Category Archives: Camp

GLOW/TOBE

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My last week in Romania was spent at Jeremy’s site in Valea Calgureasca at the last ever PCRO GLOW/TOBE camp and I couldn’t have ended my service on a better note. The camp had an extremely rocky start due to an emergency change of venue about 4 days before the camp was set to start which, in turn, caused many other issues such as communication problems, travel adjustments, and lack of resources. Throughout the week we felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants trying to plan activities and constantly having to re-arrange the schedule.

This year was the first time SPV had a co-ed camp which included GLOW and TOBE together and it proved to be quite an interesting experience. Throughout the camp, we at the girls’ camp had our fair share drama and minor discipline issues that we had to deal with and with the boys being just one floor below the girls, we had a whole other set of issues that we didn’t even think about before hand. Despite the issues, the kids had a great experience and I do think there were more benefits of having the two camps together than withdrawals. And at the end of the day, if they went home with even a few pieces of knowledge and experience that empowered them and made an impact in their lives, that is enough for me and I can call it a success.

I also have to send a shout out to what i consider the best working team that I have been a part of during my service. We had three volunteers come from Moldova (Kim, Matt, Julie) along with having our very own Abby, Jon, Stephen and Jeremy and our HCN from SPV Andreea. The 9 of us formed a fabulous team and I enjoyed working with everyone and loved the passion and creative problem solving that everyone brought to the table.

I’m back in the states now which is just a whirlwind of emotions that I honestly haven’t processed yet. I also would like to announce that I do plan on keeping up with this blog once I head to Ireland at the end of the summer so you all can keep up with my misadventures.

CLICK HERE FOR CAMP PICTURES

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Around Romania in Two Weeks

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Above in red, you will see the path that I have taken throughout the country since my last post which was about the All Vol on August 24th.  Within the past two weeks I have spent more time on public transportation than I care to admit but it was all worth it.

After coming back from the PC conference and repacking, I headed on my 16 hour train ride to visit Barbara’s site which is located in Drobeta-Turnu Severin. I met up with Meg and Lindsey there as well and we had fun hanging out for a few days with Babs. We walked around the town and got to see Serbia from her balcony. We bonded over homemade Mexican food and no bake cookies. I was very impressed with this city because, at that point, it was the cleanest city that I had seen in Romania. I did not see a single piece of litter anywhere on the streets and was blown away by this fact.

Two days after getting to Barbara’s, Meg and I said our goodbyes to the girls and started the 12 hour journey to her site that included 4 different trains and a taxi. Meg’s site is located in the Szekeyfold which is the Hungarian part of Romania. her city of Odorheiu Secuiesc is about 95% Hungarian. I was somewhat thrown off by this, especially since Hungarian is the main spoken language and you have to ask people to speak in Romanian to you. Meg’s city is absolutely beautiful and I fell in love with it. It is another city that is absolutely spotless and have a very quaint feel to it with local shops lining the streets and a very adorable and pedestrian friendly city center.

We hung out at Meg’s site for about 4 days and this included a lot of relaxation time which was somewhat needed. We visited the local hobby store and made jewelry, thought up ideas for our booths at the PC Gala event the Ambassador is holding for us, hung out with her counterpart and had a day trip to Corund.

Corund is a village that is located about half an hour north by bus from Odorheiu Secuiesc and is known for its gorgeous pottery. We spent a few hours in the village roaming the various shops and being blown away by how beautiful all of the handcrafted work was. We also got a chance to have a very interesting tri-lingual exchange with a local cafe owner and a young man from the village. As we were sitting in the cafe waiting for our bus back, we struck up a conversation with these two people. The young man knew Romanian, Hungarian, and decent amount of English. The cafe owner knew Hungarian and Romanian. Meg has a god grasp of Hungarian since that is all she speaks in her town, and I had my Romanian. Between the four of us, we managed to have a wonderful conversation about various topics and it was such a great experience to see how all of the different languages were mixed when we didn’t know a word in one language or another.

