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GIVING BACK | Camp GLOW project (Zambia, East Africa)

You know that little blurb you see in our Etsy shop and on our packaging that says "circling the earth with smiles: we donate to worldwide youth development projects for every toy sold"?   Well here's your chance to learn more about the good things that your Smiling Tree purchases support!  We're excited to share some pictures and details of Camp GLOW - the Peace Corps project in Zambia, east Africa that we supported during 2011.  The following was written by the Peace Corps Volunteer who coordinated the project:

"In August 2011, twenty female students and ten teachers met in the eastern region of Zambia to partake in a five day training camp focusing on promoting gender awareness and female empowerment. Called Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), the participating girls and teachers traveled from various rural communities throughout the east. The goal of the camp was to provide the knowledge and tools necessary for participants to address gender obstacles with their home communities. In Zambia, these obstacles include high rates of early marriage, early pregnancy, unsafe and often forced sexual experiences, elevated school dropout rates, discouragement of female leadership, and a general subjugation of females within the community. This camp provided the opportunity for girls to share experiences with one another and arm themselves with skills such as self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, identifying sexual assault, goal setting, awareness of rights, leadership and communication skills."

"Camp participants and their teacher brainstorm ideas on how to bring the GLOW club back to their school and community. The girls and teachers are the ones who will lead the GLOW clubs back in their communities. Girls and their teachers talk about HIV, healthy relationships, self confidence and girls rights.  These are all important topics that affect gender equality in Zambia."  
"This debate was about the positive and negative impacts of early marriage on young females.Peace Corps Volunteers acted as facilitators and educators throughout Camp GLOW. After taking part in the camp, female students and their teacher counterparts returned to their respective communities to share their knowledge and start local GLOW clubs, encouraging the integration of gender equality and awareness into school curriculum and various communities activities, followed up by the PCV in the participating community."

"The ultimate goal of Camp GLOW was to encourage the next generation of Zambian female leaders by connecting them with the role models, knowledge, skills, and peer support networks necessary to make sustainable advances in gender equity in Zambia."

"This is the 'Sugar Daddy' Game. Girls stand in a circle and practice saying "no!" to one of the volunteers who's pretending to be a sugar daddy. This game promotes self confidence and also encourages girls to stand up for each other."

And lastly, here's a hand-signed thank you that we received from one of the girls who took part in the camp:

Something about being able to see and touch that letter with its carefully penned signature was the most meaningful part for me; more than seeing the women and girls in the pictures, and more than hearing the Peace Corps Volunteer's description of the event.  Deliwe and her emerald green marker remind me that for her, our modest donation to the Camp GLOW project really did make a positive difference.  It brings back visions of the pearly white, bright smiles of girls who lived around us in our Nigerien village when we were Peace Corps Volunteers.   

We learned very quickly that we couldn't fix everyone's problems while we were there, but we did our absolute best, gave it our all, and were able to make the lives of many in our little village in Niger, West Africa just a little brighter.  And it's really all about the small, intangible things in life, isn't it?

xx Kathleen

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