GLOW- Opening Day!

Okay…. so I have been promising for awhile that I would talk about GLOW camp. I think the things that everyone knows thus far is that….

1) GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World

2) it is a camp for girls!

I apologize for my secrecy… it has been in the works for a long time. But… up until the girls started arriving I was SO nervous that it wouldn’t happen! I didn’t want to go on raving about this camp that was going to be amazing and fabulous and one of the hardest things I have ever worked for… and then it not happen! But… now! I am ready to share!!!! 🙂

GLOW camp is a Peace Corps world wide concept that volunteers all over the world can use for their communities. It was originally developed in the Ukraine and spread from there. There are pamphlets and books developed to give volunteers ideas and guidance to do a camp in their site or country. One volunteer who had a big part in this camp found out that she knew someone that participated in a GLOW camp in their country  with Peace Corps volunteers when she was young.

Last year at our IST meeting (In-service training) at the end of September, a group of 6 girls got together (myself and 5 others who are located close to Larache). We had nothing but the idea to go on but we knew we wanted to bring girls from different places into one!

As time went on, we had one girl with family plans, one volunteer E.T’d (not extraterrestrial-ed but early terminated) and sadly, one girl moved out of our region. So… it ended up that girls were going to come from Ksar El Kebir (a town 30km east of Larache), Assilah (a town 30km north), Ouazzane (a town in the mountains an hour to an hour and a half way), and then Larache! After some deciding early on, we figured it would be good to have it in Larache! So we spent months getting all of the details ready for the grant, translating things, getting permission to use the center, deciding on workshops and finding Moroccan women to do those workshops- and that is just the cliffs notes version!!!

Now, to be honest, I was a little sneaky about the project. I didn’t really mention anything to my mudir (director) until April for two reasons. 1) I didn’t really want him to be involved because he was a man and 2) it always seems that when I say I want to do things and it happens to be 4-5 months out- there is always a HUGE* inshallah added at the end. I wanted to inshallah until my voice was gone… I and the other volunteers WANTED* to make this happen, we were GOING* to make this happen. I will admit, that not really asking for permission to do the camp did make things a little difficult. I asked for permission to use the center for our activities and overnight stay from the delegue (my mudir’s boss) but never really specifically said “Is it okay if there is a camp for all girls here in Larache?”. The delegue gave us permission to use the center in May and after that it was mostly up to the other volunteers and I to do the leg work until my mudir was ready to inshallah his way to making this happen.

Fast forward to the end of August

My mudir, counterpart and I are meeting almost every day. Tshirts are ready…. booklets for the girls are being put together, everyone is working their butt off to find girls to attend the camp and we are almost ready to begin in a week. The meetings consisted of printing out papers, putting our logo onto things, deciding the menu, talking about insurance, calling the girls about a meeting to meet their parents and completing packets of information for both the local government and the delegation.

GLOW 2Our fabulous logo!!!!!! Designed by a family member of a volunteer!

With the day of approaching, the atmosphere was tense. We had to completely change the vendor of the food at the last minute and it caused a minor explosion. We also had a tiff at the center because it was somewhat occupied! When all this time, we thought that the center would be ours to use- who knew? This all* the day BEFORE* camp! The only people that were stressed out about these things appeared to be the volunteers…. the Moroccan counterparts seemed completely relaxed! We finally got the food situation sort of figured out…but were still working on getting things in order on the day of, let me tell you, this was not due to our lack of planning. Moroccans are so good at doing things last minute and getting them done right. The day of… woof… called into the delegue’s office to listen to a LOT* of words I didn’t know and had NO idea what he was saying but in a tone that let me know something was up… then to only be released and told “I’ll see you this afternoon, but we need to push the time up half an hour because I need to travel”. So the camp can go on? WAHOO!

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My mudir ready for action!!!!

329Me… ready to go!!!!

Then… we were off!!!

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schedule for the week, others were posted in Arabic

Girls arrived…..

336waiting for us to start!

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One of the fabulous volunteers checking the girls in 338while another assigned them to their rooms

our Regional Manager and Program Manager from Peace Corps arrived to help us welcome the girls.

