Published on Nov 30, 2012
"Everything about a power tool says 'no' to a girl... It says 'power', it says 'capable', it says 'big and strong and men'. So you take this little girl that's been abused or neglected or abandoned and you take a power tool and you put that in her hands so now what happens."
For most young girls, the idea of using a drill press, electric sander, or branding iron is not the first thing that comes to mind when they think of their skills. Girls At Work is a New Hampshire nonprofit based in Kingston that is working to change that, giving girls the knowledge and tools to build their strength and courage as well as a peg board or box.
Coming from a family of five brothers and no sisters, Elaine Hamel was used to being able to do whatever her brothers did but when it came to her desire to join shop class, she was told she couldn't because she was a girl.
Later, when she left college to pursue a career in construction, it took going to countless companies before she could find a job where she was accepted.
So when asked why she started a nonprofit that teaches young girls, usually aged from six to fourteen, how to build using power tools, she says, "The reason, I guess I focused on girls is because I never had that opportunity."
The idea for Girls At Work came to Hamel 27 years ago when she took in a neighbor whose parents were addicts. Having done so, she explains that, "It occurred to me that I needed to put her in summer camp ... which baffles me because I'd never been to camp."
After speaking to the local Girl Scouts' office and finding a camp, she signed her young neighbor up.
"At the time I was a general contractor, very young general contractor and struggling contractor," says Hamel, "so in order for me to get her into this camp, I had asked if there was anything I could do in exchange ... as opposed to paying for the program."
When the camp leaders discovered she was a contractor, they asked her to teach the girls how to build. "So I loaded a bunch of tools and off I went to camp and I spent the week," says Hamel, not realizing at the time that it would be an experience that would change the course of her career.
"The first day they got there just after breakfast and they worked until about 10 or 11 that night and they wanted to work through each meal. And every morning they would get there before breakfast and just be in that space because it was so powerful for them."
Hamel then started to teach at camps between contracting jobs but she explains that, "Then it just got too crazy, I felt like I was letting down more kids than I was helping."
It was during time years later spent building a set for a local production of The Sound of Music that Hamel met two students of an economic development program at the local college.
"They needed a pilot program to submit as a business plan and it all sort of happened through conversation," says Hamel, who spent hours talking to the students about teaching girls to build.
They set up a business plan for a nonprofit that would mean that Hamel could help more girls and, "We were one of three that were chosen, so I got a check in the mail."
Hamel spent the next year planning the organization of the nonprofit and in 2000, Girls At Work was founded.
She explains that the mission of Girls At Work is to "teach girls at risk how to use power tools safely and through that experience, they'll discover their inner power tools of strength and courage, and it really alters their lens of how they see themselves."
Girls At Work partners with local social services to find girls most in need of help and takes their programs to them, arranging building projects after school or during summer camps.
Read more... http://web.bus52.com/profiles/girls-a...
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