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FISH visits Gwen’s Girls

Right as the fresh Spring air began to roll in, members of the FISH (Fellowship In Senior High) community from State College, PA were buzzing with excitement for the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh for volunteer opportunities. Soon, we found ourselves standing at the doors of the Community House Church, ready to unload our sleeping bags and suitcases, but more than anything, ready to serve.

As the group assignments were plastered to the walls, students buzzed around them excitedly. Although all of the volunteer opportunities had their own benefits, the students chosen to work at Gwen’s Girls were the most excited of us all. On the bus to Pittsburgh, stories were pouring out from veterans of the Pittsburgh trip about working with Gwen’s Girls, whether about the adorable children they had worked with or about how nice it felt to help a community with such a great cause and message. For me, personally, working with Gwen’s Girls was the highlight of my time when I came here two years ago, not so much due to the work itself (cleaning and organizing the facilities), but because of how much I learned. Seeing the documentary on Gwen’s Girls message nearly brought me to tears when I realized the immense difficulties women face, not only in Pittsburgh, but everywhere throughout the world. Seeing the statistics about body image and sexual abuse were what troubled me the most, and after watching the documentary, I was determined to work my hardest during the time I had to help clean up the facilities. After talking to my fellow volunteers, I was happy to realize they felt the same way.

Although we volunteers contribute only a small amount to the cause, it’s nice to know that we had some part in creating at least a little bit of an improved environment for these girls, and we are immensely thankful to again have the opportunity to do that. Thank you, Gwen’s Girls for all you have done and all you continue to do.

Peace and Girl Power,

Mariel D. and the FISH Community

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Vanderbilt Alternative Spring Break (written by Queen Stevenson)

Ms. Queen Stevenson

Ms. Queen Stevenson

On a cold March morning, rays of gold slice through the snow and ice clumped on the roofs under which twelve Vanderbilt University students fold clothes, paint walls, and water plants. I am one of them.

We are part of Alternative Spring Break, the largest student organization at Vanderbilt, boasting over 400 students. Like its name implies, Vandy Alternative Spring Break forges an unconventional path in that its participants engage in intensive community service instead of using spring break as an opportunity to party or lounge around. ASB has 39 sites, each with its own particular service project. There are options to work with the elderly and special needs population in Florida, to serve the Native American population in South Dakota, to spend 48 hours with Washington, D.C.’s homeless. Each site has about 8-12 participants and fosters complete and genuine community between the students not only on the job, but also as we live with each other for a week.
Our fearless site leaders, juniors Anthony and Natalie, and I along with nine other students traveled to snowy Pittsburgh to spend a week that would change our lives. Our service project is titled “Suddenly I See”, which is actually the name of a song by artist KT Tunstall building up the self esteem of a girl by praising her nuanced and unique qualities. The girl’s eyes are opened, and she is able to “suddenly see” her confidence and worth. In the same vein, our site gives us an incredible chance to serve the girls and young women of Gwen’s Girls, who are on the daily having their inner beauty and value being revealed to them.
The first day, we completed tasks around the building, such as lifting tables and sprucing up the chalkboards. The next few days are devoted to caring for and entertaining the younger girls and the older young women; on our last day we will each get to cater to a Gwen’s Girl chosen from either age group, based on our ease of interaction.
Personally, I screamed when I read the site description. I never dreamed that there would exist a project that encompassed my love for the hearts and souls of girls. I never dreamed that there would exist a site that focused not only on putting broken pieces back together, but also transcending the brokenness and producing true fruit in the lives of these girls. I never dreamed that I would receive an opportunity such as this so early on in my college career.
In a couple of hours, the young girls will arrive, and our excitement is tangible in the air. We have brainstormed games and activities for them. While we are so honored to serve them, we realize that it is they who are doing us the greater service; by the time we arrive on campus in a few days, our eyes will be opened to the true beauty of restoration and growth, only because Gwen’s Girls helped us to see it.

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Black History Month Celebration

During the month of February, Gwen’s Girls held an event for Black History Month.  This event allowed our girls to listen to some amazing speakers, find out who won our essay contest, enjoy food and music along with the fellowship of one another.

One of the speakers that the girls enjoyed was Detective Tamara Hawthorne from the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.  This amazing woman shared her story with our girls and explained that “your past does not determine your future,” and that our girls should be “treating themselves like the queens they want to become.” Det. Hawthorne stated that just because you come from bad area or have faced hardships in your life does not mean that you cannot overcome it – our girls need to reach out and find resources, like Gwen’s Girls, that can benefit them.  When I asked what the girls liked about the speaker, they said she was very passionate in telling her story and made them realize the importance of making good decisions.

