Wednesday, August 17, 2011


After a couple weeks of struggling to teach english at the lycee, I decided that working with children during my service was not for me. That was until last week, when I went to Camp ESPOIR and had one of the best times of my life singing, dancing, and playing with a bunch of kiddos. Espoir in French means 'hope', and the goal of the camp was to give kids living with or affected by AIDS an awesome week to jump, run around, and basically have a really good time. And maybe learn something...

The kids from my building, Les Montagnes!!!

Camp ESPOIR is a collaboration between Peace Corps Volunteers and Togolese NGOs. The week's activities include a bonfire (strange when people here cook with fires, but hey its fun), carnival (simple low tech games with prizes), info sessions (sex ed, self confidence, activity generating activities, stuff like that), and more. It takes place at our training center where kids are grouped by age and put into different buildings themed with different environments (Arctic, Caves, Praries). I went with the younger boys, ages 12-13, and we were the mountains. In French 'LES MONTAGNES'. The entire week wherever we paraded to on the grounds I would constantly cry 'les montagnes!' and all the kiddos would yell 'OHHHHHH.'

Firing up some popcorn.

Eating said popcorn.

We also made some caramel popcorn after talking about feasibility studies and Income Generating Activities, accompanied by a camp 'marche' market where the kids packaged and sold what they had made, in our case popcorn. The 2 hour marche was full of kids screaming and chanting their product and creatively parading it around on their heads to sell to others. Many sellers in West Africa carry their product, whether it be soja or soap or shoes, around on their heads while screaming the name, so this was pretty typical.

 I presented a session on children's rights (droits de l'enfant). Some of the sessions were dull and I could see the kids looking around, so I tried to make mine as exciting as possible by having sketches where every camper was involved, using very few words and posters, and putting each right (education, vie, alimentation) into song form so the kids would remember them. I discovered that I am very good at being enthusiastic but very bad at generating discussion, so hopefully that will improve next year.

My kiddos trying to lift me to the sky!

The entire week was a truly amazing experience. I got to know the 8 boys in my dorm so well. We would walk to dinner or to the different activities all holding hands and singing, and they always sat around me at all the meetings. I didn't know the exact story of the lives of each kiddo outside of camp, but I knew that this might be the best week of their lives, so I did my best to make that happen.

Some campers on the ride back to Aneho.

The ride back was sad and fun at the same time. Kids are such great teachers, and heading back from Lome to Aneho I was in a taxi with a group of girls and a Togolese staff. The girls laughed and taught be songs in Ewe and I taught them Italian. I found out that they had learned Italian at camp the year before. It was so awesome seeing these kids smiling and having a good time! It's experiences like this that just make me love my service and make me feel like I'm doing something useful to help the world. It reminds me of that age old saying, 'People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.'

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