Girl Power is a three half-day workshop geared for teenage girls in the first-form of secondary school. Because some schools were not able to participate in the previous year, this year saw some schools enroll second-form girls in the program as well.
Designed to combine both knowledge and tools, Girl Power is more than just an HIV awareness program, bringing lessons on self-worth, setting life goals, negotiation/communication skills, in addition to providing information on reproductive health issues.
The 2012/2013 school year saw the AIDS Foundation reach 465 girls in total at all private and public schools, including the newly opened Charlotte Brookson Academy. Out-of-School girls in the Youth Development Program were also included. All together, about 22 specially trained volunteer facilitators delivered the sessions.
"It was an absolutely successful year, to reach so many girls.
There were some logistical challenges along the way as we had to coordinate up to 6 different groups of girls in some of the bigger schools, but I am happy to report that the girls came out of each session happy to have been part of it, and to learn important life lessons in an open and safe environment", reported Ria Uiterloo, the Head Coordinator of the Girl Power program. "We have to recognize the hard work put in by our volunteer facilitators and also thank the schools for their participation".
"Most volunteer facilitators hail from the Ministries of Public Health, Social Services and Education, but a few are also from the private sector", noted Kimberley Meijers, the Community Projects Coordinator at the AIDS Foundation. "So the Ministries and the other employers should be thanked as well, for their cooperation in letting their employees give time out of work for this worthwhile program to help the youth of St. Maarten. The business community got involved too, with the Simpson Bay Resort helping us to print 150 handbooks for the girls this year".
"This is the most number of girls trained in one school year since the program kicked off in 2006", remarked Ms. Uiterloo. "We saw that, through hard work, we can deliver the workshops in consistently high quality to multiple groups, week after week. This sets us up well for our plans to expand the program to include boys, and a Booster program to go back to girls in the third-form, to further reinforce our messages of keeping healthy and sticking to long-term goals".
Pictures from the program this year are available for viewing on the AIDS Foundation's Facebook page,www.facebook.com/sxmaidsfoundation. The AIDS Foundation will shortly be announcing a call for more volunteer facilitators for the next school year, for both the Girl Power and its new Boys program.
In Photo: Sundial students showing off their Girl Power certificates.