[Note: I have a bunch of unwritten/unposted updates from the end of my service that I would like to share regardless for posterity’s sake. So I will get them up as soon as possible, and then return back to real-time as soon as I can. Please bear with me! :)]
This week was Dostar’s annual Summer Youth Leadership Camp, an event that our volunteers look forward to for the entire year. As with last year’s camp, SYLS 2011 was sponsored for the second year in a row by the U.S. PEPFAR grant program, with co-funding by World Bank/Soros Foundation and in-kind materials from UNESCO.
This year’s camp brought young people from all walks of life together for a 6-day event filled with trainings of trainers, leadership and teambuilding activities, theatrical performances and role-playing exercises. HIV+ youth and peers in their social environments from villages around South Kazakhstan Oblast were fully integrated with each other over the course of the camp.
As always, everyone formed unforgettable friendships over the 6 days that will last for years to come. It does take a special type of trainer to work with so many different and unique groups of youth, many of whom hardly ever socialize with people outside of their immediate communities. We faced some disciplinary problems at this year’s camp that resulted in one of the participants getting sent home, which was tough – but it was great that our guys, after years of experience, are very flexible and able to deal with a wide array of personal situations that inevitably occur.
One of my favorite parts of the camp was its culmination on the last day before departure – the theatrical presentations by each of the 5 teams. We had unforgettable dramatic representations followed by avid discussions on gender equality, unwanted pregnancy/abortion, volunteerism, leadership and human rights. One of my favorite moments was an all-music non-verbal enaction of how a normal, not very active girl discovers the Dostar youth center and starts conducting trainings, helping others, and finding her passions in life. It brought many of us to tears as it reminded us of the life-changing process that being a volunteer can bring about, that almost all of us at our org have experienced personally.
Our idea for next year is to use our partner NGOs from our “Central Asia Youth NGO Development Network” project funded by Soros Foundation (more to come on this shortly!) to conduct a regional SYLS and share our successful leadership development model with participants from around Central Asia! Please share any ideas for potential donors 🙂