World Camp (volunteer organization)
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World Camp is a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization in the United States and a registered Non-governmental organization (NGO) in the country of Malawi. World Camp was founded in 2001 by students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and continues to be led, funded, managed, and operated by young adults. Since 2001, volunteers from 24 additional colleges and universities have participated in January and summer programs and educated over 21,000 children in southern Africa, India, and Honduras. Students from Appalachian State, Birmingham Southern, Bryn Mawr College, Colby College, College of Charleston, Columbia University, Duke University, Franklin and Marshall, Kenyon College, Middlebury College, Oberlin College, Pomona College, Sewanee, University of California, Berkeley, UNC Asheville, UNC Wilmington, University of Alabama, University of Colorado, University of Delaware, University of Nebraska, University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Missouri, Centre College, Wooster College, and Yale have participated in World Camp. World Camp currently conducts HIV/AIDS prevention education, environmental conservation, literacy workshops, and gender empowerment in rural primary schools in and around Lilongwe, Malawi.
History of World Camp and World Camp for Kids
World Camp was originally founded in 2000 by college students following their travels throughout southern Africa. Many founding members participated in study abroad programs or summer volunteer programs in southern Africa, and were moved by the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, especially the challenges it placed on children and their communities. Wanting to continue their involvement in southern Africa, they sought out more long-term and involved volunteer experiences. Finding many programs to be prohibitively expensive, these students worked together to form a new, cooperative organization called World Camp for Kids. (World Camp now charges participants a fee to facilitate four weeks of teaching in Malawi). The students met with the ministries of education in the countries they visited, established contacts, evaluated specific country and regional needs, and raised funds under the name World Camp for Kids. World Camp for Kids was also the name of the official student organization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was then providing limited financial and institutional support. The 2000 World Camp for Kids team consisted of ten students who travelled throughout southern Africa, researching effective teaching methods and developing the curriculum that eventually became the cornerstone of World Camp Malawi's educational outreach program.
Due to the positive reception in the previous year, the 2001 volunteers chose to return exclusively to Malawi. They camped for 10 weeks as they travelled through the Lilongwe rural east and west school districts, conducting two-day educational camps focused solely on HIV/AIDS. World Camp for Kids continued to grow, and by the summer of 2002, the organization was renting a home and office space in Lilongwe, operating a company vehicle, distributing traditional food (nsima, a.k.a. nshima in Zambia) to students, school supplies, and safe sex materials during its educational outreach camps. After a formal name change in 2005, World Camp, Inc. established a permanent office and volunteer residence in Area 3, Lilongwe. In that year, World Camp began conducting three-day educational camps with professional translators, community presentations, and the free distribution of simple solar ovens. The organization also began working in regions further from the capital, such as Dedza and Dowa.
World Camp Malawi is run out of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. World Camp volunteer teachers are stationed in the World Camp house which is located in Area 3, on the new side of 'Old Town'. The house also contains the regional World Camp Office where year-round programming is based out of. World Camp volunteers return to their base most nights during the program. Participants have voiced concerns that living in a sheltered, western environment detracts from their effectiveness as teachers. However, volunteers participate in a number of homestays through the session to experience rural Malawian life and have the chance to learn basic Chichewa, the local language. World Camp staff and volunteers find that this balance exposes volunteers to life in Malawian villages while keeping volunteers healthy and well rested for effective teaching.
World Camp’s educational programs are conducted in a day camp setting for Malawian students in primary grades 5-8. The three-day program includes games, songs, physical activity, targeted workshops, visual aids, hands-on projects, science experiments, and in-depth discussions regarding locally challenging issues. Borrowing from methods used in U.S. summer camps and school programs, the games, songs, and physical activities are meant to promote self-confidence, leadership, correct information, and team building. Classroom time is spent in HIV/AIDS prevention and environmental conservation lessons in addition to gender empowerment and creative writing. Camps end with a presentation ceremony for the community in which volunteer teachers and their students present skits pertaining to HIV/AIDS and deforestation, and community members often share songs, dances, and their own skits with volunteers. This is meant to promote community awareness and ownership of issues addressed by World Camp. Although Malawian primary standard curricula often incorporate HIV/AIDS and deforestation lessons into class time, World Camp attempts to clarify many misconceptions, foster a more detailed understanding of complex subjects, and teach in an engaging manner that is often new and memorable for students. Activities such as building and testing a simple, functioning solar oven and creating group presentations complete with props, posters, songs and dances, leave a lasting impression on underprivileged pupils. Through volunteer evaluations and student testing, World Camp has found its curriculum to be effective at changing students’ understanding of concepts concerning the transmission and prevention of HIV. In a study during the summer of 2003, supervised by Professor Richard Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Statistics, World Camp found student scores on 1687 simple HIV/AIDS quizzes rose from an average of 68% to 86% over the course of the three-day camp, and remained at 83% 4–6 weeks after each camp. The change in average scores was found to be statistically significant.
