Fifth Annual Camp Gem Sa Bopp Spreads Love in St. Louis

By Alex Cooper
Oct. 16, 2015
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Health Volunteer Sarah welcomes campers with open arms. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam

Every September Peace Corps Volunteers located around the St. Louis region of Senegal host a leadership camp known as Gem Sa Bopp ("Believe in Yourself") for young women. The camp bolsters women’s empowerment through group discussions and activities. The goal is to strengthen vocational and educational skills of the campers. Every year, Peace Corps Volunteers receive help from various local leaders and Peace Corps staff.

The campers were broken into different groups. An experienced female counselor called a monitrice led each group. These women were truly wonderful in raising awareness on important issues and promoting participation, especially in the more shy participants. The team dynamic helped create strong bonds and a little friendly competition.

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Counselor Awa helps prepare a camper for an upcoming presentation. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam

This weeklong camp covered subjects like personal health, the environment, human rights, activism, and career choices. Presentations were officiated by various regional leaders. Among the presenters were two of Peace Corps Senegal’s staff: "Mama" Awa Traore and Zoe Williams. The presentations stimulated discussions of business practices, accounting, environmentalism, activism, and personal hygiene. Campers also learned and presented information on famous female leaders in history.

During an event named Kai Tukki (“Come Travel”), the campers experienced various cultures through volunteer-led presentations on different countries, including the US, Egypt, Colombia, Russia, Brazil, Singapore, and South Africa. Powerpoint presentations were accompanied by renditions of local dance.

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Agriclture Volunteers Alex and Sarah stand with their team at the hand-washing competition. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam

Of course, discussions were only a part of camp. There were many games. Every morning began with a light jog and some exercise. There was also yoga, Capture the Flag, and a day of Olympics that included such events as the three-legged race and kicking a goal after being spun around five times.

The final day of camp was a time for reflection, rejoicing, and the lighting of a massive bonfire. Peace Corps Volunteers also projected professional-quality videos highlighting the different events of camp on a 10ft widescreen. The final night ended in cheer and a plethora of treats made specially by the chef.

This camp has grown in size and vigor through the continued support of Peace Corps, various NGOs, and individual donors. It was very memorable observing the level of growth the campers exhibited over the course of the week. I am happy that I could make a difference in the lives of Senegal’s future female leaders. I am glad to say that the 5th annual Gem Sa Bopp camp in St. Louis was a great success.


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Health Volunteers Melissa and Ingrid show-off their Tippy-Tap skills. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Peace Corps Volunteer Caroline helps two of her teammates present on a noteworthy female leader. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Learning about St. Louis history at the ISRE urban garden. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Megan leads a yoga session. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer Erika enjoying a Colombian dance at the "Come Travel" event. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer Erika leads Team Light Blue in an "Olympic" event against Team Orange. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Counselor Mame Fatou explains a game about good business practices. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Mama Awa getting a laugh at her group discussion. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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Health Volunteer Rebecca catching some waves with campers. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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New friendships were formed during the beach trip. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
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The entire Gëm Sa Bopp team on the beach. Photo by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Sam
Alex Cooper

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