By: Ilana Shushansky
Over the past few weeks I have found that doing a project on such a short timeline has certain productivity advantages. Because almost everything is a priority and has to get done now, the end of each day tends to come with a major accomplishment or task checked off the master project list. Last week initial interviews were conducted for camp counselors and the camp, enrollment forms were translated into 2 languages, the camp itself was introduced to every girl in grades 6-9 at all eleven schools, and parents meetings to create parent buy-in began. This week camper enrollment forms were handed out to over 1500 students, counselors were formally interviewed, selected, and assigned to specific schools, and we have had our first 50 girls enroll to attend camp at two different schools…and it is only Wednesday! The end of this week will be heavily focused on curriculum development, as we also continue to be educated about the issues the girls in our schools, and India, are really facing. And despite that Hyderabad’s summer heat makes even the simplest tasks exhausting, the excitement and energy of the girls, teachers, and school owners towards camp are like a burst of energy each day.
This afternoon the in-charge at my school, Rachel, sat me down to plead. The school that I have been working at all year has two branches; Kismathpur, which has about 800 students from nursery to Class 10, and Dargah, which has only 350 students from nursery to Class 7. Because I work mainly at Dargah, even though they are younger, I wanted the girls there to be involved in camp. I told the older girls about the program and that we could have 25 Dargah girls and 25 Kismathpur girls enroll, figuring I would get maybe 10 girls. I was out of town last week and when I returned already 27 girls from Dargah had returned their enrollment forms and fees, and the English teacher organizing the effort on my behalf showed me at least 5 more girls on the list. Knowing that I given Dargah a cap of 25, this is when Rachel came to me. She explained how excited all the girls were to attend camp and how excited their parents were as well (they conducted a parents meeting last week in which all parents were told about the project). Rachel convinced me that the Dargah girls were large enough in numbers and committed enough to have their own camp, so that I would not turn anyone away. If you return the fees and disallow any one girl, her parents will come and complain to me…why have you not taken my child…so you should take all girls from here.
And the same thing is happening across the board. While at first we were nervous about reaching our target enrollment, now we are emotionally struggling with having to turn girls away. It is an extremely positive sign for the future of Camp VOICE, however, to know that just the idea behind our camp, without actually knowing what it runs like, is demanded enough to have to turn girls away in the pilot year.