Saturday, July 30, 2011

So you want to camp it up?

One of my newest projects is writing a basic how-to guide for organizing a summer program (read day-camp) in Azerbaijan. Of course, writing such a thing is a lot harder than I imagined, but eh. I got skillz (that's right. Skills with a z).

Anyway, I thought I would post a few basic guidelines here. For all of you out there who have got some suggestions, comment me away!

Start a year out. 
For most PCVs, at least a year is needed for summer program planning. Everything from applying for a grant to collecting special materials takes inordinate amounts of time when you are living in a developing country. My advice, be a helper at other PCVs' summer camps before deciding to do one on your own.

Major decisions.
Figure out our camp focus. Is it going to be an English camp? A sport camp? An art camp? Are you doing this thing with local help or lone wolfing it? Do you need a grant? Who will write and manage the grant? How many kids do you expect will attend? How many kids do you want to attend? Is this a kid's camp or an adult training program? Will you need PCV help? Will locals have an active role in organizing or facilitating the camp?

These questions (and many others) are really important. For the major PCV grants (SPA and PCPP), you need at least 6 to 8 months. Personally, I tried to include as many locals as possible at every step. It made the process longer, but I think it transferred more skills. I am still impressed that my counterpart wrote her own grant a few months ago for sports equipment - a skill she learned while we wrote our own camp's SPA grant.

This is where things get tricky. You got to tell the head dogs, the local government, your director, counterparts, kids, other PCVs - everybody and their grandma, what you plan to do. Making sure you have government approval is really important. Making sure your host org will support you (either with time off or resources) is crucial and of course, making sure PCVs know what is coming up helps them plan their summers accordingly.

Money is in and it is time to buy. Keep detailed records of money and receipts (this will save you a lot of head aches on the final grant reporting side). Make sure you inventory your supplies and have enough for everything. Will there be a counterpart training? Print the hand-outs and make sure you have every contingency planned for (such as someone not showing up).

Sending out the summons.
Hopefully, by this point you have potential campees, but do you have PCVs? Get firm commitments and communicate your community and house rules. Are shorts allowed? What about smoking in public? Should people pitch in for food, toilet paper, electricity (for the constant use of your fan)? Are PCVs expected for the whole week or just part? Be clear and stick to your guns. The goal is for this to be less of a headache for you, not more.

Remember to eat and drink lots of liquids.

Clean up.
Always follow that Girl Scout motto and leave a place better than you found it. Debrief counterparts and make sure the lessons you were hoping to transmit were actually transmitted. Write up your final grant report. Post pictures online and thank donors. Get your house right (after lots of guests...this can be touch).

Plan for next year???