Tag Archives: empowerment

Girl builders

The Main Idea: Overcoming self-doubt

Girls building

There are so many moments to capture to define the true essence of why we do what we do with young girls. Taking girls outside of their comfort zones helps to shatter the lens of limitation and leaves girls asking “Hey, I wonder what else I can do?!” We are proud of the work we do with girls and so very proud of each and every one of our young builders.

The Main Idea is a unique 10-day, residential summer camp program in Denmark, Maine, which provides economically disadvantaged girls with a life-changing camp experience. The program provides girls ages 8-14 with a close-knit, family-oriented camp environment that allows each the chance to develop her personality, increase her self-confidence, and acquire new skills. Activities range from belaying on the ropes course, to team problem solving, to conflict resolution. Girls at Work, Inc. is fortunate to partner with wonderful organizations such as The Main Idea.

We went to Maine recently to build with several different groups of girls from New York, Boston, and many other areas. One block of time was spent building garden benches with a leadership group of girls, a favorite build this summer. Another was spent building a picnic table with another leadership group. On the last day of our time together we spent a full day with our leadership builders teaching our new younger first-time builders. It was wonderful to watch the leaders step into their roles and help the younger girls.

It is always exciting to watch the girls quickly pick up on how to upgrade paper on the electric palm sanders, change out drill bits and speed on a cordless drill, and conquer their fear of using a powerful saw. Watching as they support each other with guidance, and literally an extra hand, is an added bonus. We provide enough instruction with each tool to keep all of our builders safe, but leave out many steps to encourage critical thinking. We also provide challenges that can only be overcome with the help of a teammate. There are so many lessons our builders learn along the way, both about themselves and about the importance of teamwork.

We overheard one of our little builders say “Oh, I am so bad at building” as she started working with us last week. I felt the need to address this in the moment. I asked this little builder if she had ever built before. She quickly responded that she had not, so I asked what her statement was based upon. She really had no idea. At the end of our time together, I ask our young builders what they had learned about themselves while building. This builder who at the beginning said she was bad at building now said she was really unfair to herself and that she needed to be proud of herself for trying new things. She also said she believed what she told herself and needed to send more positive messages to herself. Many other builders chimed in and said how much they loved building. We often ask them to dig deeper and think about what it is they love about building. “How strong and smart I am” was what we heard more often than not.

One night at dinner we sat with a little camper that was quite homesick. The next day we met her Girl buildersin our workshop. She was hesitant to try her hand at building. When she saw everyone else jump in, she decided to step up. Halfway through our time together, one of our builders said “I can’t believe how much I love to build.” Our little homesick camper quickly shouted “Can you add me to that?”

The icing on the cake is the “bragging moments.” As different groups of builders head off to different activities, we watch as they stand a bit taller than they did before building. But the real proof is how many rush back to the shop area with friends before the lunch or dinner bells. Some day we hope to have a video camera on hand to record the comments that range from “Dude, I totally used all those real tools to build this,” to “Seriously, they let you use all that stuff, it’s not just for men?”

Girls at Work, Inc. logo

Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!

The power of Power Parties

There are conflicting arguments about the use of power tools by young girls. Unfortunately,  more often than not, the society we live in — influenced by toy manufacturers, media, Disney, and more —  is quick to define our young girls as “princesses” (fragile), while little boys are portrayed as “rough and tumble” (strong). There are few messages and/or experiences that encourage our little girls to tap into their strength, courage and power: Is it really any wonder that we continue to see the imbalance between genders? That imbalance is promoted from a very early age and the messages/experiences that little girls get are the building blocks for a foundation upon which our little girls build their lives.

We’re certainly not against princesses, but a balance is essential. Recently, we posted a photo of a little girl, wearing a tutu and a Darth Vader mask, on our Girls at Work, Inc. Facebook page. It portrayed strength plus style — and most likely some sweet dance moves. What a powerful combination. Is that not the balance that we want to give to our girls?