Not only did our girls enjoy our guest speaker but they enjoyed watching their friends being recognized for a job well done on the essay competition featuring writing about “Who am I and who I will become.” At the end of the night, the girls enjoyed the chance to sing and dance with one another and said that “they were proud of who they were becoming, and thankful to learn their history.”

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The winter blues do not damper Gwen’s Girls!

With all this cold and bitter weather, many people are facing the winter blues. However, here at Gwen’s Girls that is not the case. Every evening the girls, come into the center full of excitement and energy, and are ready to participate in all the activities that Gwen’s Girls has to offer. One activity that the girls especially enjoyed was splatter painting, where they took different colored markers and paint and flicked the colors onto paper. They said that this was something they really liked doing because it was messy and turned out looking really cool!

How is it that these young women are able to be optimistic with such yucky weather?  Here are 5 ways our girls do it:

  1. Surround yourself with friends!
  2. Be active!
  3. Do something you like!
  4. Relax after a busy day!
  5. Embrace the weather and play in the snow!

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Gwen’s Girls Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day came early for the G.I.R.L.S. program participants, who celebrated on February 12th with a special meal provided by volunteers. The Senior girls helped to prepare the healthy dinner, which included pasta, roasted vegetables, chicken, salad, fruit, and of course – chocolate. They chopped fruit, dressed the salad, and set up the tables so that everyone could enjoy the meal. Everything was delicious, and many of the girls said that they would be able to recreate a similar meal on their own. After dinner every girl received a flower to take home.

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Bridging the Gaps

Gwen’s Girls was lucky to have two Bridging the Gaps interns from the University of Pittsburgh working in our group home. Please view this video that talks about their work and experiences with our girls.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=GZZm0qH_dEM%3Fcc_load_policy%3D1

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Our girls create ring tones

Girls in our After School Program put their spin on hand clap rhymes to create two ring tones. They performed “Cinderella Jump Rope Tone” and “Down By the Bank Ringtone” which were captured by Teresa Foley of Locallytoned.org.

Transcription of the Gwen’s Girls’ Tones

Cinderella Jump Rope Tone:

Cinderella, dressed in yellow / went upstairs to kiss a fellow / made a mistake and kissed a snake / how many doctors will it take / one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, [etc.]

Down By the Bank (hand-clapping) Ringtone:

Down by the bank with the hanky pank / where the bullfrog jump from bank to bank / say E-Fi-E-Fi-Fo, skittle diddle kernel pop / I pledge allegiance to the flag, Michael Jackson makes me glad / Coca Cola has caffeine, now we’re talking jelly bean / Jelly beans are out of site, now we’re back to / Down by the bank with the hanky pank…

To get the ring tones and see more information about this exciting collaboration, click here

The girls created ringtones by clapping their hands.

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My Gwen’s Girls Story

I have been a Gwen’s Girl for six years. I started when I was eight years old. I was so excited when I first started. My older sister Kym came to Gwen’s Girls when she was younger, and I used to be so jealous when she came home and told me what they did and where they were going that I would cry. I couldn’t wait to turn eight so I could start Gwen’s Girls!

My start date was 2004. I was so excited. Gwen’s Girls taughts me everything. My most favorite was learning about bullying. I plan to stay in Gwen’s Girls until I am 18 years old and learn more.

– Destiny I., 14

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What’s my Gwen’s Girls Story?

I have been in Gwen’s Girls for going on nine years. Gwen’s Girls has been a very important accessory in my life because of how much they have helped me through so many ups and downs.

The staff has helped me become aware of abusive relationships and how important it is to get out of them before it’s too late. I have been so excited to share and experience life with such an enthusiastic view of people, and I’m excited to carry on Gwen’s Girls legacy and expectations.

-Taylor J., 17

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Read what our Girls have to say

Read what some of our girls have to say about Gwen’s Girls – in their own words.

“It’s an afterschool program for young girls who need help. I’m here because my grandma wanted me and my sister to come. It really helped me through hard times in my life and is helping me find myself.”

“The reason I’m here is because my mom wanted me off the street. The staff helps me with my problems and relationships with my mother and brothers.”

“We go on a lot of field trips and make a lot of friends. If your kids go they will be safe and doing something positive.”

“Gwen’s Girls helps us achieve the goals we desire starting with job readiness – showing us the obstacles in life we have to be ready to face.”

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