Girls in Colombia are GLOWing
“From love, we transform.”
These words were recently etched in Maria’s memory. She heard them during a session she attended at a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp in the Caribbean region of Colombia, where she’s from. She was one of 42 young women who participated in the multiday female empowerment workshop.
Camp GLOW is one of the Peace Corps’ most recognizable activities. Volunteers, partners, and counterparts in many of the countries where we serve have taught thousands of young women essential life skills and armed them with the confidence and ambition to pursue their dreams. Maria is one of them, and she said workshops like GLOW are vital.
“Camp GLOW is important for young women. It enables them to grow as leaders, inspires them, allows them to experience learning in a collective environment, and helps them to feel empowered and to network with other women from different areas.”
GLOW started in Colombia in 2014. However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything, making it impossible to continue physical camps and clubs. Volunteers returned to Colombia in early 2022, and with the help of partners and counterparts, in-person GLOW clubs have resumed in some parts of the country. But a large-scale, multiday event hadn’t been held.
Education Volunteer David led the effort to change that. He was one of the first Volunteers to return to service in Colombia, and his first secondary project was a GLOW club for young girls in his community. David and his counterpart started the weekly club to give 13- to 18-year-old girls in his town a space to learn, grow, and thrive. The club’s success was a catalyst in developing the a multicommunity workshop.
“One of the reasons I decided to do this was because I have my own club GLOW in my community. Being able to have them take part in this was a driving force,” he said.
David collaborated with three female leaders in the community (las directoras), counterparts, and fellow Volunteers to organize, facilitate, and execute the five-day camp. Together, they decided on the topics they would tackle, developed activities, and recruited guest speakers and camp counselors. A total of 19 Peace Corps Volunteers and community counterparts committed to supporting the project. They wanted participants to walk away from the camp feeling inspired, capable, and informed and worked to create sessions that addressed challenges and presented subject matter that was relevant and valuable to participants.
Thirty campers started each day with a physical activity and attended sessions about health, relationships, professional development, leadership skills, gender gaps, and self-defense, to name a few. Participants also engaged in activities that encouraged reflection, creativity, and teamwork. Volunteer and Camp GLOW counselor Riley said this kind of event can have a big impact on participants and communities.
“In the case of Camp GLOW, the participants spend a week learning leadership skills, working in teams of diverse members, and discussing local needs in order to return to their communities with the task of ideating and implementing a community project. These projects are led by local girls and seek to meet community-defined priorities.”
The experience had an immediate and profound effect on the girls, too. Sixteen-year-old participant Teresa said Camp GLOW helped her realize her worth and potential.
“I’m so glad I was able to attend Camp GLOW. I’m grateful for the experience,” she said. “It was very beautiful and special. Camp GLOW is important for young women because we learn so much. We learned how important it is to value and love ourselves. We learned to accept ourselves as we are and to see ourselves as beautiful and wonderful. We learned to be empowered and strong, and that as women, we must always support one another.”
Projects like GLOW camps and clubs allow young women to learn from and interact with other women and girls. They push girls outside of their comfort zone, help them feel supported, and show them how capable they are. They help girls glow and grow.