Saturday, October 22, 2011

G is for GAGA

Camp GAGA: Enduring Environmental Education for a Changing World

The wait is over. The planning, preparation, and anticipation are all a thing of the past. Camp Girls About Global Awareness, widely known as GAGA among the Peace Corps community, has come and gone. Basse (a center of the eastern end of the country) found itself playing host to an exceptional group of girls and teachers representing every region of the Gambia, from urban KMC all the way to the rural URR, and everyone went home richer for the experience.

Many things came as a pleasant surprise: the girls’ willingness to participate during sessions, the teachers’ enthusiasm for the topics we brought forth, the volunteers dedication to the cause, even the bearable climate (Basse was kind to a coastal girl that week). The camp began with an upwelling of support in the form of a visit from some embassy and PC staff (Cindy, Roberto, Suzy, and our own Heather) and this positive momentum continued throughout the week.

The girls were faced with some big new ideas; even the concept of decomposition was foreign to them. Thanks to our fantastic teambuilding coordinator, Abby, the girls learned a song, “Biodegradable,” which tied everything together, complete with some sweet dance moves. They learned the song Monday night and sang it often throughout the week, to give them a break in between sessions or just because. The volunteers had as much fun as the girls, leading them from the front of the bantaba and getting down to the song about garbage. Marta has kindly posted a video of once such performance on the Camp GAGA facebook page.

One of the most exceptional things about the camp was it gave many volunteers a chance to showcase their classroom skills, which became a form of teaching itself. The teachers, who spent the first few days observing, were wowed not only by the phenomenal teaching aids the volunteers prepared for each lesson, but also their very presence in front of a class. Catherine and Julie, who ably handled the teacher curriculum, based it around observations early, and, as the week progressed, expanded it to discussions not only about the content of the sessions (which the teachers could not get enough of) but also how the sessions were taught and how the teachers could apply these skills in their classrooms.

The camp ended with a talent show designed to get the girls thinking about how they were going to take home the lessons they learned that week. A talent show was a foreign concept, so Koko, Alex, Kelsey, Steph, and myself performed an impromptu one while they waited for lunch one day. Later, many of the volunteers performed a drama written by the tireless Erica (our life skills coordinator who never failed to ask the right questions and schedule the right sessions) that was so good I don’t want to spoil it…you’ll just have to see it at the 50th celebration! The girls, encouraged by meetings with the volunteer who accompanied them, put together acts in groups of two are more. The show itself was quite the affair…curtains, a banner, lights, cold drinks, even a DJ, and of course, honorable guest judges Saikou and Haddy. Modou from FAWEGAM (our community partner), Julia (my partner in crime) and myself rounded out the panel. Erin, our emcee and talent show organizer, kept everything running smoothly. The girls did dramas, songs, and poems about the environment and how to preserve it. Even the teachers favored us with a dance. The content of the acts was truly impressive, and the girls’ creativity was unprecedented as well. After the show, the music played and the girls danced the night away, at least until lights out at 10 pm. They had a long week, and plenty to take home with them, including a concrete plan made by each pair of girls and their volunteer for a way to apply the ideas learned at camp in their villages. I look forward to hearing the outcome of their plans to increase environmental awareness at home.

1 comment:

  1. Great Job! Your hard work paid off. Glad you could reach the teachers also. I'm very proud of you. Love,