In the past two weeks, my site-mate (one of the closest volunteers to me) and I organized two summer camps – one in her community, one in mine. Each camp was for two mornings. The theme was “vamos viajeros!” or “let’s go, travelers!”
In case you find yourself in the Paraguayan campo (countryside/rural area) and decide to host a summer camp, here are some “really useful” tips:
1. Spend the majority of your prep time drawing a world map.
2. When creating “charla papers” (posters to use during a lesson) for each country, make sure to employ some young helpers for the coloring. Empowering youths is probably more important that maintaining a supply of markers that haven’t been used too forcefully and then left with their caps off… I suppose… Also, make sure you have an answer for when your coloring assistants ask if you are REALLY going to be traveling to Japan, Holland, Brasil, Egypt, Kenya, Germany, the U.S., and Australia during the two day camp.
5. Sign up about twice the amount of kids you actually want, in anticipation of a low participation rate. Or not. You might end up with 40+ kids and two “adults.” Luckily, there will probably be a few teenagers (or 12-year-olds) who can help translate your commands into Guaraní.
6. If you have the kids sit under trees, make sure you know what to do in the case of caterpillar bites. (General rule for Paraguay: do not touch caterpillars. Symptoms range from itching to paralyzation to involuntary twitching). One kid at our camp was bit by the itchy-rash-causing variety of caterpillar, and we responded with “uhhh so what do you want to do?” When some other kids brought me over a leaf with a more dangerous variety of caterpillar on it, I calmly ask that they put this critter somewhere where it won’t bother the other children.
7. Do a water ballon fight. This will be everyone’s favorite part, even if it causes some tears. When the boys throw the water ballons in the girls’ faces, you will understand why multiple girls asked you if you were going to do two separate water balllon fights – one for girls and one for boys. But you will not regret your decision to make the whole camp gender neutral. You believe boys can learn not to throw things in people’s faces. You will even give boys pink name tags.
9. Make sure to have the kids help pick up the used toilet paper from the ground. Then find a nice place to bury all of this since there’s no such thing as a trash pick up service and you are trying to avoid burning things.
10. Bake chocolate chip cookies. Pass these out at the end of camp so that when you ask how the camp was the kids tell you it was delicious.