Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Runnin' Around With Kids.

Last week, a Peace Corps Volunteer statined in Plovdiv supervised a day camp for about 50 children at a primary school in the Mahala (Roma Neighborhood) of the city. She invited me to participate and help run the camp. The children were shy on the first day, but enthusiastically opened up and interacted with all of the teachers and volunteers. They listened, behaved well (for the most part), and participated in each activity. They were so energetic, it was difficult to pay attention to every child who wanted to talk or hold hands or share a hug. We played Sharks and minnows, capture the flag, partner tag (aka hook tag), Basketball (with steel-welded hoops about 4 ft. high), football (soccer), and other games. The kids enjoyed tie-dying, ornament painting, and other crafts. On wednesday, we took the kids to a field where we met JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) volunteers who taught then baseball.

Many of the children had never experienced a day camp or such directed positive attention from adults. Their burst of enthusiasm every morning when we entered their schoolyard was touching. In the US, I worked at day camps where children were often bored or uninterested in many activities. What a contrast.

The other camp I'm helping organize (Camp GLOW) is dangerously low in funding. This is a different camp, serving an older, more diverse crowd. The campers are girls who have the experience and resources to excel in their communities as leaders. The organizing committee had to find a new venue for the camp, increasing the costs per capita. Please, if there is a way to contribute even $10 (or indeed anything), it would help us immensely. Again, visit to donate (tax deductible).

On a lighter note, the Festival of Roses took place in Kazanluk, the capital of the Valley of the Roses in early June. Italian opera singers, local pop artists, Russian, Macedonian and Bulgarian folk dancers, and others performed on a communal stage. Low-flying aircraft dropped rose oil and petals along the main street while residents cheerfully watched local and international groups parade down the main street. The local rose oil is known throughout the world and is used in some of the most famous perfumes (Calvin Kline, Chanel, Chantel, etc.).

I will attend Outward Bound counselor training in two weeks, to become a certified instructor. I'm looking forward to the week in the mountains and the change in work. I miss everyone back home, and am planning a short trip home later this year. Ciao, all.