GIRLs are the change w/BOYS as allies

The GIRLs and BOYS groups of St. George's Episcopal Church will travel to New York in March for the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Following this year's theme of "Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls" these youth and their mentors will join others from around the world in an effort to improve women's access to productive resources. The group has been preparing for this trip for 5 months with in depth study of the MDGs and their implementation globally. They will stay in New York for four (4) nights; visiting and worshiping at the Episcopal Church Center, attending the Working Group on Girls Orientation, participating in various NGO parallel events and even hosting a parallel event of their own. Won't you consider supporting them in this effort? Read on for details on this group of global change agents.

The Girls In Real Life (GIRL) group was formed in 2013 by the Rev. Carey D. Chirico after a transforming mission trip to Congo. Carey describes the experience and the formation of the group as follows: "It started on a lava flow in Congo. In conversations with women in micro-finance programs, girls in vocational sewing programs, women growing crops and raising goats given to them by the Anglican Church. 'What do American women know about us?' they asked. 'Very little,' I replied. 'What would you like them to know?' That the rice you sell is paying for your son's university classes? That Congolese women are incredibly strong and resilient and lovely? That you have the same hopes and dreams for your lives that I have for mine, strong healthy families, and happy fulfilling futures?"

"I came home swirling with God's call to be present to a place so foreign from my own home and gathered together the lovely young women of my church home and asked them a question. Would they spend the next few months learning about the lives of the women and girls around the world? We could finish by traveling to the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women in New York where they could see their world leaders and church leaders stand side by side to take powerful stands on issues that impact women around the world."

It is striking how incredibly small the world is and how very similar the issues that concern us can be. Women the world over face sexual violence, messages of unworthiness, stress over balancing family care and professional lives. As the youth of GIRL group came together we talked about girls who have to fight for an education and we worked at micro-finance games. We discussed rape as a weapon of power in war and on college campuses. We talked about the deep call of our baptismal vows to respect each other and to seek justice for all.

The teens wrote prayers that were offered up in Fredericksburg and in New York as they led the opening Eucharist for the Anglican and Episcopal guests. Fortified by prayer, laughter and learning, we headed out into the streets of New York for the 57th UNCSW.

This first group of GIRL was transformed by their UNCSW experience. They learned in New York that change spreads like wildfire and returned convinced that they could be the spark for global change in their own community of Fredericksburg, Virginia. They began by raising awareness of the issues facing women and girls throughout the world. In June, 2013, the GIRL group hosted a Food for Thought dinner for the men in their lives. Describing how their experience had changed them, they asked their fathers, brothers, and friends to be understanding as they transformed into their true selves and to be supportive as they reached out to change the world. But this presentation was just the beginning.

Hosted Adult Forum at St. George's - The GIRL group went on to present to their parish as part of a Sunday morning Adult Forum.

Girl Rising Documentary Viewing - They sponsored three separate (3) showings of the film, Girl Rising, at their local theater promoting them to their school districts, friends, family and the community at large. Each girl advocated for change within their schools by discussing the experience and their passions in the classrooms and out.

Benefit Concert - The GIRL group joined with the local chapter of Hollaback! and sponsored an all female artist concert to raise money to bring a showing of the documentary Half the Sky to the area.

Local Event - They eagerly participated in the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault event, Take Back the Night event, standing in support of victims of sexual assault.

Morning Prayer Liturgy - For the October 11, 2013 International Day of the Girl, this group composed a Morning Prayer liturgy that was released to the entire Anglican Communion. The liturgy was again promoted in the Women's Desk at the Anglican Communion Office's resource for the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women.

Speak Out! Teen Radio Show - Deciding this was still not enough; the GIRL group began a weekly local radio show. Titled Speak Out! Giving Teens a Voice the group addresses global issues with a local lens. With topics ranging from the need for global access to education and health care to LGBT issues to feminism these intelligent girls with clear opinions discuss the topics with their peers while remaining open minded to other's points of view.

Continuing to Grow in Christ - This GIRL group has also worked to establish this year's group of Girls In Real Life, adding a Building Our Youth in Solidarity (BOYS) group as a way of encouraging these young men to be allies.

2014 Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's Annual Council Appearance - In January, the hosts of Speak Out! Giving Teens a Voice were invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's Annual Council as participants in the State of the Diocese presentation. Using their radio show format they interviewed women about various women's ministries throughout the Diocese, including the first woman bishop elected to the Diocese of Virginia. During this time, they were also surprised by a video message from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, commending their efforts as change agents.

In March, the 2014 GIRL/BOYS group will travel to New York City to attend the 58th UNCSW. As Anglican Youth Ambassadors last year's group will guide their first time peers through the week's events and sponsor their own parallel event on using radio to spread a global message locally.

This is surely not the end. The seed has been planted and with the active support of donors, these GIRLs and BOYS will not be stopped.

Won't you consider sponsoring them on their journey to create the world that God dreams for women and for men?


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Nancy Schwartz 
Fredericksburg, VA
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