The fourth night of Camp GLOW, Girls Leading Our World, the fire wasn’t for warmth or light but celebration. The girls, their mentors and volunteers sang, danced, played games. Chelsi didn’t know all the words to most of the songs, but she enjoyed the dancing. Whenever she was called to the center of the circle, which was often, she always gave it her all. She tried out some of the new moves her girls tried to teach her over the course of the week and others she had observed on the dancer she was called out to replace. Always she was trying to keep her steps in time with the chanting, until the girls’ cheers and laughter disrupted the rhythm and a new dancer was called out.
When Lauren and Paige pulled out the marshmallows, and chocolate, and cookies, and cried “S’mores!” there was a tizzy of excitement. The games stopped and all the girls dashed inside the cafeteria with their sticks.
“I always wonder if we shouldn’t do S’mores in the morning at Camps,” Chelsi thought aloud, trying to be equitable with the marshmallows as hundreds of little hands grabbed for them.
“You mean especially after what happened at Camp TREE,” Mike laughed. “I’ve never seen that though, kids so hyped up on sugar.”
“Yeah, more sugar than they’ve ever eaten in their lives.” Neal added.
“Exactly, so we fill them full of sugar in the morning. They’ll crash at about lunch time, and we stuff them with nshima, so that by bed time they’re hardly even able to move,” Chelsi finished her thought aloud.
When all the marshmallows were nearly finished, and the girls’ games had died down to a dull roar, Lauren and Paige started the work of shepherding them into their dorms.
“I’m glad we did this today instead of on Tuesday, like we were supposed to,” Mike offered. “All the girls knew each other better so I think they had more fun.” Chelsi helped him pull apart the logs of the fire, then the two started across the campus to their sleeping quarters.
“You should definitely consider adding an unstructured, outdoor fire and game night to ELITE. I think the boys would really like it,” Chelsi added. “I know the one we had a TREE was kind of crazy, but this was definitely a happy medium.”
“Well you know why it ended up the way it did at ELITE, was because of Sara.” Chelsi’s held the door of their dorm open for her friend. “I love her to death and all, but her anxiety required a lot of structure.” The two walked down the hall to their sleeping space.
“In that situation, at Solwezi Trade in all though, it was probably for the best.” Chelsi started organizing her bed for sleeping, then squeezed some toothpaste on her toothbrush.
“Yeah, the people that ran that place were crazy. And even the way we did it, the boys had a good time,” Mike said as he crawled under his mosquito net and into his bed. “This place reminds me of a prison,” he added anecdotally.
“Minus the cheese, tomato, mustard sandwiches,” Chelsi laughed. “Like we had a Camp TREE!”
“Yeah,” Mike chuckled, “Camps are basically like prisons.”
While rinsing out her mouth, Chelsi’s phone began to ring. Still laughing to herself, she looked at the number. It was late, and she was tired, but it was her mother. Chelsi swiped the green phone, “Hello?”
“Hi dear, how are you? Is it too late there by you?” her mother’s voice came in distant over the phone.
“No, I’m still up. I’m just in Kasempa at our girls’ empowerment camp.”
“Oh, okay, do you want me to call you back another time?”
“No it’s fine, the girls are in bed, and I was just getting ready for bed myself. I’m fine, how are you?”
“I’m okay,” Chelsi heard her mother’s voice get stiff. “But I have some news, if you have heard…” and Chelsi could feel wet tears on her cheek, streaming through the phone. She sat down on the edge of her bed.
“Who is it? Who died this time?”