Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.
Elaine Hamel founded Girls at Work, Inc. in 2000 because to her, empowerment isn't just a buzzword but a way of life. Their mission is to challenge traditional norms and normalize girl power, focusing specifically on uplifting and supporting inner city girls between the ages of 8 and 18, who need stability, safety, and confidence.
The girls attending summer camps or after-school programs work in groups and learn how to problem solve, communicate, and use tools to build something practical. Hamel believes that learning how to use power tools shows the girls that they can do anything they put their minds to, better preparing them for a bright future.
Photo courtesy of TD Bank
Elaine's forward-thinking, positive leadership, and passion for the community is exactly why TD Bank chose to honor her for the 2022 #TDThanksYou campaign, a North American campaign demonstrating the bank’s gratitude and commitment to their customers by celebrating, recognizing, and thanking unsung heroes in exciting and meaningful ways. Hamel is one of six honorees recognized this year and was presented with power tools and gift certificates to purchase additional items needed to enhance the program.
Hamel understands what it feels like to hear the word “can’t.” Growing up, she struggled to find her place in a world that seemed to be built by, and for, men. As a kid she loved to “create or fix things” and always found something to tinker with. Before long, she discovered not only did she enjoy building and repairing things, but she was very good at it.
She spent the next several decades breaking down the multitude of barriers that a woman pursuing a career as a general contractor faced in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It was really brutal when I first started out in construction,” Hamel said. “The men were so cruel. But I grew up with five brothers and I was used to it. I told myself I’d be the boss one day…and now I am.”
Photo courtesy of TD Bank
The process of learning how to become stronger and more confident in her natural abilities sent her career soaring, and drives her life’s work—empowering girls to take up space and take control of their own lives.
“These are kids who grapple with neglect, food insecurity, and extreme poverty,” said Hamel. “They’re not soaring in school because they’re in survival mode. They’re hungry and unable to focus and learn.” Hamel’s solution is a fully stocked food pantry, where the girls can shop for groceries before heading home. Girls at Work, Inc. also has a “kindness closet,” stocked with clothing, shoes, outerwear and other items.
After addressing their immediate needs, the girls are ready to get to work. “There are many programs out there devoted to teaching trades and skills to girls,” said Hamel, “But this is about learning how to think critically and problem solve. Pushing through that is what actually empowers them.”
Photo courtesy of Girls at Work
The nonprofit is a vital part of the community, relying heavily on donations and volunteers to keep it going. For example, a club of retired men volunteer their time to pre-cut the lumber for Girls at Work, Inc.'s projects. The girls use that lumber to create things—like picnic tables, benches, and birdhouses—which in turn are donated to local organizations.
Hamel says she’s built with over 20,000 girls so far, and her goal is to hit one million. Her dream is to secure funding to open up new locations to serve even more communities and says that watching these girls' step into their power and believe in themselves is what keeps her moving forward. The world needs more heroes like her.
To learn more about this year's #TDThanksYou heroes, visit https://www.td.com/us/en/about-us/customers/humans-with-heart
This article originally appeared on 02.25.21
Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.
As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.
Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.
The child was sent to the office for refusing to remove his hat in class. "So, I sat down with him and asked him why, what was going on," Smith told WRTV. "He said he just got his haircut, he didn't like the way it looked, and he thought his hairline look a little funny."
Having a haircut that's a little off can be like waving a red flag at middle school bullies. So, Smith decided to fix the situation by offering the child a haircut.
"I've been cutting hair most of my life. I played college basketball and I cut my teammates' hair before games and I've been cutting my son's hair for 17 years so I had professional clippers and edgers at home, so I said, 'If I go home and get my clippers and line you up, will you go back to class,' and he said, 'Yeah, I will,'" Smith said.
A photo of the cut was posted to Facebook where it's been seen over 21,000 times.
After Smith fixed the child's hairline, the student kept up his end of the bargain and returned to class.
"You know that age is a time for peer acceptance. It's huge. And So a young man, especially an African-American young man the barbershop is a big deal in the community. Looking good a representing and presenting yourself is huge for kids," Smith said.
