Inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and bold has proven particularly urgent during these unprecedented times. Even under the best of circumstances, our girls are among those who are most vulnerable in our communities. COVID-19 has exponentially increased their need for support while dramatically altering the ways we can provide it.
Despite programmatic shifts and drastic adjustments, our Girls Inc. network is stepping into new roles and finding ways to lead. From sourcing food and essentials for those in crisis to formulating and executing virtual learning plans for girls, Girls Inc. staff across the United States and Canada are seeing the needs of their girls and communities and they are answering the call with the resourcefulness, creativity, and compassion that are foundational to our organization.
For many Girls Inc. affiliates their first priority with the onset of the pandemic was to address the most urgent needs of girls and their families – helping to source food when it was scarce, offering access to mobile showers units, and figuring out transportation logistics when that was a major hurdle for families that, for example, had no way of getting to the local food bank or grocery store.
The Girls Inc. Tarrant County team did just that, tapping into community resources to collect food and supplies and one staff member personally delivered supplies to a girl and her family when necessary. The Girls Inc. of Worcester team is providing free period products to girls, and are accepting donations so the effort can continue throughout the pandemic crisis. Girls Inc. of Fort Smith is partnering with local businesses to give back by providing meals to healthcare workers on the job. Meanwhile the Girls Inc. Sioux City team is one of our many affiliates getting food to their girls and families through grab-and-go meals as well as stocking a food bank with forthcoming plans to begin food delivery services in their community to be of even more service and support.
Sioux City girls and staff also organized a mask donation to their local hospital, contributing close to 700 masks to help healthcare providers. Girls Inc. of Metro Denver has set up an emergency supply bank, and since the Girls Inc. Santa Barbara team cannot transport girls to activities at this time, they have donated the use of their shuttle vans to the local food bank so even more of those in need can be reached.
Affiliates are also rapidly addressing the digital divide, the consequences of which are more impactful than ever before. Programming for some affiliates has been reduced by up to 50% because of the barrier keeping girls from accessing the internet. Affiliates are working with local partners and schools to get tablets, computers, or phones in girls’ hands if they are not already available in the home. Girls Inc. is also instituting programmatic shifts and tackling technological hurdles to re-establish the vital – now virtual – connection between girls and Girls Inc. staff.
Establishing a Vital – Virtual – Connection
The speed with which virtual academies and online learning channels are going live across the Girls Inc. network is incredible but no surprise considering how resourceful and responsive our affiliates are. Girls Inc. of Memphis is certainly stepping in to meet this need, stewarding resources and information to parents about how to access free or discounted internet services so girls can stay connected and supported, and taking the step to offer the Girls Inc. virtual experience to all girls in their local community. Girls Inc. Central Alabama is also full-steam ahead with their virtual academy. Everything under the Girls Inc. umbrella is being covered from STEM games to physical fitness to gardening.
Girls Inc. of Santa Fe has debuted drawing workshops and tutorials on how to create DIY musical instruments on their YouTube Channel. Girls Inc. of Taunton has made their virtual learning extra-special for the girls with follow-along science experiments and special guests like Miss Massachusetts Lyndsey Littlefield who visited the girls (remotely) for storytime. Girls Inc. of Chattanooga kicked off online learning with a virtual Spring Break camp for their girls while Girls Inc. of Central Coast keeps girls excited about the future with a weekly Career Day. Girls Inc. of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey is taking vital fundraising opportunities online, holding their first Virtual Strong, Smart, and Bold Breakfast in June.
With art supplies provided by Girls Inc. of Omaha, girls participated in a virtual drawing and coloring workshop, creating self-portaits with the guidance of Girls Inc. programming staff. Photos of the portraits were taken, animated, and shared through social media so other girls could see and be inspired. Click to see Senaii and Jasmine’s drawings come to life.
Crucial Partner Support and Advocacy
Girls Inc. Atlanta is showing the power of partnership, working with Cox Enterprises and ABB Enterprise Software among others to formulate the best possible platform for online programming that is sustainable and can become an integral part of the Girls Inc. experience. Cox and others have also offered to have employee volunteers serve as special guests on forthcoming virtual programming for girls. Lockheed Martin has also helped make learning fun, even from afar, for the girls of Tarrant County.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Girls Inc. Advocacy Team has been tirelessly supporting initiatives at the local, state, and federal level to get girls, families, and their communities the supports they need. Partnering with agencies and peer organizations, we continue to advocate on behalf of our entire network.
Just Checking In
The well-being of the girls and keeping lines of communication open and stronger than ever is top of mind for all at Girls Inc. Videos of support are being shared on social media almost around the clock from affiliates, checking in and sharing friendly, familiar faces and words of support. Many affiliates are offering Office Hours where girls can connect with Girls Inc. staff to just talk and share. Ashley, a Girls Inc. of Central Alabama girl and Teen Advocacy Council member, says, “Girls Inc. has supported me by keeping everybody informed on what’s going on in the world and encouraging us to still strong , smart , and bold through any situation.”
Girls Inc. of Carpinteria staff are doing daily wellness calls with girls and families and closing out every conversation with the vital promise that “we are only a phone or video call away.” Girls Inc. of Orange County and San Antonio among others have put wellness and stress management at the top of their agenda. Girls Inc. of Northern Sacramento Valley has queued up several workshops and strategy sessions for the girls that emphasize expressing feelings and finding safe, healthy ways to process their experiences. Girls Inc. of New York City has transported its Wellness Lounge to the digital world.
Several Girls Inc. affiliates have held virtual Spirit Days (and Weeks) with activities girls can participate in while at home and can share pictures of online to stay connected. Delaney, a Girls Inc. of Upper Canada girl, says “My Girls Inc. affiliate has also been highlighting local SHEROs, female heroes in my community who are making a difference during these challenging times, on social media. This acts as a source of good news and inspiration during a time filled with fear and anxiety. This helps people to see the positives and is a source of happiness during these dark times.”
Supporting Girls Now and Always
We are amidst a crisis, clearly, and yet “crisis mode” at Girls Inc. is taking the form of innovative, creative, and deeply caring action plans to meet girls where they are. The way forward is proving, again and again, to be with the girls. It is as simple as that. So as they shelter in place we strive to shelter and sustain them, in new and unforeseen ways. Whatever the future brings we will meet it together and in support, always, of girls.