It’s that time of year again. The dry winds become hotter and hotter until finally subsiding as fat rain clouds ascend from the South of Senegal. Dry ground gives way to lush green fertility and animals grown lean from months of sparse grazing burst with renewed vitality. And, after months of strategy, organizing, and recruiting, we are almost ready to hold the 2014 Gem Sa Bopp Girls Camp!
Its going to be awesome! Everyone here is super excited and our list of activities, lessons, and speakers promises to be fulfilling for everyone involved. In two and a half months (oh my gosh, its almost here!) our campers will be at the sign-up table, ready for a week of personal and social development.
However, we can’t do this without you. The donations you send in right now will ensure that every one of our hand-picked participants is able to spend a whole week learning about women’s rights, developing career paths, and most importantly, discovering that women can do anything they want!
With $20 dollars, you can provide one of our participants with lodging at a university, three square meals, opportunities to hear from successful members of their community, and tons of fun activities for a day. For $100, you can ensure that they are completely provided for for the entire week. Every bit helps and these tax-deductible donations can be any size! Let’s raise this money!
Ever since last year ended, we’ve been gearing up for another camp. A location has to be found, counterparts have to be interviewed, speakers have to be appointed, food has to be organized, and volunteers have to seek out those applicants with both the greatest aspirations and also the greatest need of encouragement.
After this latest round of meetings, attended by Senegalese counterparts and volunteers, we have a new mission statement (check it out on the home page!), some organization for logistics, and the University of Gaston-Berger in St. Louis has graciously yet again allowed us access to their campus for mid-September!.
Our strategy to pulling off a great program is to start early, be passionate, and engage issues before they become problems. Less than 3 months to go, and our creative team already knows its going to be a success!
Also, take our poll to see what issue you feel is most important to women in developing countries!
It’s been a while since any of us have had the time to update our website, but we’re back! Taking the reigns over from Sarah Kozyn, I humbly introduce myself, your new Gem Sa Bopp webmaster, Gordon Day. I’m new to the program this year, but I firmly believe that the future of Senegal lies in promoting women by giving them opportunities and the inspiration to choose a fulfilling career. Education and encouragement are some of our greatest tools here in the Peace Corps, and with them we can do some great things!
Let me just tell you about last year, which was a roaring success thanks in part to charitable donations, the University of Gaston-Berger of St. Louis, a great set of Senegalese and American mentors, and the enthusiasm of our participating girls.
We gathered on the weekend of September 14 and 15 in 2013 to meet with our Senegalese counterparts and to iron out any last minute issues. It looked like things were shaping up nicely, but there is always the uncertainty that comes before big events that have been painstaking planned. Last minute items had to be grabbed and clean up was finished just in time for everyone to grab a full nights sleep before the event began.
Monday morning came in a rush, with 43 teen girls from all over the Linguere, Louga, St. Louis and Richard Toll/Dagana region arriving, some in converted station wagons and others gathered into large and gorgeously painted vans. Name tags were given out, housing was assigned and the early seeds of friendships were planted. The first half of the day was lighthearted, with introductions and tie dying the bulk of our seriousness. But after lunch, we stepped into the meat of our operation and literally talked “business”, covering topics like money management and careers.
Want to hear more about what volunteers have to say about Gëm Sa Bopp? Many volunteers who participated in last year’s camp have already shared their stories with their friends and family. Below, you can find links to those specific blog posts. And, as always, find out more about the volunteers participating in this year’s camp through the Blogroll links on the right!
Fatu Gueye participated in the second annual Camp Gëm Sa Bopp in September 2012. She is the first girl from her village who has been to formal schooling and this year she will sit for the baccalauréat exam. Fatu hopes to study at university to be an agricultural engineer.
“Camp Gëm Sa Bop was so great. In Senegal, many girls leave school at the age of 16 or 18 to get married, but at camp we were encouraged to study hard and stay motivated in school. There were a number of speakers–like Talla Diop–who taught us how important it is to work and manage money well. I learned so much that I did not know about how to take care of my body by eating healthy foods. And when I have a job one day I would like to manage my life and my work the way Talla taught us. I had never been to a camp before, but we need to repeat Camp Gëm Sa Bopp every year!”
The theme for the first day of camp was Business Day. A wonderful speaker from Peace Corps named Talla Diop came and did an activity with the girls called the Best Game, which aims to teach about responsible business practices and management of money. The girls are divided into groups, each of which takes out a loan from the ‘bank’ and uses that money to buy materials to make a product. Over the course of the game the players must take care of all of their household expenses , make and sell quality products, and have enough money to pay back their loan with interest at the end of the month while still making a profit. The girls got really into it, and it was awesome to see how as the ‘month’ went on they adapted their strategies to the situations thrown at them. At the beginning they were buying ice to go with their meals because they thought they had so much money, but hadn’t mapped out a budget in advance. By the end they were trying to make sure they had spare money saved up in case one of their children got sick and they had to pay for a visit to the doctor. Here’s hoping that someday they get the chance to apply these skills in their own lives!
Next activity… Tie-dye! There were 5 teams of girls throughout the week: blue, green, yellow, pink, and red, and each team died their shirt in the color of their team. Aren’t they beautiful?
In the afternoon a group of 5 university students came to talk to the girls about their studies and what obstacles they had to overcome to get to where they are. They described university life, and all the sorts of choices they have made to make sure they have a successful future. The girls were full of questions and seemed really happy with the session.
Then we were off to play some capture the flag before dinner. Stay tuned for Day 2: Girl Power!
Hello friends and family! We are happy to report that camp this year was again a huge success. 45 girls, 6 outstanding Senegalese women and a plethora of Peace Corps volunteers spent a week together in St. Louis and none of us will ever be the same. We sang songs around the camp fire, danced to Zumba and Beyonce, learned about the environment, gender roles, small businesses, and health, listened to some truly inspirational Senegalese women talk about their lives, took a field trip to the ocean and so much more. We cannot say thank you enough to everyone who donated and made this camp possible. The new friends and memories we found here will be something both we and the girls will treasure forever.
Soon to come: videos and photos galore, along with details about each of the days of camp and stories about some of our favorite camp moments.