Youth to Youth
Each July, World Camp offers a Youth to Youth program that brings high school students to Malawi to work in rural primary schools. Youth to Youth volunteers teach lessons focus on individual and community health and include specific topcis such as HIV/AIDS, the environment, malaria, mental health, and support networks. This program offers a supervised and safe experience for younger volunteers while still allowing for individual exploration and growth through teaching in rural schools, various opportunities for homestay, many learning trips, and individual projects.
Malawian primary school teachers face difficult teaching situations. Up to 1 in 3 teachers are HIV-positive in Malawi, their salaries are extremely inadequate, training and preparation is incomplete, alcohol abuse is common, the government does not provide enough teaching or learning material, and teachers often have more than 100 students per class.
World Camp, with support from the Ministry of Education in Malawi, now concurrently provides student education and teacher training. Primary school teachers participate in a volunteer led, informational, discussion based workshop, supplemented with informational packets produced by World Camp. In addition to education, teacher workshops focus on implementing interactive and engaging activities into all subjects taught in primary schools. Teachers are encouraged to be a liaison to the community, and to play a central role in the presentation ceremony attended by community members on the last day of camp.
With the acquision of a full-time Country Manager in 2010 and a growing demand from partner communities for additional programming and support from World Camp, the organization took a regional focus in 2012 and will focus all programs in Malikha Education Zone, consisting of eleven primary schools overseen by a single Primary Education Advisor, over the next few years. The Malikha Zone also has two secondary schools and a handful of Community Based Organizations. World Camp staff hope this approach will lend itself to improved monitoring, evaluation, increased programming, and interventions aimed at specific community needs.
World Camp Clubs
In 2012 World Camp launched an initiative aimed at supporting student activism and youth involvement in community development efforts. World Camp Clubs were started at five primary schools in 2012 and will be implemented in the other six schools in Malikha over the coming years. Each World Camp Club has two teacher mentors, peer-elected student leadership, and anywhere from thirty to over one hundred members. World Camp makes monthly on-site visits to each Club and conducts a monthly zone-wide meeting for all stakeholders.
World Camp Clubs are responsible for creating their own action plans, planning and implementing projects aimed at locally-challenging issues, and involving the community in their efforts. World Camp facilitates various events and meetings throughout the academic year to provide support and ensure Club and student growth.
In 2011, World Camp first partnered with The Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital and SeriousFun Children's Network (formerly Association of Hole in the Wall Camps) to hold Camp Hope, a residential camp for youth living postiively with HIV in and around Lilongwe. Camps are four days and three nights of fun and learning with the goal of providing a safe environment for youth living with HIV to build up their self-confidence and settle into a supportive network of doctors and youth in similar situations. Camp addresses the tough and sensitive topics of treatment adherence, healthy relationships, future planning, and smart decisions through a unique combination of educational sessions, activities, dramas and discussions.
In 2012, Camp Hope had 28 staff members including the Camp Director, Activity Mentors, Cabin Mentors, and the Medical Team. Camp Hope hosted over 70 campers in its two sessions. Camp Hope staff also held two sessions for caregivers, where the guardians of campers were introduced to camp and given important information on issues of support and disclosure.
In 2012, World Camp expanded its programming with Camp Hope participants in an innovative follow-up program that further strengthened support networks, provided specific trade skills to participants, engaged guardians in caregiving techniques, and introduced both participants and their guardians to additional organizations that provide vital inforamiton and services including psychosocial and financial support.
ASU Business Program
In January 2011 World Camp hosted 11 Appalachian State University students and two faculty members from the Walker School of Business International Programs department in Malawi for a two week business practicum. Students received first hand experience with an assortment of business models and theories in a developing country. Students met with and learned about Community Based Organizations, various Government Ministries including the Ministry of Education, visited William Kamkwamba’s village to witness innovation and environmental conservation through the creation of a windmill in his yard, other non-governmental organizations, independent farmers, small loan companies, etc. The trip cumulated with a feasibility study of a maize mill in the rural village of Mchezi. The program was considered successful by all parties and will be offered annually to students at ASU.
The January 2013 the program will host 10 students, Appalachian State’s professional photographer, Director of the International Education Department, as well as the two faculty members from the 2012 trip.