Ahhhh… Talk about a re-energizing, re-inspiring, fulfilling way to spend three days! Just got back from “Celebrando El Cibao” youth diversity camp and it was amazing! I brought three youth from my campo, ages 16, 19, and 21, all of whom had just finished high school, and I couldn’t be happier with how they came, slowly opened up, and then left camp feeling differently. The camp felt like a lifetime for me and I’m sure the rest of the volunteers, helping to coordinate activities, get kids involved, and take endless pictures of everything, but by the end of the camp it was all worthwhile. The kids had their eyes opened up to real characteristics of leaders by the former Vice President of the DR, Jaime David. They were confronted first hand with the realization of their own country’s racism by a Haitian engineer and his presentation on the beauties and culture of Haiti. They had the chance to learn about other religions of the world and created small skits to show how you might respectfully handle daily problems with difference of religion. They learned about sexual orientation, the importance of respecting and understanding heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals alike. They talked about stereotypes, how they affect the way we treat others, and how hurtful they can be. They experienced firsthand how a disability can make you feel while attempting to eat jello either with no hands, with a blind-fold, or with their non-dominant hand. And we obviously had a whole bunch of ice breakers because Dominicans absolutely love them. They also learned a whole lot about themselves and their confidence after sharing, joking around with, and getting to know sixty other young kids from around the country who were just as open-minded as they are. We had a talent show with some singers and story-tellers, we had a night of dancing and dominoes, and and every day was opened up with yoga to get people going.
It’s a new generation in the DR. The same way it took generations to overcome the racism toward blacks and sexism towards women in the US, the youth in the DR are growing up in a new culture that is slowly trying to change. These young kids come from campos where they are possibly the only people who really know how to read and write proficiently and therefore really are the most capable to affect change. Youth groups in this country have real power because of the up and coming generation that is miles ahead of their parents in terms of education.
All in all I am so happy I got involved in this camp, so happy my kids said they loved it, and really proud to be that much closer to some kids in my community that can help me try to make changes for the year that I have left. Who knows what affect this will make on them 20 years down the road, but just thinking that it will help change the DR the way the US has changed for the better...it makes you feel good. This is a proud Peace Corps volunteer.