senegalese summer camp

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summer camp, senegal, kedougou, peace corps, africa

Hannah leading a creative writing session

This past week I have been in the small village of Dindafello hanging out at a summer camp organized by a group of Volunteers in the Kedougou region. This camp began three years ago as a project completely organized and funded by the Peace Corps and is now slowly being taken over by a local Senegalese organization with a bit of help from the Peace Corps. This year there were over 70 campers (a dozen 3rd year campers, a couple dozen 2nd year campers and a whole bunch of 1st year campers).

The camp is designed to be a an American-style experience for these kids. A chance for them to let loose, explore, and have some fun. The school system in Senegal doesn’t encourage much individuality or creativity, so this camp was an opportunity for these kids to experience a different way of learning and growing. The volunteers who worked on this project should be incredibly proud, because the camp was an amazingly positive experience for these kids (cue cheesy music now…)

Even though this was an American-style camp, I found the way in which Senegalese culture infiltrated the camp to be hilarious and at times frustrating. What follows is a list of things I learned at Senegalese Summer camp.

summper camp, dancing, senegal, kedougou, peace corps, west africa, woman, girl1. The kids always cheat. Even when you explain the rules. Even when you explain the importance of good sportsmanship. Even when you design the game specifically to prevent cheating. The kids will always find a way to cheat. (oh and the Senegalese counselors are even better at cheating than the kids).

2. Never ever show up late for lunch. There will be none left.

3. Nothing can get accomplished without a song and dance party. Want to eat lunch? The kids must sing a song first. Want to play a game of soccer? The kids must sing and dance on their way to the field. Want to have an evening dance party? First an introductory song and dance. Seriously.

4. Every activity will be at least 15 minutes late. Even if you end the previous activity on time, the next activity will inevitably be late. This might have something to do with all the mandatory singing and dancing…

5. If you are white, and you wander into the kitchen, you will be given food. The kitchen staff just assumes all white people are always hungry.

6. Never ever underestimate a Senegalese kid. Just when you think you have them figured out they surprise you with their humor, ingenuity, and smarts.

summer camp, senegal, peace corps, africa, kedougou, dindafello7. The movie Finding Nemo (La Monde de Nemo in French) isn’t universal. The kids thought the moral of the story was, “you must always obey your father”.

8. Kids love any game that involves hitting each other. Dodgeball was a huge success.

9. If it rains, all the evening activities will be canceled. Even if it stops raining at 5pm.

10. Never ever give the kids back their confiscated cell phones. Unless you want speak over dueling Akon songs when you are trying to teach HIV/AIDS prevention.

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are mine alone and do not represent the positions or views of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Peace Corps.

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