We, at Girls at Work, Inc., are about providing an experience that enables girls to tap into their inner power. We build with girls as young as 6, which is old enough to focus with instruction and young enough to perhaps have the experience help shape her mindset. We offer “Power Parties” for birthdays, so that little girls have the opportunity to not only celebrate a very important day in their lives, but celebrate that power that is inside of all of them. As a matter of fact, some of our builders even wear tutus!

“Teaching our daughters that ‘girls can do anything’ is one of the greatest lessons we can offer.”

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what mom Mary Johanna Brown had to say: “Thanks to Girls at Work, my daughter Haley’s 9th birthday was a great success! To watch her and her friends swinging a hammer, holding a power drill and sanding their creations was not only a gift for all of them, but an honor for me.

“Teaching our daughters that ‘girls can do anything’ is one of the greatest lessons we can offer. Elaine teaches in a no-nonsense hands-on manner that thoughtfully engages all participants. Thanks Elaine and Girls at Work for all the great work you do!”

Is there a young girl in your life who will celebrate a birthday soon? Before you decide to go down the princess path, consider a Power Party. We can travel to you and your birthday girl, or she and up to 14 of her friends can head to our shop. The girls will spend a couple of hours building a small shaker peg board that will be a tangible reminder of how capable and powerful they are. Then there will be much chatter about how excited they are to find out what else they are capable of!

Then, when the building is complete, the birthday girls and her buddies can eat all the princess cake they like — tutus not required!

Girls at Work, Inc. logo

Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!

Professionals step out of their comfort zones

Group build

Many companies look for ways to get their staff out of the office setting for exercises that challenge them to discover who they are as individuals as well as team members. Our corporate build program does just that. We can take our equipment to a business of the business can come to us to build in our workshop.

The Corporate Build Program is designed to help professionals step out of their comfort zones and rely on each other to complete a build. The majority of our participants have never used power Group buildtools, let alone built anything, so we have participants discuss how they feel at the beginning of the program. Many say they have feelings of frustration, failure, uncertainty and inadequacy. It is important for all of our participants to connect with these feelings, because while it is a passing moment for them, for many of the girls we build with, it is all they know.

Our initial goal for Girls at Work, Inc. was simply to empower girls through building. This mission has grown into a “larger than life” mission as it deeply reaches through to girls who have known nothing but failure. They are so defined by that failure that it takes extreme measures to shatter that mindset for even just a moment.

We provide an enormous amount of information and demonstration to teach our girls how to safely use power tools. We then provide a sample project with very little direction for assembling all of the pieces that they have cut, sanded and pre-drilled. This enables them to think critically and dig deep to prove to themselves that they are both capable and powerful!

At the end of our corporate build we asked participants to connect with their feelings once again. Words shift to “powerful,” “skilled,” “awesome,” and “so capable.” We then asked them to think about how this shift in mindset can help a young girl to —some for the very first time — feel powerful and smart.

The picnic tables built in the program are often donated to an area non-profit. We also apply all the revenue generated from our Corporate Build Program to our non-profit partnerships, which enables us to empower many more girls.

So if you are looking for an awesome, outside-of-the-box experience for your staff, here are a few reasons to consider a corporate build:

  1. Learning how to safely use power tools is empowering;
  2. Working with coworkers in a very unfamiliar environment provides challenges that inspire trust;
  3. A spark to help get you fired up to tackle projects around the house;
  4. Donating to a non-profit is a win for everyone;
  5. You are investing in your staff and young girls at risk.
Girls at Work, Inc. logo
Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!

Showing strength

Girls Leadership Camp at Kimball Union Academy, led by the amazing Brooklyn Raney, is one of the wonderful organizations with which we partner in New England.  The program is designed to promote assertive self-expression, teach important life skills, allow girls to practice leadership in a variety of settings, and inspire them to reach their full potential.

