This summer I have managed to stay extremely busy, which has been drastically different from my experiences during my first summer in country. All that intentional relationship building (IRBing) and networking has finally begun to pay off! I have been working on several different projects this summer, but my main project (and definitely the biggest and most time consuming project) was planning and coordinating the national Outdoor Ambassadors summer camp for 80 participants across the country. This camp required months and months (nine months to be exact) of planning and careful preparation. Sometimes throughout the process I wanted to bang my head against the wall because of the random obstacles that would arise or because of the sheer amount of time it required, but in the end all the tears, sweat, and hard work I put in ended up paying off with an amazing camp! I couldn’t have coordinated this awesome event without the help of the rest of the Outdoor Ambassadors committee, especially our treasurer Luke who created the budget, my shadow Kelsey who was my right-hand woman and emotional support, our president Masha who helped keep me on track with all the details, and the materials coordinator Quinn who documented the entire camp and created all the media surrounding the event. The camp also wouldn’t have run properly without the help of the amazing Peace Corps volunteers and Albanian counselors who helped run activities and games, plan informative group lessons, and give camp the energy and pizzazz needed to sustain a week full of fun! This project has been my greatest success as a volunteer thus far and it felt good to implement something on such a large scale. Since it was such an accomplishment I wrote this “success story” for our Peace Corps Albania Facebook page which goes more in depth about the project. Please check out the Outdoor Ambassadors Facebook page and our website (which is currently under construction) for more information about our cause and to view more photos from the event!
On August 15-19, 2014, the American Albanian Development Foundation (AADF) in collaboration with Outdoor Ambassadors and Peace Corps volunteers held a five-day environmental leadership summer camp in Ishull Lezhe. Sixty students from fourteen communities across the country participated (Bajram Curri, Burrel, Corovode, Fier, Kavaje, Kucove, Leskovik, Lezhe, Librazhd, Pogradec, Prrenjas, Saranda, Shkoder, and Vlore). The summer camp focused on fostering leadership skills amongst the youth in Albania. At this years camp, the theme was “Go Green” and throughout the week campers were asked various “go green” trivia questions to check their knowledge about different ways that they can reduce, reuse, and recycle in Albania. Campers engaged in activities such as archery, rock climbing, song-writing, swimming, yoga, and more, all while developing a sense of environmental consciousness and leadership skills.
Prior to camp, each Outdoor Ambassadors’ group raised 5000 lek (fifty dollars) or more in their communities to help fund the camp. To raise money some clubs held local summer day camps for children, while other clubs held community events to raise money and awareness for the event. The clubs raised over $800 total locally in their communities! Along with raising money, the clubs collected over twenty kilograms of bottle caps for the camp community project. Many clubs helped pick up bottle caps from the local beaches, while others reached out to businesses to ask for help with the cause.
The camp was high-energy and full of activities throughout the week. Each day the students had the opportunity to swim, rock climb, and participate in archery and yoga . The campers were divided into eight groups and rotated through activities with their groups. The groups playfully competed against each other during the week through different activities, challenges, and with the go green trivia.
The arrival day consisted of ice-breakers and group games led by Albanian counselors and Peace Corps volunteers. There was also a brief Training of Trainers for the staff that had not participated in the camp setting as a counselor before. Along with these activities, groups also competed against each other in relay races.
The first activity day of camp, campers participated in song-writing lessons, recycled arts and crafts, an ecosystems lesson, soccer, a self-esteem and meditation lesson, and an amazing group scavenger hunt in which students had to work together as a team. For the scavenger hunt each team used compass and navigation skills to find group challenges in different areas around the camp. The campers especially enjoyed the song-writing activity because they were able to take popular songs and rewrite the lyrics with an environmental “go green” element.
On the second activity day campers went on an excursion to the Lezhe castle. At the castle, the students helped clean up inside and around the castle through a garbage pickup. Along with the excursion, campers learned about gender, first aid and emergency help, and how to leave no trace when camping and hiking in the wilderness. They also played volleyball and had time in the billiards room. That evening the camp was lit up with flair from all the campers during the talent show. Some campers performed skits, others sang and belly danced, and each group preformed their environmental group song from the song-writing lesson the previous day.
On the final activity day, campers participated in a lesson about stigma and a lesson about fire safety. They also raced through the camp adventure playgroup challenge course complete with a zip-line and other fun obstacles. The campers created a bottle-cap mural for the community project. The bottle caps that were collected before camp were used to create a unique recycled art project. The caps were arranged on a large wooden plank in the shape of Albania with special markers in each of the Outdoor Ambassadors cities that participated in the camp. After the project was complete, the campers gave the final cap project to the community of Lezhe and all of the extra bottle caps were donated to the Albanian Cap Project to help provide wheelchairs to people in need. The night ended with special awards and certificates, as well as a camp dance and bonfire.
Many participants declared that this was one of the best weeks of their lives and that they would never forget all the lasting memories and new friendships that developed over the course of the week. Now students, Albanian counselors, and Peace Corps volunteers are equipped with the energy and excitement to continue Outdoor Ambassadors events in their communities throughout the school year! Big thanks to AADF for all the support!
Watch the above video and check out the reasons why Outdoor Ambassadors “Go Green” Summer Camp was one of the best weeks EVER!
Cooling off by the pool.
Learning to aim at archery.
The Peace Corps volunteers taking time to be silly.
One of the students on the rock wall.
At the garbage cleanup excursion at the castle.
Ice breakers and team building activities.
The entire group!
The president and I giving awards to one of my students from the Outdoor Ambassadors group in my city.
Our beautiful bottle cap mural and community project.