(Photo Credit 1, 2, 3: Heidi Page)
MEMBER FEATURE: a conversation with Elaine Hamel, Program Director and Founder of Girls At Work, Inc.
Empowering girls uplifts communities and that is precisely what Girls At Work aims to accomplish in Manchester, NH. 27 years ago, the nonprofit's founder, Elaine Hamel, took in a 10-year-old neighbor whose parents were struggling with addiction. Wanting to provide this girl every opportunity she could, Elaine offered her skills as a general contractor in exchange for summer camp enrollment. Instead of building for the camp itself, however, the camp director asked Elaine to come in and teach the girls how to build. The building classes caught on like wildfire and soon enough Elaine was traveling to camps across the state teaching girls how to use power tools. Continuing to work out of the back of her pick-up truck no longer became feasible, though, and in 1999 Elaine built a barn on her property in Goffstown, NH to serve as a workshop for Girls At Work, her newly incorporated nonprofit (registered officially in 2001).
In 2014 Girls At Work expanded into an old school building in Manchester's South End, where they now offer four 8-week afterschool sessions to struggling inner city girls per year and four weeks of Summer Camp, both designed to build up each little girl to be her strongest most capable self.
So, what kind of difference does Girls At Work make for the thousands of girls who have gone through the program? "I've had parents come to me in tears sharing how much Girls At Work has helped their daughters," Elaine answers, "Girls At Work is an absolute game changer. So many girls are just discouraged and don't want to go to school because of bullying. In a culture that so often disempowers girls and women, we have the opportunity to build their self-confidence and empower them. It's completely life changing." Through developing critical thinking skills, applying math in engaging and hands on ways, and giving girls the opportunity to work together to solve difficult challenges, Girls At Work's programming provides participants with the real life experience of feeling empowered and accomplished.
Supported primarily through fundraisers, partnerships and donations, Girls At Work is also able to fund the afterschool programs and camps through
team building programs offered to companies throughout New England. In these programs companies enroll up to 50 employees to work in small groups at the shop, or onsite at their company, to build picnic tables. No experience at all is required and the precut lumber and limited instruction provide an environment for employees to dig deep within, while connecting with others on a challenging task. The finished tables are then donated to nonprofits in the area of the build. These team building programs create an awareness of the importance of empowering girls, as well as a deeper understanding as to why we all need to step up for these girls. This program also offers businesses a unique way to engage their employees in a team building activity that promotes cooperation, creative thinking, and an empowering sense of accomplishment.
Girls At Work is excited to be a part of NHBSR and is inspired to create new partnerships with businesses dedicated to social responsibility. These partnerships will provide an exciting opportunity to build a stronger future for our young girls, while spreading the word about the importance of Girls At Work’s mission. "Businesses are always excited to learn about how we are empowering our inner-city girls and even more excited to know that they can join forces with us to have a stronger impact,” says Elaine.
Given our current climate with bullying, it is extremely important that organizations have a strong focus on empowerment, especially in the case of young girls. Girls at Work is proud to provide a safe and supportive environment where young girls are encouraged to discover and fully engage their power not only in the shop, but in all areas of life.
(Photo Credit: Trayce Gregoire)
You can contact Elaine at email@example.com to find out more about Girls At Work and their opportunities for empowering girls and women in the Granite State.