Friday, 14 August 2015

LITTLE WOMEN: I’m Glad I’m A Girl empowers Jamaican teens through life-changing summer camp

GIRLS' TIME: Sporting cool tees, the campers enjoy the vibes at the Independence Village. They also paid a visit to the National Gallery.

For life-long Montego Bay native Kyandra Grant, few things are more thrilling than a change of scenery for the summer holidays, spending a few weeks in Kingston as she prepares to enter womanhood. But she’s not in the big city to kick-back with relatives or to hang out a friend’s house. The sporty 14-year-old is among a group of nearly 50 girls hailing from high schools and communities the length and breadth of Jamaica who were selected to participate in the I’m Glad I’m a Girl summer camp, run by the ladies of Mary Seacole Hall at the UWI Mona Campus.

Now in its fifth year, the summer camp initiative came about after lively discussions among hallmates in 2011 culminated in a game plan to join the fight against the many social ills impacting the lives of young Jamaican women. The result: the establishment of the not-for-profit I’m Glad I’m A Girl Foundation. “We recognized that Jamaican girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable and we had to do something with the little influence that we have to try and bring about positive change,” explains Shantol Harris, the camp’s chief counselor. “A lot of the aunties (counsellors) who give of their time have been through similar experiences, so it’s easy for us to relate to these girls.”

With marked emphasis on personal development, self-empowerment and the spirit of sisterhood, the annual camp delivers plenty of fun activities designed to boost confidence, build self-esteem and self-worth and challenge the minds of the 11-to-18-year-old participants who also get self-defense classes. As in years past, this year’s camp (which ran from July 25 to August 2) was made possible due to kind sponsorship and donations. Campers pay a registration fee of $3000. 

According to Harris, a senior law student, the camp’s body of counselors is largely comprised of UWI undergrads, many of whom are currently pursuing degrees in social work management studies and psychology, among other areas. “Our mission is to let these girls know that there is life beyond their communities,” Harris points out, “and the steps they can take to acquire the keys to success.”

A tomboy at heart, Grant (nicknamed ‘Sunshine the Vibesmaster’ by her fellow campers) says the experience is one she highly recommends. Her friends back home in St. James will hear all about it. “The best part for me was learning how to stand up for myself and to be more confident in myself,” she tells TALLAWAH. “I think the camp is a very good idea for helping young girls, and I’m bringing all of my friends with me next year.”

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