IMG_2877Amina giving a welcoming speech

 and then we had kaskrut (mid-afternoon snack) with the parents.

IMG_2884kaskrut treats- including date cookies! YUM!

IMG_2881first camp photo of everyone!

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Our regional manager helped us kick things off by being kind enough to share her story with the girls… she grew up in a family full of boys and made her way through her education and has been working for Peace Corps for 25 years!!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen after dinner, the first workshop was held and the girls made a “family crest” of how they define themselves!!!!!

We had some hiccups but the first day went wonderfully and set a fabulous pace for the rest of camp!!!!!!!

Life’s a gamble!

First things first– for those of you who don’t know… we are OFFICIALLY volunteers!!! We arrived in Larache on Thursday and have spent the time with our new host family and catching up on things.

Previously, volunteers in Morocco were required to stay about a month with their host family. Within that month-they would get acquainted with their Dar Chabab (youth center) or wherever they were working, find a house, get a post office box, and become integrated in their community. What our first month looks like, however, is a little different. The Peace Corps has given us only* two weeks with our new host family– which means 14 days to find an apartment/house. This process of finding an apartment/house, as you can imagine, is VERY different than that in the US.

Here are the differences that I have noticed:

1) We don’t speak the same language— although I have been able to use quite a bit of Spanish (a small hooray for me), we still have a barrier because we are speaking to each other in a second language. And I am generalizing a bit here– I know that there can be language barriers anywhere in the world.

2) There is no forum for listing all of the apartments that are available… like Craigslist or classifieds, anything like that. And even if there were– it would be written in standard Arabic– which we can’t read anyway. Also, there is very* little even on the internet… so who do we talk to?

3) local store owners… people on the street, the Peace Corps has advised us that once you build relationships with people or even when you first meet them– they will be happy to help you find something.

4) the price of an apartment is negotiable… depending on your relationship with someone. For example, because we are Americans– people will assume we can pay a lot, maybe 2000 dirhams for a place that is normally 800 or 900 dirhams (note: that 1 dollar is about 8.7 dirhams). So if we can convince them that we are volunteers and working for free– that will help. Also, if the landlord has a good relationship with someone you know.

So…. knowing all of this- Tyler and I accepted the challenge. We are absolutely determined to find a place to live in two weeks, so in order to keep ourselves motivated… I am going to blog about our experience in finding an apartment!!

Note: there are quite a few volunteers in our group that either have volunteers near them to help with this process or have a volunteer in their site that may have scoped out some places. But* because we have a new site and a relatively new area for the Peace Corps to be in… we don’t have either. So that adds another dimension.

Our progress thus far:

Thursday-May 24: Our host dad asked us how long we would be in Larache– when we told him two years, he looked a little overwhelmed, like maybe we would be living with him for two years. Although we had decided beforehand to mention our needing an apartment later– we thought this would be the optimal time to tell him so that he didn’t freak out.

Friday-May 25: We mentioned to our boss (also known as a mudir –pronounced MOO-DEER) and supervisor that we were looking for a place to live. In broken Darija, I accidentally said that we needed to find it after* two weeks, rather than during these two weeks. Hopefully… that can be changed.

Sunday-May 27: We were lost trying to find our way to the Dar Chabab (which is about an hour and a half walk from our host family’s house) and we stopped to ask a store owner where it was. A really nice and jolly man offered to take us there. Since he was so nice and jolly… we decided to try our luck and asked him if he knew of any places that were for rent. In French, Spanish and Darija– he told us that he knew of some places. AND* that he is friends with our mudir at the Dar Chabab AND* our host dad! Who knew that in a city this big– we would randomly meet someone like this!!! Very* exciting! So after we were done at the Dar Chabab– our mudir took us on a walk and said that Mito (pronounced Me-toe), the nice,jolly man, would help us and that we would try to talk to people as well. So we went to a baker and then another store own, and hopefully tomorrow we can see an apartment!

That is all for now– hopefully we have a positive update for you tomorrow!!

Days until we should have our own apartment: 10