GLOW: my first last

There are so many things I could say about Camp GLOW.

GLOW! Oh my goodness GLOW. Girls Leading Our World was one of the few things I knew about Macedonia before I arrived. (It was a short list, including where to find it on a map and that it had a beautiful flag.) It’s one of the Peace Corps programs that spans the globe, taking different forms in each country based on resources and needs, but all sharing the common goal to empower the young women we work with in our host countries.

A card carrying feminist since kindergarten, I immediately wanted to be a part of it. I’m so lucky to have had the chance. #hashtagblessed

Watching our 80 campers — the 80 young women whose applications and interviews I pored over with my friend and colleague Coco during selection – watching them go through these seven days is a beautiful whirlwind of love, singing, and empowerment.

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One of my babies (I told the girls even though I don’t have a group of campers, they’re all my 80 babies) told me on the last day while we waited at the bus station that she was skeptical when she arrived. Her friends who had been to camp before told her that GLOW would change her life. In just seven days. Nope. She didn’t believe it.

And right before I got one last squeeze and sent her back to the real world, she brushed away a few tears and said it had.

I could write about watching the joy of our staff and campers who had never slept outside in a tent before, or eaten a s’more. I could tell you about the quiet, soft moments, sitting around the campfire, listening to one of our campers share. I could tell you about the pandemonium that day we surprised the girls with water balloons, or the laugh-till-you-can’t-breathe, tears-streaming-down-your-face moments during our closing ceremony skits, or sing for you every single group’s song. I could write about the powerful, moving moments while teaching a class on femininity and masculinity, or the joy during my karaoke elective –the pride in watching my girls cheer each other on after they mastered kickball.

There’s just no way to sum up this beautiful week, so instead, I wanted to share some of the kind words I received. (BRB, I’ll just be sobbing.) We create a wall full of envelopes at camp, one for each camper, staffer, sponsor, etc. Throughout the week, we encourage everyone to drop in notes, signed or anonymous. By the end of the week, each envelope is bursting. Our goal is to build each other up and send home positivity. Here are some of the notes I found:

  • “You’re the most positive person I’ve ever met. (And you have those Colgate advertisement teeth, which I like so much.”
  • “Thank you for your love, support, and all your hugs.”
  • “You inspire me to fight for my feminist beliefs.”
  • “I can’t express myself how thankful I am for having the chance to be a part of this family.”
  • “Thank you for making my mother a Snapchat addict.”
  • “You did a fabulous job creating a safe, positive and open space for campers and staff alike.”
  • “You are probably the coolest person I have ever met. (You are definitely in my top five.) I admire you and I hope to be like you one day.”
  • “You brought to us memories that we can remember our whole lives and tell it to our children.”
  • “I was looking forward to every, single one of your hugs, and I look forward to many more.”
  • “I love it how you are the lead GLOW cheerleader.” <– camp was superhero themed and I wore a cape every day, including a formal one for our disco night
  • “Your class really touched me…You made me realize what kind of woman I can be. A strong and super cool one.”
  • “You inspire me with your leadership and enthusiasm. I’m going to miss you so much next year, but you are leaving behind a strong legacy.”

Being a part of this GLOW family has been the best part of my time in Macedonia. I told my 80 babies, it doesn’t end with camp. I can’t wait to see where all of these amazing, young women go next.

As I walked up the stairs into my cabin for the last time, to finally pack – wrinkled T-shirts and capes, stray water balloons, granola bars and a bubble gun strewn everywhere – it hit me.

I was about to depart from my last day at my last Camp GLOW.

It my first ‘last’, during my Peace Corps service. It felt weird.

The ‘lasts’ are going to start ticking off as summer turns into fall. I’m so thankful that even though I won’t be at camp next year, and no matter where I end up, I’ll always have my GLOW family.

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