Our Girls Club takes place in a cinder block cell of an old schoolhouse, with no roof, no floor, and no desks, so we try to make due with our notebooks and markers and the supplies we have. Today we tackled the topic of compassion, one I was weary of discussing with girls who have so little themselves. To understand compassion, we wrote the word itself out on a piece of paper, and then talked about what we thought it meant.
Unlike other topics, I noticed how the girls were drawn to the idea of compassion – they took out their notebooks and began scribbling everything that was said, straining their necks to see how to spell the word. It was an early indicator of how amazingly they handled this topic.
I wasn’t able to print out a book about compassion, so I made up a story about a little girl named Abby, who, while walking home from school in Accra, meets another girl on the road who cannot go to school because she doesn’t have a uniform, so must sit alone outside all day. Abby goes home and searches her room, and finally finds her old uniform to give to the girl so she could go to school. When we discussed the story afterwards, the girls automatically started shouting out other ways they could help people in their community, from giving money to food to a place to sleep! It is amazing how a child who has so little can be willing to give so much, and so many people who have so much give nothing at all.
We had a piece of chart paper today, and we wrote across the top “What We Care About”. The girls wrote ideas like “we need to help people who are in need”, “we have to help people who are sick”, and “we must take care of our environment”. Then we went around in a circle, and the girls shared the changes they would make in the world. I had a chance to jot down what they said – it is too wise not to share.
My name is Hannah and if I could change one thing in the world, all girls should be respectful and brilliant.
My name is Irene and if I could change one thing in the world, everyone would love themselves.
My name is Ophelia, and if I could change one thing, all parents should take care of their children.
My name is Matilda and I think all people would care about others.
My name is Leticia and I think we need to respect our parents.
My name is Lucy and if I could change one thing in the world, all parents would educate their children.
My name is Mary, and we should respect people.
My name is Eugenia and I think we should love one another.
My name is Naomi and if I could change one thing in the world, we need to apologize to people we offend.
My name is Ophelia and if I could change one thing, we should all be compassionate to others.
My name is Dora, and we should love one another.
After the girls shared their thoughts (which struck as beyond their years) the girls each wrote a letter to the world.
I’ll let those speak for themselves, and simply say that we ended our girls club dancing because we were all so happy, and taking some photos hugging each other and laughing. I know wisdom comes with age, but some of it must be intrinsic.
(continued in Part 2)