That Monday Meg and I made the 6 hour trip of hell from Odorhei to Bucuresti. When we got on the initial bus that was going to take us from Odorhei to Brasov, it smelled of vomit. It smelled like someone got drunk and puked over every square inch of that bus to the point of me having to breath through my mouth for the entirety of the 3 hour trip. When we got to Brasov, we missed 2 maxi taxis going to Bucuresti because they were filled. We got the last two spots on the third one and ended up in the very back corner. 1.5 hours into the ride the AC decided to stop cooling and just recirculated the hot air. By the time we were about half an our away from the city, people were starting to yell at the driver because of the heat. The thermometer that was at the front read 32 degrees which is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the driver couldn’t do anything, he just put a piece of paper over the thermostat hoping no one would notice. Smooth.

After arriving at our hostel in Buc, we showered, changed, and headed out to the mall to meet up with Lindsey and the new PCRV Robert who lives in Bucuresti to see Batman. All I can say about that movie is WOW. It definitely did NOT disappoint. We followed up our movie night with some wine and relaxation in the old center part of the city.

The following afternoon we packed our bags once again and headed down to the seaside town of Mangalia. Mangalia is a very quaint town situated about 10km from the Bulgarian border. There really wasn’t much to see there but there was a wonderful beach that we made sure to hang out at as long as possible. The nights were spent relaxing and eating seafood meals that are so rare everyone else in the country.

The final stop of my crazy summer traveling session was the Hotel Rozmarin in Predeal. I, with 4 other PCVs went to a weekend long “job well done” conference that was put on by the Eu Sunt! Tu? campaign and members from PSI (Public Services International). PSI is worldwide NGO that focuses on various health issues such as HIV, Malaria, and reproductive health. At this conference, there were about 160 people from the LGBT community throughout all of Romania. Teams from 10 major cities within the country came to share their projects that they have put on within the past year in relation to various LGBT awareness topics.

The first day of the conference was mainly just a meet and greet. The second day, Saturday, was comprised of meetings in the morning where we put on a very education STI activity that I did at GLOW camp, and we heard about the various projects that have occurred within the past year. After lunch, the entire group got on a bus and we divided ourselves into city based teams ( Meg and I were put with team Brasov) to compete in a 4 hour long teamwork obstacle course of sorts. The various challenges we had to do were, got down on a zip line, cross a tightrope, move three metal balls from their stands onto other stands by only using rope, complete an obstacle course by moving 2 tied up bicycles through the course without touching them, and placing bowling pins on various targets while being suspended up in the air. Throughout the challenges, we got to know the various participants from the Brasov team and we instantly became friends with them. Most of the team is fairly young ranging from 18-24. They were all absolutely amazing people that were really welcoming and kind. We had a blast joking around with them and I even learned how the gay community greats each other. That night was the all white party and I can honestly say it was one of the funnest nights I’ve had in Romania. It was absolute mayhem and we ended up dancing with team Brasov until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday many of us woke up with that awful feeling one wakes up with after a long night of fun. Not wanting to get out of bed, but knowing that checkout was in half an hour, I managed to drag myself out of bed, take a shower, and head down to the train station to wait for my train. When Meg and I got to the train station, we ran into our lovely friends from Team Brasov who ended up being my life savers. When we got off the train in Brasov, Meg had an hour long layover while I had about a 7 hour layover. A few of the guys that lived outside of the city invited me home with them so I can relax until my train back to site at 9pm. Me, Adi, Razvan, and George headed to Rasnov for the day and we ended up hanging out at George’s apartment. It was nice to hang out with these amazing and strong people for one more day before I had to say goodbye.

I arrived home today at about 5am and passed out for most of the day. I am very happy to be home but know that I have so much work ahead of me. With school starting in a week, some faculty changes, the Gala event in 2 weeks, and many other projects and travel dates coming up, i’m going to be quite the busy bee this semester.

Until next time,

Va pup

Click here for pictures!

