GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World. Camp GLOW began in Romania in 1995. Since that first camp in Romania, Peace Corps has actively supported and began camps in other countries. In each country, the camps are individualized to support their community needs. However, certain principles and themes exist through all the camps, no matter their location. These include developing leadership skills, improving self esteem, increasing knowledge of women’s health issues, respecting and caring for the environment, and promoting the belief that every young woman can make a difference in their community.
Last year, the PCV’s in Albania, determined there was a need for a Camp GLOW. This last week, I attended the first ever conference to jump start Camp GLOW throughout Albania. Twelve volunteers, along with our Albanian counterparts, attended the two day long conference in Tirana.
Before attending the conference, I visited another volunteer who lives in between Permet and Tirana. Jill and Kat were two of the girls in my training group during PST. They were around for those first ten weeks of ups and downs. It was fun to be able to catch up without a host family curfew looming in our futures. We ended up having an impromptu candlelight dinner as the restaurant we were at lost power. Thankfully the pizzas were being cooked in a brick oven or there would have been some HANGRY volunteers.
I also had the opportunity to hang out with my friends visitor from the states. Spending time with other Americans who aren’t PCV’s is always a nice change. Peace Corps tends to bring out the weirdness in people, and Albania is no exception. I like to think that visitors bring some sense of normalcy that we forget exists. Which is why Sam glanced at us weirdly as we all got very excited to see he had brought real American Quarters. It may not have been the most appropriate reaction to coins from the bottom of his bag.
The rest of the conference was spent learning about what GLOW is and how we can utilize different tools in our community. It was completely designed by other volunteers and they did a great job. Unfortunately for Valmira, that meant everything was in English. As I glanced over at her face, I couldn’t help but notice a certain look of overwhelming confusion. The same one that had been splashed across my face for a good majority of my life in Albania. She didn’t understand all of the topics we discussed but she did her best to keep up and I was grateful for her effort.
Empowering girls in Albania to improve their lives is an issue that I feel passionately about. As volunteers, we are used to such equality in the states.There are constant reminders of this issue here, and we often feel like we have stepped back in time. Whether it is when we are out having coffee and cannot see another female in sight. Or when we hear girls talk about how their dream is to get married and become a housewife. Or when I go for a run and stop almost every boy/ man and car in their tracks because a female is out exercising. In public. Something needs to budge and this year volunteers will be working with the girls of Albania to do just that. Change is bound to happen and it all started with something as simple as a summer camp!