“Why not?” A student asked her classmate across the table. “I know a woman doctor.”
“Yes, but usually,” the other girl said back.
“And a driver?” One of the consolers prodded. “Usually girls or boys?”
“Boys, usually,” The class responded.
The same girl threw her hands up in the air. “I could be a driver!”
The other girls nodded—they could be drivers too, if they wanted. Or doctors, or accountants. Why not?
Peace Corps Armenia’s GLOW(Girls Leading Our World) Camp works create a community of girls and young women and promote leadership in communities throughout Armenia. Last week, I had the opportunity to work as a camp counselor for the five-day GLOW camp in Meghri, Armenia.
The camp covered topics of environment, leadership, and confidence. GLOW Meghri reminded me so much of the summer camps I used to participate in when I was about these girls’ age, and while it was a blast for me and the girls, it was also useful and created a space for the girls to voice their opinions and support each other’s ideas.
In addition to the lessons and topics covered, we made art out of recyclables, learned the “Cha Cha Slide” and “Hoedown Throwdown”, had a scavenger hunt, and in small groups the girls designed a sustainable and realistic project to implement in their respective communities.
It was really incredible to watch the girls open up to each other over the course of the week. Even the girls who I initially thought were shy started to voice their opinions as the week progressed. I worked with three incredible young women from Meghri as co-consolers, and got to help and watch while they facilitated meaningful discussions with the younger girls.
The last day of camp focused on confidence building, and we all wrote notes for each other to put in envelopes on the “wall of love”.
While the girls worked on making collages representing the things they like about themselves, I walked around and talked to the girls in a combination of broken Armenian and beginner English and they leaned together and giggled.
“Do you like Armenia?” They asked me.
“How old are you?”
“Are you married?”
“Do you have a family in America?” One girl asked.
“Yes,” I told her in slow, clear English. “I have two sisters and a brother. One of my sisters is your age.”
She proudly translated for her friends, who leaned in and nodded. I pulled out pictures of my family, and they crowded around curiously.
“What does your sister who is our age like?” They asked.
“Arianna Grande?” I joked.
They grinned. “We like Arianna Grande!”
All of the girls at camp are so good to each other and full of energy. It was easy to imagine my sister, the one who likes Arianna Grande, like them, and is fourteen, like them, at that table. I thought about that for a moment, what that would be like. The way she would make friends, how she probably would’ve started out stiff and awkward and embarrassed on the first day, the same as these girls did, but by the last day would have been dancing silly in the courtyard outside the school with the rest of the girls.
I pushed the thought aside, the feeling of missing people, and a little bit of guilt for being here playing with and helping these girls and not her, and went back to my broken Armenian and passing scissors and glue around.
Outside of the camp, me and the other PVCs at GLOW went for walks around Meghri, enjoyed the mountains, and on the last day treated ourselves to some khorvats.
The commute through Syunik Marz is long, and not great if you get carsick, but I don’t, and it is beautiful, so I had the time of my life both ways.
In some areas, the mountains still had snow near the peaks. Near the Meghri Pass we drove above the clouds. The only thing I could think of that compared was the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.
The mountains were more green than in Glacier, and a strange mix of hard peaks with bare rock and rolling green mountains. I wasn’t able to get many pictures from the drive, so you’ll have to take my word for it that the area is stunning or go the Pass for yourself.
(All views expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps, the US government or the Armenian government!)