“Chicas Poderosas” is Back-In-Action

Volunteer Caroline O’Connell revitalizes the program with a new blend of fun and empowering activities.
March 1, 2012 - Honduras

The girls listen attentively as they receive instructions for their project.

An energetic group of young girls gather around. They all hold white shirts, twisted up tightly with rubber bands into nicely wrapped individual packages. They are waiting in-line for their turn to tie-dye: a fun activity they well deserve after weeks of hard work in the classroom.

These are the girls of Chicas Poderosas (Powerful Girls), a weekly course designed to strengthen young females here at Rancho Santa Fe, teaching them about the importance of self-confidence, independence, and motivation. Chicas Podersosas was first started at NPH Honduras in 2005, and due to its success, the program has been adopted at several other NPH homes. After taking a brief year-and-a-half hiatus as the program did not have an instructor, “Chicas” is now back-in-action here at the Ranch with American Volunteer Caroline O’Connell breathing life into the classroom.

“A program like this is necessary here,” Caroline says. “Our girls need a time for personal activities amongst themselves; a place where they can work together, building their self-confidence and leadership skills.”

Every day in the classroom at the volunteer house, Caroline meets with a different group of girls, who span the ages of 8 to 17. Here in “Chicas” the girls address many important topics. Themes such as relationships, friends, self esteem, personal health, and future aspirations are commonplace in the classroom discussions. Caroline feels that with the business of school, work, and general life here at NPH, “Chicas” provides a special environment in which our girls can openly discuss these topics at length and work together in a constructive manner, something they might not have an opportunity to do otherwise.

In “Chicas” the girls have fun. Many of the activities involve art, crafts, and games that always inspire creativity and individuality. Behind all this amusement, however, lies purpose. “I want the girls to know that their current decisions directly affect their future, and that they have options in steering their personal life paths,” Caroline says. Exercises like distinguishing between good and bad influences and setting both long and short-term goals are examples of ways in which the girls are encouraged to think about their future.

For the first time ever, Chicas Poderosas is now also a mobile program, as once a week it extends its reach off the Ranch property to the area around NPH. Every Sunday, Caroline travels to the soup kitchen in the nearby community of Talanga to meet with local girls there. She brings to them the same energy, enthusiasm and vision that she shares with the pequeñas of NPH.

Although classroom management can sometimes be a challenge with so many girls, Caroline says the rewarding times make it all worth it, especially when the girls “really get it.” Like, for example, the time when the girls wished to continue a discussion on eating disorders that they had the previous week. Caroline has even overheard some of the girls talking about course material outside the classroom. When it’s obvious the girls are really retaining the information, Caroline feels satisfied with her work.

The tie-dye project is a reward for the girls. These types of activities are earned by good participation and attentiveness in class. While they are indeed fun, they also teach the girls about the benefits of hard work and responsibility. And as long as the girls keep up the good behavior and continue to engage themselves in class, next in line is popcorn and a movie!

Hunter Johnson   
Communication Officer - NPH Honduras




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