Anika Goyal, 128 YinD
My “Shooting for Gender Equality” soccer camp was designed to break down gender barriers through a sport that many kids here love. I wanted my community to know that it is important for girls to feel empowered to pursue any goals they have despite what people tell them, and that it is equally important for young men to learn how they can support and encourage their female peers in order to develop positive masculinity. With the help of my SAO, Peace Corps, student staff and fellow volunteers, this camp was a great success!
This project has been a passion of mine for many months now. After living in my community for a while I realized a few things; my SAO has never done a camp or big project related to youth development and they were not sure how to organize one. They were also very unaware of my role and capabilities as a volunteer. Of course, I am young and can barely communicate with them, so I think many of my coworkers were not sure if they could trust me to plan such a thing. In school, I noticed that students (and staff) don’t have a basic knowledge of the difference between sex and gender and gender roles are subtly enforced every day throughout the community. I also noticed a lack of structured soccer practices for kids who are interested. Many kids love to play soccer but have never been taught the basic techniques and rules. Finally, I noticed that many girls are interested in playing but are too shy to try since they are told it’s a “man’s sport.” When the boys play they don’t include the girls, but even when girls do play, they are told they’re not as good. Therefore, young girls lack the confidence to even step on the field and try. After noticing and understanding these issues, I finally decided to plan this 2-day soccer and gender equality camp for a large group of students in my community.
My SAO was very supportive and helpful throughout the whole process. They gave me a decent budget and let me plan it my way. I wanted to have lessons to introduce the concept of gender equality; specifically, sex vs. gender, gender-based violence, gender in the media, and trust between genders. I also wanted to plan soccer sessions to really teach students the fundamentals of soccer so that they can develop as players. We had about 40 P6-M3 students (with a pretty even split between boys and girls) who are interested in soccer. PCVs Gifford (128), Jena (128) and Ian (128) came to help as soccer coaches. They were each paired up with a student from the Sukhothai Institute of Physical Education. I had these students come help because I did not have any interested staff members in my community to help with soccer. Dome, Boo and Taenggua are students from Chiang Rai University who have helped with PC events recently and having them there was extremely crucial in executing the gender equality lessons. Khun Kaew was so helpful during the planning process and it was great having her and Khun Lisa there to see my plan in action. My SAO was very diligent in making sure things were organized and prepared for lessons, snacks, lunch and transportation. All of these staff members were most of the reason this camp was such a success. So if you plan to have a camp like this at site, make sure to carefully think about who you want there to help.
Here are some of the things that worked at my camp and things I would suggest to change. Having a staff training the day before my camp was very helpful because it gave everyone a chance to become familiar with the curriculum and each other. As I said, my choice of staff was the best part because we had college students who speak English, enjoy working with kids and are familiar with PC lessons. The soccer staff was so great since they all have previous experience with athletics and coaching. I made a sticker chart to use as an incentive for the students to participate, work hard and help each other. The staff was also on the lookout for 2 All-Stars (1 boy and 1 girl) of the camp who exemplified leadership, inclusivity, kindness, and good sportsmanship. This was a great way to keep students motivated and disciplined throughout the camp. One of our biggest problems was the heat, so make sure to account for weather when planning this camp. I ran into a few stressors while working with my counterparts such as their thought that bringing girls was pointless and that they cared too much about menial things such as the banner and couches for “important” staff. I learned to be patient and accepting of the things that Thai people consider important for a camp as long as they helped me with all the things I needed. I also made sure to stress the importance of my vision and why we needed both boys and girls to attend. We also had the camp during bpit term which was a problem because many students were out of town and hard to reach to remind about the camp, therefore I would try to plan the camp while school is still open. Overall, the successes outweighed the problems which is a win in my book.
I consider this camp a success for a few reasons. At the end of the camp, a few of my girl students asked if I could coach them after school and form a small team which I am excited to start next term. My Nayok and SAO staff were so impressed by the camp and are already planning on having it one more time before I COS. They have even discussed hosting another PCV so that they continue this in the future once I am gone. Other PCVs have expressed interest in having this camp as well which makes me happy to see the potential it could have across Thailand. In conclusion, I am proud of this camp and am excited to see what comes of it at my site and other places in Thailand. I am excited to see where things go from here for my last year of service.
If you are interested in bringing this camp to your site, planning materials can be made available upon request to Khun Kulpiphitt.