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Kimberley, an 11-year-old aspiring fashion designer, lives in a community in Ontario where unemployment rates are high and average family income is low. Homes are clustered together with little space for parks and playgrounds.
The local Boys and Girls Club has become an oasis for Kimberley and almost 4,000 other children and youth from the surrounding neighbourhoods. Kimberley recently became involved in Fit for Life, a Canadian Women's Foundation funded program designed specifically for girls ages 9-13 that teaches self confidence through physical activity. Fit for Life gives girls in the critical pre-teen years an opportunity to express their individuality, and to learn from and support each other without the pressures inherent in a mixed gender environment.
Kimberley has quickly become one of program’s most enthusiastic participants. She likes all the activities offered in the program’s weekly sessions, and she likes the frequent field trips. But most of all, she likes the energy and camaraderie of the group. “We talk about ideas,” she says. “Everyone in the group listens, and then we build on the ideas.” When asked why the girls only dynamic is so important, Kimberley explains, “I trust all the girls in the group. Boys might tell someone else your confidences.”
Helen Matteer, one of the program’s facilitators, is pleased to see Kimberley drawing strength from the power of the all-girls group. “Kimberley is building positive relationships with her peers and becoming more self-confident,” says Helen. “She’s also emerging as a leader. I can imagine her in my role someday.”