Filling the first part of my summer vacation with camps around Kosovo.
Summertime can be a wild few months for Peace Corps Volunteers in the Education Sector. Most go on some kind of vacation somewhere or other, others dedicate time to their community through camps or projects or some variation, some are helping with Pre-Service Training with the new cohort, but it’s often a combination of a little bit of everything.
I’m spending the summer in Kosovo, primarily in my village with my host family, mainly because I’m a poor PCV, but also because I’m a poor PCV. Luckily, I’ve had camp opportunities to fill at least some of my time, and several festivals in Kosovo coming up to fill some of my other time.
The first camp I was a part of was something I was somewhat emotionally attached to before, during and after. Aside from being a normal PCV (which in and of itself can be a lot of work), I’m also a member of the Gender and Diversity committee composed of several other PCVs and a staff member. The committee title is kind of self-explanatory about the theme of our mission, with the additional explanation of us working towards equal opportunities and representation for women and minority groups. Our biggest project this year has been establishing Peace Corps Kosovo’s first-ever GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp. GLOW Camp is a camp put on in Peace Corps countries all around the globe, and since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Kosovo in just 2014, we are a very new post who have not had the opportunity to start one yet.
Being our first year, we decided to run two concurrent camps: a majority (Albanian) camp and a minority (Serb, Romani, Bosniak, Turk, Egyptian/Ashkali) camp, since ethnic tensions here can often create complications and risk reputation. The hope is to eventually integrate the camps, but seeing as how we are just getting started, this seemed a bit too ambitious to even attempt the first year.
Since I helped out in the majority camp, I’m only going to talk about that one. From what I’ve heard from PCVs regarding the minority camp, it sounded powerful and amazing and I’m so proud of all of them.
In the majority camp, we had over 50 Albanian girls ages 14-18 apply and had to narrow that number down to 15 via phone interviews. It was honestly so hard making the cut because every girl we interviewed seemed great.
The camp was in Junik (way out in Western Kosovo), from June 29 – July 1 and run by both Peace Corps and the YMCA in Gjakova. The YMCA was incredibly helpful with their staff and resources, and a big shout out to Katie (my fellow KOS5 PCV) for all of her passion, hard work and dedication with grant work, delegation, set up, and all that jazz.
GLOW Camp was so so fun! We all camped out in tents (all but one of the girls had never slept in a tent before) which brought back fond childhood memories of going camping with my family. In addition to sessions about team building, women empowerment, mindfulness and meditation, goal setting, and leadership, we went on a hike, learned how to build a fire, roasted marshmallows for s’mores, and played games. The girls that were a part of the camp were brilliant, passionate, impressive and empowered, and I am so glad to have gotten to know them.
The second camp I was a part of was Integrity Camp put on by the American Corner (an organization in both the Prishtina and Prizren public libraries) with Peace Corps and the Youth Council of Kosovo, which had 30 students aged 16-21 from all over Kosovo with a majority of Albanian but with a few minority students. The camp was from July 9-12 at a ski resort called Hotel Arxhena near Prizren in Brod – super southern Kosovo, basically between North Macedonia and Albania. The views were incredible. On the 3rd day, we went up the ski lift and were treated to one of the prettiest views I have ever seen; Kosovo’s beauty never ceases to amaze me.
The sessions were led by Peace Corps Volunteers and members of the Youth Council. We did sessions similar to ones we did in GLOW Camp like leadership and goal setting, with additional sessions on plagiarism and integrity, and equality vs equity. We even had two guest speakers from the U.S. Embassy in Prishtina come in to discuss the Rule of Law and minority representation.
The students were amazing – the English ability alone was unreal. We had great in-depth discussions about important topics which was already awesome, but the fact that they were done in the students’ second (and sometimes third or fourth) language was beyond impressive.
Aside from these sessions and discussions, we had a karaoke night (my friend Celina and I sang the Pokémon theme song which was not as big of a hit as we had hoped – we must be getting old), played volleyball, ate some delicious meals provided by the hotel, and formed some awesome friendships.
I am so glad to have been a part of these camps and to meet with some Kosovar students outside of my community. Kosovo is such a young country and I am constantly impressed by its vibrant youth.
Next up, I’ll be attending Anibar Festival (an animation film festival in Peja), Sunny Hill Festival (a music festival in Prishtina started by Kosovo’s own Dua Lipa), and Hardh Fest (a wine and grape festival in Rahovec featuring some awesome live music).
Also, I finally made a Peace Corps Instagram, so give me a follow if you want to keep up with my life in pictures! @christina.pcv