Summer camp: if you’re anything like me the words probably recall visions of lake swimming, capture the flag, and roasting marshmallows around the campfire. Karonga SEED Camp 2016 didn’t have any of those things, but what it shared with that vision was its microclimate of freedom. For most of the 28 students selected from eight secondary schools in Karonga, it was their first time spending a week away from home. For one, it was her first time leaving her tiny village. Led by two environmental Peace Corps Volunteers a year older than me, these students spent a week participating in environmental education workshops and devising a community action plan to go back to their home villages and implement a conservation project.
What really struck me this week was the sense of duty that each and every student felt. They took detailed notes in lectures, and actively participated in building a perma garden and efficient cookstoves. After lectures they would approach us and ask insightful questions, and created clever schemes to adapt the lessons in their own communities. To say I was impressed was them would be an understatement.
But of course, these kids were first and foremost teenagers. They joked and moaned about the food (gaiwa and beans twice a day every day, with gaiwa porridge for breakfast) and asked pointed questions at each other’s expense. They also destroyed us Americans in football and volleyball. Overall, everyone had a great time and came away from the experience feeling like they learned something.
I spent most of the week photographing the events, and pitching in with lectures here and there. I’m very excited to plan a SEED Camp of my own in Nkhata Bay, possibly focusing on girls empowerment. And I was very lucky to get a trial run with the lovely Karonga volunteers.