The goal of the Gender Youth Leadership Camp is to lead discussions and teach life-skills through activities that promote gender and sexual reproductive health, youth leadership, community development, teamwork, and mental health awareness. The three day camp will be led by trained high school youth leaders ages 15-16, 6 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), and 10 Thai counterparts. It will include 60 students, of those 15 youth leaders, ages 15-16 and 45 youth participants, ages 12-14, and it will take place from December 1, 2019 to December 4, 2019. The topics surrounding our theme for the youth will be consent, healthy relationships, contraception, being a youth leader, self-care, gender identity and sexuality. The camp facilitators plan on incorporating yoga, art, sports and music into every aspect of the camp to promote healthier lifestyles. The PCVs & Thai counterparts intend to create sustainable youth-led Sexual and Reproductive Health/Leadership clubs after the camp at all 3 districts and will continue to develop the youth leaders ages 12-16 in order to ensure the spread of SRH knowledge and tools. By doing so we hope to decrease the rates of intimate partner violence, teen pregnancy and STI infections and increase leadership roles, factual knowledge surrounding SRH, use of contraception and healthier planned lifestyles throughout the communities.
The current 3 communities the PCVs serve in are concerned with the rates of teen pregnancy, dropout rates after the completion of 9th grade and transmission of HIV and STIs among the youth in the community. Furthermore, our communities & counterparts have currently been supportive of small projects leading up to this event to ensure student participants will already have some exposure and comfort with the topics that we will be discussing. Those projects include empowerment clubs that cover self-esteem, life skills, sexual reproductive health and art. The Thai counterparts show their commitment by providing support and co-facilitation of small youth trainings that ensure that student leaders are prepared to co-facilitate sessions during the GYL camp. The Thai counterparts have also co-planned the camp schedule, venue and material/supply lists. Examples of current projects that we have gained community and counterpart support with are the Youth Leadership Club, Girls Empowerment Clubs, and Safe Spaces Project. The goal of the Youth Leadership Club is to have youth leaders lead and facilitate activities related to teamwork, gender roles, and mental wellness at the gender and youth leadership camp, and following this to create a small camp on their own for primary school aged youth in their direct community. Their goal is to model this program for other counterparts who will be in attendance at the camp and serve as a resource to youth who are committed to initiating similar projects. The Girls Empowerment Clubs focus on empowering young girls to fulfill leadership roles, to decrease bullying among girls, to utilize tools such as expression through art, meditation, and yoga to relieve mental stress, and to explore societal gender normatives and how to feel confident in their skin despite not aligning completely with those gender expectations. The school community has committed a budget for supplies (art, yoga) to ensure the clubs overall quality, safety, and success. They have provided a space to meet two times weekly, and an additional teacher to support with educating students and facilitating activities. The Safe Spaces Project is co-facilitated by a PCV & her Thai counterpart and is a weekly meeting on Saturdays in order to encourage the students to learn healthy coping techniques and life skills, learn about sexual reproductive health and gender identity, art and self expression in a safe, positive and motivating place. The parents, students and municipality staff support this project and are committed to it on a weekly basis. The parents will often supply snacks and beverages, the municipality staff will provide the space with all of the electronics needed, and the PCV provides the art tools and lessons.
PCV counterparts have committed to continuing PCV facilitated camps at their schools that model the program design of the larger-scale gender and youth leadership camp taking place. Youth leaders will maintain leadership clubs and service learning projects following the camp to continue improving upon youth leadership and engagement in healthy lifestyles. Counterparts have also committed to creating clubs that do not currently exist at their schools which will focus on creating safe spaces for youth, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and youth advocacy. Although many of these are new concepts for our Thai staff, they value this need and have expressed their commitment to initiating programs and gaining additional school and local government support.