Over the years I have become very interested in working with groups that lift up women and girls- groups that work on building confidence and self-esteem. I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who believed in me, encouraged me to achieve, and told me the sky was the limit as to what I could accomplish. I also had a religion teacher/liturgical music director in high school at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland, who greatly believed in me and encouraged me to take on leadership roles that bolstered my confidence. I passed this on to my own daughter, who is a shining example of a strong confident teen, very active in leadership roles in her school and in the community.
I have seen how peer pressure and life can beat down upon women and girls like a strong driving rain through a broken umbrella. If women/girls can find inner strength and a belief in their personal gifts and talents, I think this knowledge would help sustain them against peer pressure, bullying, and gender discrimination.
I recently attended the kick-off meeting for a pilot program created by St. Vincent de Paul- Cincinnati: the Empowerment Path Program. The program was established to complement education, employment, and other social service programs pursued by women to address financial stability, to help them overcome social ills, and to break systemic cycles getting in the way of growth. It involves the paring of female coaches with women from multi-cultural backgrounds (including different races, economic status, and religions) in the Winton Hills community of Cincinnati in order to build collaborative, open, and accepting relationships.
As a coach, I will walk the path of life with one woman for one year, helping her define steps to achieve a goal that will make a major difference in her life.
I will be there to help her plan
To help cheer her on
To give advice
To cry with her
And to experience the joy that truly giving to another human being can bestow. I think that in the end, I will be the one who is blessed for having experienced another’s life so different from my own.
The director of the Empowerment Path Program opened our kick off session with a great analogy. She said that we tend to approach people that we don’t know like a book; making judgments about them based on the cover. We define our perceptions of them by their outward appearance and the life-long tapes running through our heads. In reality, it is the chapters in a novel that truly define the story, not the cover. We need to remember this as we meet people that we don’t know and who may walk a different path than we are accustomed to.
A group member in her 70s, who is pursuing a life-long dream of receiving her GED, summed this up so succinctly:
“What we see of others on the outside is just a shell, but what’s on your inside- your soul, your heart, that’s what’s important.”
Make sure you always read the chapters……
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