Camp Scientifille

  • Let Girls Learn
  • Women & Gender
  • Youth
  • Togo
This project is led by Allison Lenselink, a Volunteer from Iowa

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Students sitting at their desks in class.
Allison and her counterparts work to facilitate Camp Scientifille 2018 for local students.

Camp Scientifille is a national summer camp that brings together some of Togo’s brightest female students in the sciences. Girls at the secondary school level between the ages of 11 to 17 are nominated by teachers and other school staff along with Volunteers to apply for the camp based on their academic motivation and achievements. Combining themes from the hard sciences and with teambuilding activities and health-related topics, the camp inspires participants’ confidence to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of their life goals. Camp Scientifille is unique in Peace Corps Togo in being the only camp focused exclusively on promoting girls’ education in the sciences. By the end of the camp, girls are equipped to take leadership roles in their communities, enhance their scholastic achievement in the sciences, and empower their peers to do likewise. Project Goals: 1. Motivate girls to pursue continued education in the sciences 2. Empower girls to take personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing 3. Develop leadership skills to serve as peer role models and educators in the sciences upon returning home.

The community group remains committed to organizing Scientifille despite the sudden death of its former president, Mr. Mama. Peace Corps organizers met with the new president in October to assess her willingness to continue. While some of the financial assets that Mr. Mama brought to the partnership will be difficult to replicate, the community is taking on roughly fifty percent of the planning labor for the camp. At the end of the October meeting, the community group agreed to get competitive quotes for lodging , search for new female Togolese trainers, negotiate a site visit to a local hospital, and look for microscope donations. Many of the materials that the community group donated last year, including lab coats, a microscope and telescope, will still be made available for 2018. The Community group has also agreed to cater food for the camp at a reduced fee. The budget for Scientifille 2018 will be created collaboratively with them, and all steps involved in creating the programming will be shared. 

As stated previously, the motivation for continuing Scientifille comes in large part from Peace Corps villages where past participants have motivated other girls in their school and formed science clubs.  At least four villages have adapted Scientifille clubs and the majority of participants have performed trainings on subjects learned during the camp.  Teachers also become involved in club activities, adapt experiments to their own classrooms, and share with their colleagues. Past iterations of Scientifille have included a 2-day Men as Partners training with the idea of forming allies at the girls’ schools to promote gender equality and support girls’ education in science. Due to budget constraints, Scientifille 2018 will not include this added 2-day training. Nevertheless, the organizers fully expect continued support of teachers as PCVs sending girls to camp will be encouraged to replicate the training in their own villages. Past girl participants are motivated during the school level to model leadership and academic achievement in order to return as “jeune leaders ” (young leaders) who work with trainers at the camp. A new feature of Scientifille 2018 will be to bring back a handful of exceptional leaders from last year as “trainers in training” in order to reward village achievements, further encourage educational development, and improve upon public speaking skill.

Camp Scientifille is founded on the principle of building capacity and instilling behavior change for equitable and sustainable development building people, not structures. Hand in hand with this goal is the inclusion of Togolese partnerships at every level of planning and implementation. Camp Scientifille 2018 will be the third year of Peace Corps’ collaboration with the community to realize this project. Last year’s organizers projected that they would be able to entirely take over administrative responsibility for Scientifille within five years’ time. As noted previously, however, the sudden death of the president and precipitous change in leadership now makes this forecast unattainable. This tragedy nevertheless brings with it the opportunity to develop the capacity of the new president and help her attain her stated goal of becoming a strong female role model for her kids and the camp participants. As such, Peace Corps will continue working with them to organize Camp Scientifille. The first organizers’ meeting was held in October 2017, wherein organizational tasks were discussed and shared. The community group understands Peace Corps’ philosophy of capacity-building and is willing to work towards assuming total responsibility of the project. 

Outside of Peace Corps’ NGO partnership, the entire structure of Camp Scientifille is set up to be self-sustaining. The camp is focused on inspiring girls to achieve and develop their capacity to become role models and leaders in their own communities. Young leaders for the next year are chosen from among participants who returned to village and demonstrated their commitment through forming science clubs and sharing the information they learned. Young leaders will be further motivated to continue promoting gender equality and girls’ gender education by the possibility of becoming trainers-in-training and after that, fully fledged trainers. Scientifille is dedicated to the ideal of empowering young girls to take charge of their futures, to become leaders among their peers and someday to become leaders in their communities and country. Participants, young leaders, and trainers have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty in promoting the goals and objectives of Camp Scientifille with their continued participation in the camp and in sharing the knowledge in village .

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