“Joie” is French for Joy, and identifies the main goal of our camp: to create joy in disabled kid’s lives by providing them a safe space to learn healthy living techniques and the capabilities to actuate their goals.
Camp Joie was started in 2011 by peace corps volunteers Stacie Overton, Meredith Magulak, and Lyle Mikowicz in order to address the severe lack of information and social stigmas that exist for people living with disabilities in Togo. The organizers sought to create a place where kids could come and address difficulties they have had in their lives on a physical, social, and cultural level. With the help from donors in the United States, PLAN Togo, and a group of motivated trainers, last year we were able to see this goal to fruition.
During Camp Joie 2011, 10 peace corps volunteers and Togolese trainers welcomed 40 physically disabled kids from around Togo to participate in the week-long camp. Following the camp, kids proceeded to start clubs in their villages, educate their friends and families on the causes of handicaps, and many kids that had left school returned.
Based on last year’s success, Camp Joie 2012 will double in size and length to allow more kids to participate. In addition to PLAN Togo, we have also expanded our collaboration efforts to work with Handicap International and the World Health Organization. New additions to this year’s camp will also include a career panel, Q&A on handicaps with a Togolese physician, and gender-specific sessions aimed at encouraging equality of woman in society.