This week at GLC we worked with three different groups of girls; each group built a different project. Most of the girls were first-time builders; those who had built with us last year were excited to tap into the skills they had uncovered last summer.

Teaching girls how to use power tools safely and trusting them with power tools gives them an opportunity to live up to that trust. It is so powerful for both teachers and students to see the transformation. Not only do the girls get the opportunity to challenge their own beliefs about what they are capable of, they are also challenged to trust themselves. Our second group of builders was a good example: As they completed constructing the garden benches, they began to cheer and “high five” each other. But they didn’t sit on the benches. When we suggested they sit down on the benches they had just built, it was amazing to see how quickly their self-doubts surfaced. Sure, they learned how to use all those power tools, overcame a lot of fear and shattered some stereotypes in the process, but to sit on something they built? Internally, they were worried: Would the benches actually support some weight?

Then, our first young builder sat on the bench she had built with her partner. She and all of the other builders were so awed to see it support both of them. Their disbelief was shattered when she yelled, “You guys, they’re ‘sitonable.’” That’s a direct quote!

The time we spent watching those girls grow through building was priceless. We tip our (hard) hats to Brooke and all of the other wonderful women out there creating environments for our girls that allow them to tap into their true powerful potential.

Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!

Girls at Work participants

Unlocking the potential of girls

Bench built by Girls at Work

One of the wonderful organizations that we work with is Circle Program in Plymouth. In the Circle Program, girls from low-income families learn skills, courage and confidence to handle life’s challenges. The program combines adult and peer support via year-round mentoring and summer camp programs.

A Circle Program mentor recently donated a load of 200-year-old siding that was removed from her barn, which was built in 1790. The wood donation appeared to have very little potential – very much like the girls we work with, many of whom feel they have no potential.

Despite the rain, we picked up all of the lumber before heading north for the build. We have never before had the luxury of building with 200-year-old barn board. This wonderful Girls at Work participantsdonation provided a rare opportunity to discover just how beautiful weathered wood is – and how carefully it must be handled.

When our young builders first saw the lumber, their reaction was priceless. We explained that each board was filled with potential, and that the potential had yet to be uncovered. It was just incredible to see how the girls were inspired to bring out the beauty in each piece of lumber and how they handled it with such care. That is the approach that should be taken not only with 200-year-old weathered barn board, but with every young girl in each of our communities, regardless of where they are from. They are all so filled with inherent beauty and potential; it’s our job to bring that out for not only the world to see, but for them to see in themselves.

As we head to the Circle Program each summer, all of the young girls with whom we worked this week have built with us before. It’s a delight to work with our young, “seasoned’ builders! When working with experienced builders, we provide a brief demonstration and then allow them to refresh the building skills they mastered the summer before. We provide some instruction and after a day of building together, the girls work on their own with no instruction. We are adamant that all power saws are used with one instructor and one builder to each, but all other tools are available for use to everyone. One of our young builders was pretty convinced that there was no way they could build without more instruction on Day Two. We reminded her that if she believed she could do something she set her mind to, then the opposite was also true.

Our young builders blew our expectations out of the water. The little builder who shared her self-doubt (although many were probably feeling the same thing, at first) was bursting at the seams with confidence when she signed the table she helped build. The other girls showed just as much confidence. Programs that take girls far beyond their comfort zones can yield amazing levels of self-esteem.

If you are interested in bidding on one of these one-of-a-kind masterpieces, attend the Circle Program fundraiser in October. Or, if you would like a “custom” masterpiece, stay tuned: We will display a sample in a gallery to be opened soon in downtown Manchester!

Girls at Work, Inc. logo

Girls at Work, Inc. is a non-profit organization that offers our services to organizations that work with girls from group homes, low-income families, with incarcerated parents or parents in rehab. (While our focus is at-risk girls we don’t turn anyone away.)  We also work to build partnerships with youth organizations that focus on girls at risk. We rely on funding and sponsorships to help subsidize the cost of our program. Please consider donating to our cause!