Support group gives girls a fighting chance

Training session will be hosted by Victoria Restorative Justice Society

Traversing the pitfalls of the tween and teen years can be tough.

But thanks to a support group known as Girls Circle, some girls are finding their formative years a little easier to navigate.

Developed by the U.S.-based Girls Circle Association, the program was used at Esquimalt High in 2010 and Esquimalt’s Rockheights middle school in 2011.

It’s making a difference in young lives, said the program’s facilitator, Gillian Lindquist, program co-ordinator with the Victoria Restorative Justice Society. The organization helps victims and offenders work through the aftermath of a crime.

A new Girls Circle will soon start up at Rockheights as well as at another school that has yet to be selected. Funding this year is being provided by the Victoria Foundation, the Victoria chapter of Zonta International, a woman’s organization, and the Victoria Family Court and Youth Justice Committee.

The girls will meet once a week to explore topics important to them, such as body image, safe sex, bullying and managing conflicts in relationships.

“These are topics I think that are hard things for girls to bring up to school counsellors or parents or friends,” said Lindquist. “It’s a safe and confidential space where they can do that, so that hopefully later on when they’re out in the real world they have (the new skills they learn) at their fingertips and they can access (these).”

The program gives some girls a reason to go to school, an attachment some say can help the youth stay away from drug abuse, crime and other harmful behaviour later in life.

“One of the things that was noticed in the program is that girls that don’t attend school regularly or don’t come to school really at all will come to the Girls Circle even if they aren’t coming to classes,” Lindquist said.

This year, the participants will be able to take on a community project in which they will support a cause they care about.

“For a lot of these girls (it will be) the first time they’ve ever actively volunteered or actively been involved in something in the community,” Lindquist said. “So it’s a really great experience for them, because it opens the door to a possibility they never considered before.”

Did you know?

The Victoria Restorative Justice Society is organizing a two-day Girls Circle facilitator training workshop on Jan. 16 and 17, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the District Resource Centre, 6843 Central Saanich Rd. Cost is $295. For details, please call 250-885-7049 or visit www.girlscircle.com.