I’ve been inactive on my blog for the past couple of months, and as usual, I don’t have any substantial reason aside from being “busy,” or rather, not really making writing a priority. The last few weeks have been characterized by placement tests (finally, an opportunity to brush up my Spanish and French), decisions (I won’t be going to campus this fall), and also just feeling overwhelmed about choosing classes and starting a new academic journey (still don’t have that part figured out). I’ll be honest, as of late, I’ve been in a sort of slump, and it’s been hard to focus and accomplish stuff, but I’m trying to stay motivated and keep learning and growing as much as I can!
Putting that aside, today, I want to take a little bit of time to revisit one of my favorite parts of this summer: Camp GirlForward, because it’s truly a time that makes me smile, and reminds me again and again of the magic that women are capable of when we share a space with one another to learn, explore, and grow.
I’ve written about GirlForward many times before, but for those who don’t know, it’s an amazing organization that supports teenage refugee girls in Austin. This year was my second time interning at their summer camp. I had committed to return to camp this summer all the way back in February, when “social distancing” wasn’t part of most of our vocabularies, but obviously, things changed drastically as summer came near, and this June/July, GirlForward hosted its first ever virtual camp, conducted completely on Zoom.
I must confess, coming into training, I wasn’t as excited about things being online– Zoom is exhausting and impersonal, and staring at a computer screen can never replace a face to face experience. But this summer’s camp made me realize that there’s something so special about a group of women coming together to uplift and celebrate one another: we can make magic, even if it’s on Zoom.
At camp this year, I taught a literature circle to girls from Afghanistan and Iraq, a mix of new faces, a friend from 2018, and a girl I had met when I first got involved with GirlForward back in 2016! We read a young adult novel featuring a first generation American girl, a narrative that hit home for all of us in different ways. We had conversations about representation, identity, and also what “American-ness” means in our households and communities. I also had the opportunity to teach a “Women of Color Wednesday” workshop to camp participants from both Austin and Chicago, where we had conversations about inspiring women in the Free Palestine and Black Lives Matter movement, and discussed solidarity, advocacy, and the power of our voices. Aside from the more serious topics, camp this year included dance lessons, poetry writing, and chill moments of listening to each other’s’ favorite songs while doing arts and crafts.
Having been away from the GirlForward family for a year, camp this summer really reminded me of how instrumental it has been in helping me explore and value my own identity as a woman of color, first-generation American, and brown girl. Even on Zoom, GirlForward is such a safe and welcoming space. It’s so empowering to watch girls narrate their lived experiences and become vulnerable with one another, and beautiful to see the love that everyone gives after a girl shares a poem she wrote, tells a personal story, or asks an insightful question.
I want to end this brief reflection with a couple of lines that I wrote in my journal during camp, because although I haven’t blogged forever, I’ve still been writing for myself: “I guess I forgot how grounding and meaningful it is for me to be with this community of women… There is so much positivity and sisterhood and I have this warm feeling inside that’s a mix of being proud of who I am and happy to empower other women, while learning and growing with them.”
That’s the magic that GirlForward creates, and no pandemic can take it away. ❤