From the Founders: From Office Woes to Field Work Joys

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By Averil Spencer, Co-Founder

For the past few months, I have been trapped in the office finishing the camp curriculum for this summer.

While I love designing the material and thinking of creative ways to engage the girls in important topics, the process is isolating and I spend most of my time with my computer.

So, when it came time to recruit counselors, I was more than ready to leave the office to interview different young women from around Hyderabad.

Recruiting counselors is one of my favorite parts of my job!

I get to talk to young women who are achieving their dreams talk about how they see their life and the lives of women around them. I am able to learn so much from their experiences and the way they look at life. At VOICE, we created an interview process that focuses on testing communication skills through a series of personal, thought-provoking questions.

We believe that as a counselor you need to be able to share your stories and not be afraid to be silly yourself or you will not be able to connect with the girls and make them feel comfortable.

During the interviews, I was able to hear funny, embarrassing, heart-wrenching stories from young women. One question was a scenario that asked counselors what they would do if campers would not open up during the discussions about menstruation.

One interviewee remarked that she would share her personal story and tell the girls all about the first time she got her period. She remembers it clearly because her mother made her stay home for 10 days and she would only eat sweets.

In India, there is a substance used in cooking called ghee, which is clarified butter. There is a sweet here that is sugar and ghee. It is molded into a block of pure sweetness and she had to eat 2kgs of it in 10 days. She said the first day was fun because she loves sweets. The second day was still pretty good, but by the third day she was struggling. On the 4th, she couldn’t eat anymore but her mother said she had to finish it. For the next month she had to eat that sweet every day after dinner. I’m still not sure why she needed to eat that particular sweet, but I must say I really admired her fortitude!

Another girl talked about how her parents live in Dubai and she studies here in Hyderabad with her younger sister. She was a small girl with a huge flower in her hair and a pretty dress. She didn’t look like she could take care of herself, let alone run a house and manage her teenage sister. She adheres to a strict curfew and holds her sister to the same. While she would like to go out to the movies and wear jeans, she knows her community would not approve and make it harder for them to live in the neighborhood. Two girls alone already push the limits.

Being able to connect with these insightful, interesting women in the interview process has rekindled my enthusiasm for camp.  This whole process reminds me that while I have been focused on getting material together for the campers, VOICE really creates a cycle of change and chances for growth.

Counselors grow just as much if not more during camp because they are given an opportunity to learn new material and ways of connecting with people but also a chance to be a leader and inspire others.

So far, we have 40 counselors recruited from Shahdan Women’s Engineering College and plan to recruit about 60 more from Hyderabad Central University, St. Francis College, and St. Ann’s College.

We have a lot of work and only 2 months to do it in, but Camp VOICE 2012 is coming together!

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