Bigger Than Boxes: Gender and Youth Leadership Camps


Bigger Than Boxes presented by GAD (Gender and Development Committee)
Olivia Dawson and Kat Giannini, 129 YinD

GLOWing and Growing

Peace Corps Romania held the first GLOW Camp (Girls Leading Our World) in 1995. Volunteers Sara Goodkind, Jennifer Bobb Petramale, Roz Edison worked alongside four Romania counterparts to host a camp focused on women’s leadership.

Since 1995, the GLOW Camp model has proliferated throughout Peace Corps. In Thailand, volunteers have been hosting Gender and Youth Leadership Camps based off the GLOW model.

In this month’s Bigger Than Boxes, we would like to share two volunteer’s experiences hosting camps focused on gender equity and leadership.

Olivia Dawson

The camp I helped host was very much a collaboration between two communities in Kalasin, my site and Kayla McCabe’s site. This seemed the wisest way to pool resources during the preparation process. It took place at a local resort about a thirty-minute drive from my site and was held over a five day time period. Five volunteers total were in attendance, and lessons focusing on leadership skills, healthy relationships, future planning, and self-respect were held over a three day time period.

This was a huge undertaking for both Kayla and I’s communities and a lot of work for the many people that work with us. So a huge goal was achieved – this opportunity that would not have otherwise happened because we were acting as change agents! Students walked away having identified their own ideas, definitions, and goals for the leaders that they could be in their communities. They also walked away with a plan to implement leadership activities in their communities for themselves to grow as leaders. They did so in a gender-aware way that both men and women could hold positions of power in their communities which is a new idea for many Thai contexts.

I can only speak for my community in terms of community feeling. This was a huge deal for my community and something everyone knew about — they are still referencing it. My community took a lot of pride in this, and Facebook was full of posts about the GLOW camp. It also prompted my community much more exposure to the opportunities and projects a Peace Corps volunteer can create.

Throughout the camp students slowly came out of their shells and fearlessly participated, presented, performed, and danced. This was a huge change in confidence and comfort from the first day. This assessment was affirmed by watching our students run leadership activities and debrief them during the camp itself. It was also affirmed by the debriefing or discussions that happened after activities were run. Moreover, students collaborated and created lessons and then taught that lesson as a way of showing what they had learned during the camp. It was a chance for them to safely implement the new skills we had been building on teamwork, communication, leadership, and gender awareness.

Things I Would Have Changed/Things I Learned

As for changes or lessons learned, we were not able to include lessons on relationship violence or sex education at this time due to the unavailability of the communities local doctors and nurses. So we felt that it was appropriate to teach a different lesson instead from the GLOW manual, flexibility for the win. I would have loved to include some of the resources SRH committee has provided on consent, in case you are interested in including that topic for your camp!

Unexpected obstacles will occur! We had to find a different venue which resulted in a different budget for lodging, food, and snacks than what was initially declared on our grant. We ended up being roughly 10,000 baht under budget.

Teaching gender in a culturally sensitive way is difficult and at this point, I am still concerned that about the disconnect between the lessons directly dealing with gender and the lessons directly dealing with leadership. A bridge needs to built in the curriculum we were given by both you and your counterpart for our students to make that connection.

GLOW’s Sustainability

Every community in attendance had to create a sustainable plan to implement these lessons and teach their community what they learned when they returned home and then present their plan. This means that your youth in attendance are prompted to continue learning and teaching GLOW activities!

For example, my youth group has started planning a mini- Gender and Leadership camp for January 26 and 27. This camp will teach up to one hundred youth from the two schools in my community these skills and give them a chance to be leaders. My hope is now that youth from every institution I work with have been exposed to these lessons, and next year GLOW clubs can be started at the schools.

Kat Giannini

My community’s camp took place over three days in Pat Dtam national park. Volunteers and counterparts from both Phana and a visiting community collaborated to facilitate lessons on leadership, healthy relationships, self-respect, and LGBT identities.

Witnessing my community join together to implement a previously unattempted program was an incredibly humbling and saccharine experience. Local teachers and government officials had a space to candidly discuss leadership and gender in a Thai context. As students heard a myriad of adults tell them that anyone can be a leader I watched their confidence blossom. I think the success of Phana’s Gender and Youth Leadership camp demonstrated to my community, particularly my main counterpart Pii Tong, that it’s possible for positive, student-centered, youth development work to continue after my service concludes.

Hosting Your Own Camp

If you’d like to host your own Gender and Youth Leadership Camp, keep an eye out for an application to attend the Training of Trainers (TOT) conference in 2019. TOT enables volunteers and one counterpart to attend a training on how to facilitate a camp based on the GLOW model.

GLOW in the Classroom

For this month’s challenge article, we are sharing the GLOW/BRO manual! This bilingual manual is full of activities frequently used at leadership camps. These lessons can also be used outside of camps, such as in the classroom or at an after-school club!

Click here to find a classroom activity pertaining to this topic.

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