A camp that has nothing to do with chocolate

Girls using their creativity during Treasue Hunt

26 young women from rural communities in Guanacaste participated in a three-day youth leadership and empowerment camp in Corral de Piedra of Nicoya named Camp C.O.C.O (Chicas Optimistas, Creando Oportunidades). This event replicated the famous camp GLOW model that has been used in more than 60 countries to promote the empowerment of girls from underprivileged communities.

The event was Peace Corps/Costa Rica’s first official camp GLOW, which took place from May 4th– 7th and was organized by 5 volunteers and local counterparts.  Girls between the ages of 12 and 17 from small rural communities in Guanacaste had the opportunity to attend.  “Guanacaste is the province (followed by Puntarenas) with highest poverty rate in Costa Rica, where 24.1% of the population lives in extreme poverty,” said Elisa Molina, a Community Economic Development volunteer. “This is the reason we need to empower our girls; to avoid economic sufferings in the future.”

Girls made their own camp shirt

Monique Green, a Youth Development volunteer, has co-collaborated numerously with the local non-profit organization known as Youth With a Mission (Juventud con una Mision) whom donated their camping facility and welcomed us in their camp site. Rural Community Development volunteer, Billy Worthy, facilitated the HIV/AIDS workshop as part of our partnership with the Safer Sex and Practices Committee. Through various workshops, the camp addressed topics such as leadership, self-esteem, healthy relationships, domestic violence, nutrition and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.  Team-building activities allowed the participants to learn how to work in groups and gain soft skills.  The girls also had the opportunity for self-expression where they were given a diary to share their personal thoughts as well as hands-on activities that motivated them to be creative.

Self-esteem workshop activity

“Camp GLOW is a stellar example of the legacy of Peace Corps service,” said Director Aaron Williams in an article for the White House. “The first such camp was established by Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania in 1995. The concept has been adapted and developed since originally conceived, with one group of Volunteers passing along the lessons learned to the next group of Volunteers who serve as counselors and mentors.”

Group work

Community Economic Development Volunteer, Jennifer Griffith, also said that “the camp was important because it gave the girls the chance to reflect on who they are and where they want to go in life- something that many Costa Ricans overlook. Many of my girls walked away feeling more educated and had a higher self-esteem.”

The camp was made possible thanks to the funds received through the Volunteer Activities Support and Training (VAST) Program which was coordinated by Youth Development volunteer, Emily Deer – a funding source for HIV/AIDS-related projects funded by President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  The camp also contributed to the economic development of the site by contracting a local women’s group in charge of providing all the meals during the camp.

A free planning guide was developed by Peace Corps volunteers in Spanish.  You can download it here.

For camp photos, courtesy of Elena Muzzi, click here.

Corral de Piedra, Nicoya, Costa Rica

About Peace Corps/Costa Rica: More than 3,370 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Costa Rica since the program was established in 1963. Currently, 128 volunteers serve in Costa Rica. Volunteers work in the areas of youth development, community development, business and English education. Volunteers are trained and work in Spanish.

About PEPFAR: In 2004, the Bush administration launched the five-year President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $15 billion dollar initiative that aimed to address the global HIV and AIDS pandemic through rigorous and purposeful action around prevention, treatment and care activities through U.S. government entities. A second phase of PEPFAR began in 2009 for a second five-year term where funding increased to $39 billion and extended its focus to enhance program sustainability through capacity building and country ownership.  Peace Corps contributes to the implementation of PEPFAR through Volunteers’ HIV/AIDS activities, especially in the areas of behavior change and health systems strengthening.