English Camp That Was Not

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So Mary and I had planned a pretty amazing English day camp for the students within the area. We had this planned since the end of the school year. We advertised at the end of the school year, had a facebook event, and I made sure to talk to every single student I ran into leading up to the event.  Megan, Meg, Grant, Aran, and Jeremy all came into town to help facilitate the event as well. On the first day of camp, which was to start at 9 in the morning, we had 5 kids show up. 3 current hig hschool students, 1 future student, and 1 high-schooler that lives in Ireland and is just in town for the summer. We waited until 9:30 in the morning to see if anyone else was going to show up and after they didn’t, I quite disappointingly cancelled the camp.

It is really upsetting when all the students always complain how life in Singeorz is so boring but then when I give them an outlet for that boredom, they don’t take advantage of it. I was really bummed the entire day because I did work very hard to make a pretty awesome schedule and Mary worked a lot with the Eco-Rodna organization to plan a cabin trip for the last two days.

Even though the camp was a failure (not the first one i’ve had at site either) we have still made the best of it. It has been very nice and relaxing just hanging out with some of my closest PC friends for a week not having anything to do. We’ve been keeping ourselves occupied with arts and crafts, walking, lots of cooking, eating, and drinking, and card games since the weather hasn’t been very cooperative either.

We are in town until the end of the week. We then hope to head down to Jeremy’s site by Ploiesti for a few days before we head to an all volunteer PC training event in Bucuresti. The summer is winding down and I can’t wait until school starts so I can get back into a routine.

Until next time,

Va pup!

GLOW Camp Version 2.0

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So I just got done with my second GLOW camp of my service and man was it exhausting! This year’s group of girls were great but there were some that just didn’t mesh very well with the GLOW mindset. This year proved to be very challenging and by the end of it, I think we as facilitators did a great job of working with the circumstances and being much more flexible with the participants than we ever planned to be.

The first challenge that we encountered was that one of the girls was sent to GLOW camp as a punishment. Mind you, we designed these camps to be a catalyst for change and non formal education. We base them around learning life skills, and promoting volunteerism so when we heard that she was here on punishment and that her dad filled out the application we were shocked and honestly didn’t know how to react. It was a challenge that we had to face and I am happy to say that by the end of it, the participant got something good out of it like learning to be more patient.

This year’s group of girls were big on going to the local “magazin” (shop) to buy random junk food and snacks. This was also something that we were taken aback by since we provide all the meals at the camp along with various healthy snacks and deserts. We did end up letting them take a trip to the magazin on the way back from the hike where they almost bought out the entire store and came back to camp with stuffed backpacks. We had a few issues when it came to food preferences that at some points drove us and the ever so patient kitchen staff crazy but, we managed to get through that as well.

Finally, the last and probably most important issue we had was a virus. We had a virus go around that affected about 80% of the participants and all of us facilitators that caused us to expel our food from either orifice. The bug lasted about a day for most and then everything was better. We did have to send some girls home that got hit really hard and weren’t getting much better. We still aren’t sure where it came from or if somebody brought it with her. All we know is that it wasn’t from the food or the water because not everyone got sick and we all were eating the same things and drinking out of the same faucets. Due to this, we also used up a lot more toilet paper than we had planned and the 3 bathrooms that were available never sufficed and someone was always left waiting in agony for a stall to open up.

Enough about the bad stuff! The girls were great, honestly. We all had a blast and I wish we would have been able to fit more sessions in but we got the big ones in that we wanted to such as communication, teamwork, sex ed, body image, and project design management. Reading the evaluations that the girls left us, there are a lot of positives and many things that the girls have taken away from this camp so i’d chalk it up as a success.

Currently i’m hanging out an extra night in Agas because my train was running late which would have caused me to miss my connection in Miercurea Ciuc. Even with Miha’s wonderfully drawn bubble letter sign that I used to try to hitchhike in, there weren’t many cars on the road at 8:30 pm headed 60km away to M.Ciuc so I decided to just try again tomorrow. Maybe it’s for the better that I have to stay another night because now I have the opportunity to watch the USA vs SRB waterpolo match (GO SERBIA) and I get to hang out with Miha in peace and quiet for an entire day since I won’t get to see her until next year’s GLOW camp.

