24 May 2011


To the tune of ‘Down by the Bay’
Au Camp Unité
Pour les jeunes togolais
Au Camp Unité
Je veux aller
Et si j’y allais
Ma mère dirait :
Tu deviens jeune leader quand tu es …
au Camp Unite !

It’s the 10th anniversary of Camp UNITE !
We’re already having a fantastic time. One of the most exciting things for me is that I have internet while I’m here!
So I’m able to put up a blog. My goal is to give you a little update every day, hopefully with a picture, but I’ll post the text and then add the picture – it took me 90 minutes to download an 8MB email attachment today. Very very slow.

Here’s my blurb for today, it’s about our camp last week:

Camp UNITE is known affectionately as ‘peer educator boot camp’. For six weeks each summer, a team of Peace Corps volunteers and Togolese counterparts organize a camp to train young people in life skills from self-confidence to goal-setting. The initiative began in 2001 as a camp for girl students, addressing drop-out rates and unplanned pregnancies. Evolving from the original Life Skills manual to include sessions from EngenderHealth’s Men as Partners program and USAID’s Mentoring Guide, the program at Camp UNITE expanded to include both boys and girls, focusing on empowering and equipping the next generation’s leaders with the knowledge, skills, and support to influence their peer in a positive way.
Around the world, most camps cater to students who, being already in the educational system, tend to be easily managed and are more obviously leaders in their society. In Togo, where only 58% of young people continue beyond elementary school, the population of young people who are not in school is very large. Therefore, Camp UNITE also works with apprentices – young people who have left school to pursue a certification in an artisanal profession such as carpentry or dress-making

On May 16 2011, Camp UNITE began its 10th anniversary of camp with a week working with female apprentices. For many of these girls, Camp UNITE is the first time they have ventured outside of their region. The 30 apprentices come from all over Togo, a country with approximately 45 ethnicities and a corresponding number of languages. They arrive shy and soft-spoken, embarrassed by the mistakes in their spoken French and unsure of how they should act. By the end of the week, though, the 30 apprentices put together an hour-long presentation for a nearby village, teaching valuable lessons about the importance of girls’ education and how to prevent HIV transmission.

On the final day of camp, after the abundant joy of the public presentation, the girls revealed how Camp UNITE had changed their attitudes. Many explained how they had never before stood up for themselves, how difficult it had been to say ‘no’ to men, and how dependent they felt. “Before I was very timid and embarrassed. I couldn’t speak in public and I thought of myself as a nobody, but Camp UNITE taught me that I’m a girl with gifts. So I need to get up and show those gifts… Unite showed me my value. The world needs me.” Viviane, an apprentice tailor from Tsevie.

check out unitefoundation.org

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