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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

No matter how many weeks Girls Inc. could have trained me, they never could have prepared me for this week.

The first half of the week was just as spectacular as the last, save for a few unforeseen issues due to a sick colleage. It worked out well for me regardless, as I got to continue teaching Will Power Won’t Power– my favorite —  to a different class of seventh graders. In the STEM classes, another Duke Engager and I got to teach the girls how to build roller coasters with only straws, paper, and tape.

As per usual, the girls blew it out of the water. Their ingenuity with their designs continued to shock me, and I excitedly encouraged the girls to decorate and name their designs once they had gotten it to work. I probably had more fun than the girls did, if I’m completely honest!

So obviously, this week definitely had its ups. Many ups. I’ve had many laughs and have continued to get to know the best attributes of all of the girls.

It wasn’t until midweek that my view of camp was turned on its head.

I really should have at least braced myself for it, as we entered the relationship violence and abuse portion of the Will Power Won’t Power curriculum, but I had not started to become suspicious until a couple of anonymous questions were submitted to the class’s question box. The notes were in different handwriting, but were eerily similar. In short, they both wanted to know:

“What do I do if I know someone who is being abused?”

Then came the oddly specific questions during class.

“What if the person can’t call anyone?”

“What if they’re locked inside their house?”

“What if they don’t want to say anything?”

These questions are, of course, difficult to answer without more specific information, but my co-facilitator and I did the best that we could by providing hotlines and other resources for women and children who are the victims of, or are somehow related to a victim of abuse.

Things were quiet, until the end of the day, when I was approached by some campers and their friend, who looked ready to bolt, or cry, or both. For simplicity, I will call her Puella, though that is not her name.

Puella’s friends insisted that Puella had something to tell me, but she refused to say anything to me. Unable to persuade her to tell me anything , yet unwilling to keep quiet, I spoke to another facilitator, who knew more of Puella’s history than I did. This facilitator instructed me to speak to the two friends without Puella present to hear their concerns.

From there, all I can say is that sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

What I can tell you is that I was distraught. Enraged. It took me two days to fully process the emotions I was feeling. A report was made. I go home in two weeks.

I think that’s what’s been so hard for me to digest these past few days. I go home in two weeks, and any impact I might have made on the girls in this program could so easily be undone by forces and people outside of my control, the girls’ control, and Girls Inc.’s control, and I must accept that. I will not know what happens from here, and I cannot keep in contact with any of the girls after the program is over to even offer support.

It’s confusing. Sometimes, it makes me wonder what I am even doing here. Other times, it makes me want to try that much harder to offer what I can to these girls in the time I have left.

I feel like that’s all I can do.