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One in two girls wish they were someone else

Local day camp that aims to build girls’ confidence gets a boost from Rotary
Rotarian Inis LeBlanc presents a Squamish Rotary donation to Shana Murray of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.

Half of young girls grow up wanting to be someone else, says Shana Murray, community program manager of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.

She shared this fact with the Squamish Rotary Club during at a lunch presentation last Thursday.

To combat this trend, the Howe Sound Women’s Centre has been operating a summer day camp program for girls the last few years. 

“It’s just a safe, nurturing environment,” Murray said.

Now, the program is getting a sizeable boost from the Squamish Rotary Club, which donated a cheque for $3,200.

During her presentation, Murray outlined the origin of the program and what takes place.

The centre came up with the idea for the camp from feedback from girls attending the regular after-school Girl Power Groups program who wanted more time together during group sessions.

“They wanted them to last longer,” Murray said.

The camp, which started in 2013, runs for five days from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Since it began, the program has had 62 participants from ages seven to 11. The girls are split into two age groupings.

The program offers a place for girls where they can be themselves, experience nature, develop friendships and build self-esteem in the hopes of being able tackle issues they may face such as poverty, violence or stereotyping, especially before they enter their vulnerable teenage years.

“As girls move into adolescence, they become overwhelmed,” Murray said. “Fifty per cent of girls wish they were someone else.”

During her presentation, she provided some other disturbing statistics from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. For example, the percentage of girls identifying as “self-confident” goes from 36 per cent when they are in Grade 6 down to 14 per cent by Grade 10.

For the camps, the centre asks families to pay what they can afford and it offers scholarships. So far, it has offered 31 scholarships.

“We believe if we invest in girls today, then we will have a brighter future,” Murray said.

Rotary members were impressed by the “wonderful” program, in the words of Judy McGuinn.

“This is year four of the program. I think that is something to be said,” she said. “I think it’s great for kids who would normally not get the opportunity.”

Rotarian Inis LeBlanc, who presented the cheque to Murray, said she could not help but be moved by the statistics, especially after learning so many girls wish they were someone else, and admitted that she still struggled with accepting herself even as an adult.

As to the donation, LeBlanc said the amount should help run the camp and cover attendance for 11 to 12 girls.

As Murray received the cheque, she admitted she was surprised at the support Rotary was providing.

“I thought I was just coming to speak,” she said.

At the same meeting, the Rotary Club also donated $3,200 to the Hilltop House Friday dinner program, which should help with the meals every second week for 25 to 35 resident seniors and their visiting family members.