By: Kate Squires
Before the new Program Directors flew into Managua, there was a desire to create a fun and challenging learning experience for kids. A place where kids could use pastels, dance to music, or enter into a magical world created by Dr. Seuss. This was the purpose behind creating Camp JAM. The first month and a half of Camp J.A.M. has proved to be both a success as well as a growing experience for the kids of Cedro Galan. The J.A.M. in our name is not only letters but represents our weekly rotation J: juegos or games, A: arte, and M: musica.
Growing up in the United States it is so easy to think that kids all over the world shared similar experiences to mine whether it be coloring, eating dirt cups with gummy worms, or simply making musical instruments. This was a preconceived notion that quickly changed the day we told the kids we were going to eat dirt and mud. After learning the English words for worm, dirt, and mud the activity turned into an amazing time that enabled the kids to think outside the box and complete a lesson that challenged their creativity.
Being in Nicaragua for almost two months has changed my perspective on what matters in life. I often think that we take for granted the accessibility of paper, books, or simply a friendly face. For the kids of the Cedro Galan community, Camp JAM is an escape where they be told a story, make tambourines, or simply laugh with their peers. It is a learning environment that allows these children to channel their energy and challenge them to think in ways they have never had to before.
Last week we learned about complimentary colors, shapes, pattern and animals. We did an art project that tied all three parts of the lesson together. That day we had a surprising but familiar face at camp. This new camper had previously given our English classes a hard time by throwing rocks into the classroom. We explained to him that if he wanted to participate, he would have to listen to the lesson and not be a distraction to the other kids. He agreed and what followed surprised all of us. After placing pastels in his hand we soon saw that he was a fantastic artist and began creating amazing drawings. We all realized that Camp JAM was more than just a once a week time for the kids to play, but a way to change the lives of the Cedro Galan community members. It took a sometimes-problematic kid and gave him something to work on and be challenged by. To give them something to look forward to the next week and tell their families about: how they ate mud and worms today, or learned how to create musical instruments. Not all the kids at camp are like him, however, it shows the impact that we have on these kids. To give them resources they never would've been exposed to and a safe place to be themselves.
All of the PDs involved are excited to grow Camp JAM even further to include more kids and the possibility of having camp twice a week. We are so pleased with the progress we have had over the last two months and cannot wait to see what the next year has in store!