Thoughts

  • November 30, 2017

When asked what she has learned in the six months of attending our Girls Club, one member responds, “[In] this club, everyone is valuable in themselves, we are girls, and we can get [along] with each other.” She smiles shyly and quickly accepts her chocolate wafer treat, a reward for sharing her thoughts.

For the past six months, The Freedom Story has been running Girls Clubs, using a curriculum from Global Family Care Network, an organization whose mission is “to preserve the family and protect at risk children with the assistance of local community organizations, volunteer caregivers, and donors”[1]. Ketsara, the Leadership Development Director, has taken on leadership of the clubs, with the help of Jenna Hudlow who has volunteered with The Freedom Story since June.

There are currently two clubs meetings at the Pong Phrae Resource Center, with the purpose to “teach girls…between the ages of eight and fifteen about the dangers of girl child trafficking and sexual abuse, as well as to encourage them to pursue their dreams”[2]. About 19 girls from the local community take part.

The girls who participate in the Thursday meetings all attend the same local school, while the girls who come on Saturdays attend different schools. For both groups, it has been a great opportunity to make new connections, share experiences, and encourage each other. As time goes on, the girls have enjoyed the clubs so much they invite more and more of their friends to join the clubs! The community they are building is strong and positive, serving as a place for the girls to lift each other up in friendship.

Bhitri Sundarta, the Global Family curricula, has been translated into Thai language and is being piloted through these clubs. The girls have just celebrated the completion of the first book of the four book curriculum. The first book focused on ‘Building Character’ and included meetings around topics such as; ‘being unique, being a good friend, what makes you happy, making healthy choices, and self image’.[3] The basic structure of the clubs encourages activity-based learning around these important issues.

Every week the girls meet, play a game together, then read a story based on the topic that week. The stories are written form the perspective of a young girl, helping to illustrate the issue being discussed in a personal and relatable way. Ketsara inspires the girls to be captivated and engaged in learning. She does this through distributing leadership to the girls, having them take turns reading the story aloud. This gives the girls the opportunity to practice reading, as well as giving Ketsara the opportunity to see how the girls are progressing in their reading skills. After they have finished the story, there are discussion questions reinforcing what has just been learned. Finally, there is a group activity related to that week’s topic.

For example, for the week on being a good friend, the girls were encouraged to discuss their experiences of being or having a good and bad friend, and then they made friendship bracelets together. After the week on making healthy choices, the girls discussed the food pyramid, and then brought in healthy food and prepared and ate a healthy lunch together. These activities are fun, encourage learning, and also are a great way to build community.

When asked how Girls Club makes the girls feel, they answered, “I’m feeling glad, and th[ese] lesson[s] about myself and about everyone, it makes me know what I like, and what I don’t like, I know about exercise, eating foods that are beneficial to us”.

One student in particular who attends the clubs is shy and introverted. She generally will not join in with group activities, but she accepted the invitation to join girls club. Through her participation in the clubs, she has begun to share more openly and speak out with more confidence.

We hope that Girls Clubs will create a safe place for the girls to discuss puberty, sexuality in their culture, have support from mentors and each other, while feeling easy and open to discuss these hard things. We believe this ongoing, weekly practice will strengthen the girls friendships, help raise them up as leaders, and teach them how to feel confident in being a girl! The ripple effects from Girls Clubs helps to build resilient communities through seeing the girls share what they have learned with their families, schools and friends.

The topics are tailored specifically to equip the girls with the knowledge of how to protect themselves and their communities. Ultimately, the Girls Clubs are continuing to build resilient individuals, communities. Resilience helps prevent trafficking, and ultimately protects the girls and empowers them to achieve their dreams and goals.

[1] http://globalfamily.care/about.shtml

[2] Bhitri Sundarta, Edited by Charity Jensen, Global Family

[3] Bhitri Sundarta, Edited by Charity Jensen, Global Family

 

Lucy McCray is The Freedom Story’s International Liaison, based in Chiang Rai Thailand. After completing an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics in 2015 Lucy moved to Northern Thailand to work on the areas of human rights, and anti-trafficking.