Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Leadership Camp

Start with thirty 7th and 8th grade girls. Add a few chaperones, giant cooking pots, and 1 blan (that's me). Put them all on the edge of the Caribbean and cover everything with clapping, singing, yelling, cheering, laughing, and squealing. That was my week.


Name Game
The Mercy Beyond Borders scholars, the brightest girls chosen to be given a full scholarship to continue school after 6th grade, attended the first Leadership Training Workshop. I have spent the last months translating ice breakers, team building games, and an assortment of activities for the week.


My favorite activity was leading what I deemed a creative writing workshop. The activity was to read a poem: "Tell me a story, a story of you. Of all the difficulties and joys, too..." and have the girls write their own stories about themselves. Well, it is difficult for them to go beyond the usual "My name is ____, I have ___ brothers and ___ sisters, my mother's name is ___" Here in Haiti, education is rote learning. The teacher says something, the students memorize and repeat it. There is one right answer, one best way to do something; originality and creativity are not meant for the classroom.
I tried to get the girls to write about a day they will always remember, describe a family member who they consider to be a leader, talk about the work they do for their families before and after school...


My writing workshop!
And then when the girls got started they shared their stories and the group would choose things they wanted to hear more about. Slowly the girls started expanding their details and some of the stories - a favorite brother who died in the earthquake, or the sacrifices a mother makes for the family - turned out very beautiful.


The girls had computer classes, practiced public speaking, reflected on their strengths and weaknesses, gave a voice to their dreams, and worked as a team. It was their first time going to any sort of camp, and for many it was their first time going to the ocean.



For me it was a real cultural immersion - nothing but Creole, living a daily Haitian schedule (up before the sun, a lovely mid-day nap, most of the day focused on cooking, dishes, and cleaning), and eating real Haitian food (spaghetti for breakfast and cream of wheat for dinner).


And these girls were so much fun, and so inspirational, to be with for the week. They all have big dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers, diplomats... they really are the bright future of Haiti!

Oh and they braided my hair. I looked like Princess Lea/a Dutch maid.

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