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!