Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Surprise! You're Coordinating Spring Camp!

When I envisioned this year's Spring Camp, I saw myself traveling and collaborating with other volunteers or potentially resting in my site while catching up on visitation in my community. In mid-March I was informed that my Dar Chebab (youth center) would not only hold a two week spring camp, but I was essentially coordinating the entire thing with the help of one English teacher in the town. Deep breathe. Thankfully, I felt up to the challenge and quickly put together a rough outline for a Cross-cultural English language camp for forty students. Several meetings later, the camp had begun and everyone turned to me whenever there was a brief pause in activities. Despite the on-going frustrations, long days, cultural misunderstandings and heat we were able to hold a functioning and fun camp for the kids of Tazarine. I'm still recovering, so here are a few  brief takeaways...

1) Minimal planning means impromptu EVERYTHING. Our attempts at planning only got us so far during the first week. Most days we had at least one or two hours to fill on the fly. Reaching back to camp we introduced musical chairs, fruit salad, sharks and minnows, red rover, boom chicka boom, head shoulders knees and toes and so many more. Thank goodness for arm wrestling, ping-pong and dancing for filling in some other gaps. Quintessential Peace Corps - no schedule, no guidance, but fill the next eight hours with learning and magic! 

2) I'm a dreamer, but certain things are unrealistic. As we sat around our evening meetings, volunteers were full of good ideas for competitions, games, activities but no one was willing to take the lead. Everyone wanted to be a part of the camp, but it was difficult to get a solid commitment. The first week I couldn't get a single Moroccan to teach a decent beginner's English class and some of the campers returned the following week still unable to say a simple phrase in English. Le sigh. As the camp continued, I became increasingly direct in my communication. I am a volunteer, not a door mat. Showing up is only half the work: contribute, think and be willing to take a role in this camp. 

3) Sometimes, it is healthy to give up. Most of the time when volunteers got stuck, I worked to find something educational to fill the time. After the 67th time this occurred, Melanie and I got a little sick of saving the day. On the final day, we informed the Moroccan staff that we would let them figure out two hours of the afternoon. Absolutely nothing happened during those two hours and I sat back in my chair relaxing. It felt good to let someone else have the responsibility. 

Honestly, two weeks of coordinating Spring Camp showed me how far I have come in the last year. I handled the twelve hour days, never-ending Darija and extreme heat far better than last June and was generally able to enjoy my time. My body/health may not completely agree, but I put camp down as a "great success" in my service. On to the next one!

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