SPV/PC GLOW/TOBE Camp TTT Conference

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Just like every organization, we loooove our acronyms. For the past week I have attended the Scoala Pentru Viata and Peace Corps partnership Girls Leading Our World and Teaching Our Boys to Excel Camps Train the Trainers Conference in the sleepy little town of Cisnadioara in Sibiu county. This is it. This is the big project I have been working on for the past 8 months and it is finally over and in my opinion, was a success. We won’t know for sure how successful it was until we see what local projects develop from the facilitators that came but I have a feeling great things are going to happen and we have a great start to creating an extremely sustainable GLOW/TOBE projects.

The first session was from July 19-22 and the group was absolutely fantastic. I made some great connections with NGO members as close to me as Nasaud. I’m hoping that new opportunities do sprout from these meetings and that I can keep on touch with at least the people in my area to see how they are progressing with their GLOW/TOBE ideas. The second session was from July 22-25 and went just as well. It was much easier doing it the second time around because we all, as organizers and facilitators, knew what to expect and could streamline our days and presentations that much more. The second group was also a blast and I have a strong feeling that many projects will come out of this group as well. We also had the privilege of having two PC Moldova volunteers come as participants and not only have I made two new friends in the country next door, they proved to be a great asset and offered a lot of ideas.

Our days were pretty packed and started at 9 am and went until 5:30 with one big break for lunch and then two smaller coffee breaks. At 7 we had dinner and then after 7 was a time to get to know the other volunteers and buy out the entire town of all of it’s beer. (no joke) For the second session we unexpectedly had to move the sleeping arrangements to a different pensiune (bed and breakfast) in town and it definitely worked out for our benefit. This new one was much nicer AND it had a huge pool in the back with a nice garden with hammocks and a trampoline. Needless to say, I think you all know where we spent our free time during the second session. The last night of the conference, after dinner, we hosted a little bonfire where we showed them another experiential learning activity that involved some acting, gender role confusing, togas, and me hissing and cooing at participants. This was followed by a bonfire with s’mores which the Romanians were so ecstatic about after they tried them and it was a great way to spend one last night together and relax.

The next leg of my adventure is to spend two days in Sibiu in Miha’s apartment relaxing with my co-facilitators and preparing for our GLOW camp that is starting on Sunday. After the TTT, I am in the GLOW spirit more than ever and can’t wait to see the new batch of girls that will hopefully one day run this country.

Here are some videos and pictures from both conferences.

 

Money

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As many of you know, I’ve been working very hard with a fellow volunteer and some host country nationals to create a training of the trainers conference for future GLOW/TOBE camp facilitators. We are also working on putting on our own GLOW and TOBE camps this summer and could really use your help. Due to economic constraints everywhere, grant funds are very limited to us and we are reaching out to all of our US contacts to help us raise funds to put on these amazing camps. I would really appreciate your help and contribution to make these camps a success. They really do leave a great lasting impression on the participants.

Here is a little background info/history about the camps. Remember GLOW stands for Girls Leading our World and TOBE stands for Together Our Boys Excel. They are the same principle of camp only geared toward a specific sex.

The GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camps were initially started by female Peace Corps volunteers serving in Romania in 1995. Since then, the GLOW camp model has spread across the entire Peace Corps world and has been adapted by volunteers to meet the needs of their specific countries. They have become the main camps within the Peace Corps community that are run by women, for women.

GLOW camps take place during the summers and bring together young women throughout the entire country that want to create a social change within their communities. The goal of GLOW camps is to develop leadership and communication skills within young Romanian women to become more productive citizens. This goal is accomplished through a weeklong camp that is specifically designed to teach the beneficiaries about community project development and implementation, self-awareness, activism, and career and life development. In addition, the camps strive to build beneficiaries’ self esteem and confidence, increase their assertiveness, and to encourage them to live healthier lives through personal health and STI/AIDS prevention sessions along with physical health and sport sessions as well.

Every participant is required to complete his or her own project after leaving the camp and we have seen some great ideas spring from our camps. The current NGO that we work with was actually co-founded by a GLOW graduate who is now the main organizer of GLOW and TOBE camps.

Please follow this link below and donate! Your help would be immensely appreciated!

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=403-140