The Leaders of Tomorrow – the Girls in Your Community

by

Joe Cramer at Kingsdale Community Centre House of Friendship Girls Leadership Group

Teamwork, friendship, energy, laughter and learning together – these are the words that stand out to me after attending the Girls Leadership Group at the Kingsdale Community Centre.

Despite the fact that I was a stranger to the group, the girls were very friendly and eager to include me into all the activities of the evening. After brief introductions and everyone taking turns sharing recent personal events or reflections, the girls set to work making a cucumber mango salad and a berry yogurt smoothie. Working together, the girls supported each other, asking one another questions along the way (like what is a mango?), and checking in with the group leader, Tracy, for help along the way. When finished, they sat down to enjoy their snack and work on a craft before cleaning up for the night.

“I tell my parents and my family what we do each week. I wish I could do this everyday!”

In a time where many adolescent girls struggle to establish who they are and what they believe, The Girls Leadership Group helps put together the pieces in facilitating their self learning and discovery. It’s a great approach to encourage girls to get involved in their local community, to prepare them for the years ahead, and to develop lasting friendships.

The Leadership Group is one of the many groups coordinated by the community centre, which has been running for approximately three years with funding from the United Way. Within each 13-week session there is a focus on helping young girls, aged 11 to 14, become strong leaders and self-advocates to achieving their dreams, and to work on making an impact on the world around them. Each week young women meet to share in new experiences, learn to become more confident and open with others, and establish new relationships. There is no cost to participants; however the benefits are endless.

“I used to be shy, but I met my best friend here. I’m not afraid to be myself anymore.”

Listening to the details that each girl was willing to share during circle time made it quickly evident that this group has developed a sense of closeness and trust in one another. For example, one girl was able to confide in the group about a sick relative and the emotional impact that possibly losing this person would have on her life. However for tonight she was able to leave that stress behind and focus on herself by having fun with the group. Tracy, the group leader, said that this is one of the many things that make this group great: the girls feel comfortable to allow you to share in their life story; but they give themselves the chance to do something positive for themselves and strengthen their friendships each week.

“You’ll find a way to fit in here! Despite the diversity in the group, everyone is able to find a commonality and I call them all my friends.”

GiL (19). Turkey driveJPGNone of the girls know what they’ll walk into before they attend: it could be focused on self-learning, trying a new food, doing a craft, playing a game, or practicing a skill – but it’s never the same thing twice! They have even participated in a number of volunteer events like the Turkey Drive and Potato Blitz. There are only a few things that are consistent week after week: the high energy that each girl brings; the group focus on positive social interaction and overall healthy living; and sharing in a healthy snack together.

While visiting the program, it was clear to see the impact of the program on each of the girls. Each one isn’t just coming to spend time with their friends; they keep coming because they have a lot of passion and want to make a difference in the world. Many of the girls said they’re planning to go to college or university one day. One specifically mentioned wanting to help people through addictions; and that this group has helped her begin to understand how we become who we are. Another wants to become a social worker because they look forward to becoming the type of person that others can talk to about their problems and struggles.

In conversation one participant shared that “this group makes me live happier…sometimes I get bullied at school, but then I come here and I can learn and have fun with friends.” Another participant followed up with “More people should come!”

If you know someone who is interested in participating in the program they can do so by calling the Kingsdale Community Centre at 519-741-2540 or by registering for the program on the City of Kitchener’s website here using program code 157726 .

Volunteers and guest speakers are always welcome, as are donations of grocery store gift cards to help provide healthy snacks.

 

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