years that I attended a camp! This time around was quite different than my last camp experience! Not only was there no bon fire and marshmellos but it was also in the dead of winter! Initially the idea of a winter camp was absolutly absurd to me but with the current situation for students it made perfect sense as to why camps right now is the perfect idea! Let me explain, due to the lack of electricity and the harsh winters, almost all of the schools in Kyrgyzstan closed for the months of January and February. As a result many of the volunteer teachers, who were not looking forward to being cold and bored during the break, designed winter camps to keep students out of trouble and their minds active. Throughout Kyrgyzstan there are camps taking place about a whole variety of things but I decided to help out two of my friends that designed a camp on life skills.

With their students selected, a mini army of volunteers to control the mass of children and a small budget to work with, my two fellow volunteers pulled together an awesome camp! It was a six day, five night camp in a sanatorium in Bazaar Korgon which is a small town just outside of Jalal Abad City. Each day the kids attended three sessions on life skills. We cover subjects including; life goals, communication, relationships, HIV/AIDS, team building, problem solving, self esteem and presentation giving. I was in charge of life goals and communication, for both sessions I had a Kyrgyz volunteer help me translate a brief statement about goals or communication and then we would play a game that would reinforce what they had just learned. For example in the communication session we played telephone to practice speaking clearly, a game where students had to listen and repeat what they had heard (it was a lot more fun than it sounds, I let them throw a ball of yarn around) and for body language I had them get into teams and play charades.

After their three sessions for the day the students had two hours of activities including sports, art, English club, debate, dance or a movie. I was in charge of art. One day we decorated envelopes with magazine pictures and told them that these envelopes served as excellent wallets, another day we made friendship bracelets and for each day we had a new craft for the students to partake in. I was really afraid that the students wouldn’t take to any of the activities but it was amazing! Every activity, session and game that we played was a total hit with the kids! I really believe it’s because they had never done anything like this before and so there was no bar to compare it to!

In the evenings we would have games including Mafia, a scavenger hunt, a movie night and other fun games that would exhaust the children and put them to sleep. By the end of the week my daily mantra had become "Exaust the children so they will sleep so I can sleep!" The first couple nights were pretty rought. On the first night they were all so excited to be there that they were up late into the night giggling, and the second night they decided to reinact some American movie and put toothpaste on each other while they were sleeping! Sounds cute now but it definatly wasn't at the time!!!

All the meals were served there- as you can imagine I was terrified since I am not the biggest fan of Kyrgyz food or camp food! So to avoid starvation I had made four batches of granola and two batches of pumpkin bread! Luckily for me the food was fine and they even gave us fruit a couple of times!!! By the end of camp I was exhausted but I had so much fun! The kids had been great, I had a enjoyed setting up sessions and art classes and I got to work with some really great volunteers. Plus I learned how camps work in Kyrgyzstan so hopefully this summer I will be able to put together my own camp for some Jalal Abad City students!

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