I write this morning perched high above the Avalanche reservoir. Hot sunshine has burned away the morning mist that rose above the lake. The waters are now faintly rippled by the breeze. In the distance, the whoop of the Nilgiri Black Langor monkeys reverberates through the mountains. Although I'm about a half kilometer from the camp, the cheering and delighted shouts of the girls playing their relay games reaches me on the wind.
From dawn to dusk, there is an endless stream of activities and games all designed to build trust, team spirit, cooperation, problem-solving, and communication.
On the first day, we create team flags, team pyramids, and pitch tents together. All the girls are split into “color groups” of red, purple, yellow, and green. The same groups continue throughout the camp so that the girls and staff bond and build relationships. Excitement is at a fever pitch as girls race to be the first “color group” to assemble. Tiny prizes (toothbrushes, chapstick, jolly ranchers) are awarded to the fastest group. Group identity and a sense of healthy competition are established quickly. We want the girls to have fun.
Later, I watch as girls walk partners around blindfolded. It's the “Trust walk.” The ground is uneven and bumpy, but the girls don't miss a step. Each carefully leads their partner all over the campground. New friendships are forged. It's followed by the “Trust Fall.” Some girls just can't let go and fall, others want to fall again and again. The Human Ladder is a big hit as the whole group has to work together to hold sticks in a “ladder” that allows people one by one to walk across. Holly debriefs each game with just the right touch of reflection. “Was any part of the ladder too heavy to hold?” “What would have happened if one person let go?” Girls confidently shout their answers. There is a climate of open communication with every activity. Everyone listens, offering respect to each speaker.
A scavenger hunt ensues, (more points for the color group that collects the most cards), and a Toxic Waste game, (girls can't touch the cup of water from the stream, they have to work together to suspend the cup between ropes and dump it out into a container). There are lessons to be learned around every corner.
In the evening, Holly leads a candle dance to Aradhna music. It's magical and each of us falls under the spell of worship, dance, and song. After the dance, we collapse around the campfire, finishing off the day with raucous songs, more laughter, and roasted marshmallows (a first for all the girls).