‘Girl power’ group has strong message

Empowerment summer camp helps girls make healthy eating choices and pursue physical activity

Kitimat Child Development Centre workers Luiza Couto and Carolyn Watt organize a yearly ‘girl power’ summer group

After seven years, the Kitimat Child Development Centre’s Girl Power summer group is still a success with young girls in the area.

The free program was started by Carolyn Watt and Luiza Couto with the ChildDevelopment Centre, because they saw that girls aged 10 to 13 began dropping out of sports and previous activities that they had enjoyed doing, due to body issues and low self esteem.

“Girls self esteem starts to drop off around 9, 10, when they begin to see the media images of what unrealistic women look like,” said Couto.

“So we created this two part program, with me as a physiotherapist and Luiza as a mental health worker, we could combine our forces in terms of doing a physical activity and healthy eating,” explained Watt.

Girls who join the program, which ran from August 22 to 26 this year, participate in fun physical activities, prepare a healthy lunch for themselves and the group, and discuss topics that they have questions about or want to know more about. Watt said the program is typically group led.

“Often we’ll ask the girls what they’re interested in doing, and what their favourite activities are, because we do want them to be able to carry on the activities after we finish, and it’s also to give them a sense of what possibilities are out there.”

“We’ve taken them dragon boating, we’ve taken them out in the water in canoes or kayaks, we do a lot of hiking,” said Watt.

The girls also have the opportunity to give back to the community and volunteer if that’s an activity they’re interested in.

“The kids were really impressed with the Supper Club, all that happens behind the scenes for people in town,” said Couto.

With the healthy eating portion of the group, the participants gain experience with chopping vegetables and learning how to twist their favourite meals into something a bit healthier.

“If they like grilled cheese sandwiches, maybe we’ll make them with brown bread,real cheddar not the processed cheese,” said Watt.

While the group is typically a summer activity when kids are out of school for the year, Couto and Watt floated the idea of running it this upcoming spring.

“It was just kind of a suggestion and the girls in the groups said, ‘okay, see you at spring break!’” said Couto.

“I think it just shows the importance of running a program like this,” she continued.

“We have a lot of girls come back, and repeat the session over and over and over again each summer,” said Watt.

The program is free to access, but Watt and Couto say they rely on the community to help with activities.

“For example when we went dragon boating, the dragon boat team volunteered to come out to help us and take the girls out and show the girl the ropes and stuff,because we don’t have much of a budget ourselves,” said Watt.

“We make it no cost so it’s available to the most number of people.”

Couto said the reaction from the public has been very good.

“I remember one time we went to the SPCA, and this man asked (about) all these young girls walking the dogs and what it was about so I told him a little bit about the program and have gave us a $50 bill to take the girls for ice cream,” she said.

Those interested in the program or who want more information can call the ChildDevelopment Centre at 250-632-3144.


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