Camp GGLOW 2017 was a bigger success than I could have ever wished or imagined. About 45 campers showed up and they were so well-behaved, smart, attentive, and caring of their fellow campers. They learned so much in the four days of camp. I was blown away by the amount of information they retained. By the end, tears streamed down the faces of children and volunteers alike–no one wanted to leave their new best friends.
It is easy to forget why I am here and to question whether I have brought any change to Fiji. But there have been a few instances during my service, when the first grade teacher at my school told me the kids were reading and speaking at an advanced level due to my kindergarten class, when my host dad told me he had been watching me and had decided to stop putting sugar in his tea, and now this Camp GGLOW, when I realized that it is the small impacts I make on individuals that truly matter and which compound into the potential to improve the country.
At Camp GGLOW, one of the most successful and important sessions was when House of Colors came to speak to the children. House of Colors is one of very few organizations in Fiji that build awareness of the LGBTIQ community. They spoke on simple topics such as what it means to be queer in Fiji, the challenges they face, and their current lack of rights. Some volunteers cried when the House of Colors spoke of their persistent challenges and pain. The campers got so much out of this session. One of the highlights for me was when I was interviewing a boy and he said, "My favorite part was when House of Colors came, because I am one of them, I am queer." I knew at that moment how important the camp was for these kids.
Other topics volunteers presented or speakers shared were self-esteem, consent, birth control, STDs, domestic abuse, women’s health, pregnancy, Fiji’s laws on all of these issues, and many more. Throughout the long sessions the kids were attentive and well-behaved.
We split the campers into 7 teams, represented by different colors, which they wore on their wrist in the form of "CAMP GGLOW 2017" bands. The kids could gain or lose points for their teams based on behavior, participation, and sports. The winning team got a pizza party at a nice hotel in Labasa, the main town on the island. For many of them, it would be their first time trying pizza. They all wanted to win.
Every day passed smoothly, without any issue of fighting, name-calling, or sneaking out. The evening activities included two bonfires, a talent show, and a movie night. The first bonfire was on the first night and the last night we had the second. It was crazy to see the difference between the two. The first night everyone just sat in a circle looking at each other. There was a bit of singing and dancing, but only from the most outgoing people. On the last night, there was popcorn everywhere, songs were breaking out left and right, and almost everyone was dancing. It made me happy to be a part of something that made so many other people happy.
Overall, despite the many set-backs the volunteer who organized the camp faced during the planning phase, the camp was a wild success. She and everyone else are extremely proud of the way it turned out and of the difference we made. A few volunteers are already busy planning another camp for a different part of the island later this year.
Lastly, THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who donated, whether it was $1 or $100. Every little bit was necessary and when you see the video I’m sure you will be proud of the purpose your money served. I cannot say thank you enough.