A big welcome to Krystle Austin, FAVL's new Peace Corps volunteer! Krystle writes:
I've just returned from my whirlwind Reading Camp tour of the libraries located in the southwest of Burkina. As a new volunteer with FAVL, I wanted to see as many of the libraries as possible and participate in some of the Reading Camps along the way. So during the month, I helped with the camps in Sara, Karaba, Koumbia (for half a week) and Boni (for half a week). I also took tours of the libraries in Bereba, Dimikuy and Dohoun. It's been a busy month, but I learned a lot that will be helpful in my third Peace Corps year with FAVL. Not to mention, I had a lot of fun working with the kids and met a lot of helpful and nice people along the way.
I can't imagine how hard it was to organize an event like this at each library, particularly during rainy season when people are busy cultivating. As a Peace Corps volunteer, this is always a difficult time of year for projects and so forth because everyone is so busy. But at each of the libraries, the event was very well organized and the participation by the communities was amazing. In each community, the Peace Corps volunteers were housed and fed and made to feel a member of the village.
The camps themselves were a lot of fun. In all five villages, the kids were motivated and participating in a way that's normally difficult here in a learning environment where you have on average over eighty kids in a given class. The kids enjoyed themselves during the warm-ups each day - singing and dancing - and proudly showed off their art projects to one another and the animators. The most remarkable thing was the amount of progress in reading skills during one short week. At many of the camps, there were kids who couldn't read the alphabet at the beginning of the week. By the end of the week, they were able to cut words into syllables and sound them out unaided to begin reading simple words. I remember two kids in particular that I worked closely with during my first week. They not only couldn't read, but were embarrassed because they couldn't. They're difficulties were increased exponentially by their timidity. We spent a lot of time together just working on letters and syllables, and during the evaluation on the last day, both were among the first to volunteer and you could see how proud of themselves they were when they were applauded by their fellow camp-goers. It always amazes me how much difference a little bit of personal attention and encouragement can make to a kid.
Overall, I would say the camps were a success and I definitely enjoyed my time in the southwest (although it is quite a lot colder and rainier than I'm used to, having lived on the east side of Burkina for two years). The community members, the kids - all the people I worked with during the month of August - made it a fun and memorable trip.