A few days later, Smith posted a photo on Facebook of some memorable cuts he's given in the past. "Who knew a skill that helped me survive in college would be useful 20 years later?" he captioned the post.
via Jason Smith / Facebook
Smith saw the situation as a way to help the child in the moment instead of having to resort to disciplinary actions. From the child's perspective what's worse -- being ridiculed in front of your peers or having a parent get angry?
"We're not disciplining with a hard fist. You could call and have the parent pick up the kid up for defiance. Or you can sit and get to the root of the problem and see what can I do to help you? What do you need right now?" Smith said.
Imagine what the world would be like if more people simply asked each other, "What do you need?"
"He really was not trying to get out of class. He just thought that he would be laughed at. So, we took the time and did what we could to help him," Smith said.
Smith recently posted a quote by professor Brené Brown on Facebook that serves as a great reminder of the practical power of solving problems at the root through compassion and direct action. "Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior."
'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'
There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.
According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.
“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.
\u201cDevastated bride goes ahead with party after groom stood her up on their wedding day \ud83d\udc4f\n\n[THREAD] \ud83e\uddf5\u201d— Manchester News MEN (@Manchester News MEN) 1664276377
Stead spoke with the groom at 4 p.m. the previous day, but they stayed the night with their respective parties to save some mystery before the big day. “The groom and I had already agreed not to speak the night before the wedding anyway, so I didn’t know what was happening on his end, I didn’t have a clue,” Stead told The Metro.
Stead was in absolute shock after hearing the news. She had paid for nearly the entire wedding herself, using up all of her life savings on the £12,000 ($13,000) affair. “As a joke, the videographer said ‘Why don’t you carry on, girls? You’ve spent all this money, you’re not getting it back, all your guests are there, why don’t you just go?’” Stead told The Metro.
So, she did just that. Stead decided that the wedding would go on without her fiance.
\u201cKayley Stead made the brave decision to carry on with the celebrations without her partner of four years Kallum Norton after he ditched her before the ceremony\n\nhttps://t.co/BoBM7KUSOh\u201d— The Daily Record (@The Daily Record) 1664316000
“That’s when I was like, I’m going to do it,” she said. “I’d spent all this money, I’d been looking forward to the food, a dance with my dad, spending time with my family, so why not?”
Stead, her friends, family and even the groomsmen didn’t let things go to waste and they enjoyed her wedding entrance, food, speeches, dances and even posed for photos. “I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness,” she said.
“She was the most beautiful bride we had ever seen,” Cullen added.
The good news is that after the party, Cullen set up a GoFundMe page to help Stead recoup her losses and it has already reached its goal of £10,000 ($10,830). Almost two weeks after the event, Stead still doesn’t know why she was stood her up on her wedding day.
\u201c"There were so many special moments, like my wedding entrance, the sparkler walk, the first dance and punching the wedding cake, so there was still happiness in the day. I'd spent all this money." - Kayley Stead\u201d— Birmingham Live (@Birmingham Live) 1664199021
The Sun caught up with Norton and he refused to apologize. The only thing he had to say was, "I don’t want to talk about the article.”
While it’s terrible that Stead was stood up on her wedding day, she should be applauded for making the best of the worst day ever. It’s also wonderful that her bridesmaids and family stood by her side and supported her as she dealt with a serious blow. Let’s hope she finds someone better soon. It shouldn’t be too hard—standing someone up at the altar and then not even explaining yourself is a pretty low move.
Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.
When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.
Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.
Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.
You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.
Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:
1. Playing with dogs
Doggos are basically furry children, so this one’s a no-brainer.
The only thing NOT fun about Legos is stepping on one. Everything else is pure magic.
3. Popping bubble wrap
With each satisfying “pop” sound, just imagine tiny bursts of dopamine flooding the brain.
4. Riding roller coasters
While it’s true that riding roller coasters might become less physically possible with age, barring that limitation—you’re never too old to ride one.
Playing video games at home is cool, but there's a special thrill in seeing an arcade absolutely buzzing with different game sounds, colored lights and other people enjoying themselves.
Because speeding in real life is irresponsible.
7. Pillow fights
A quintessential sleepover activity that can easily be done with a roommate. Bonus points for surprise attacks.
Whether in toy or nugget form, dinosaurs are a delight.
9. Dressing up for Halloween
Halloween costumes can go from a fun form of playful expression in our younger years to a source of self-image issues in our teens and beyond (as so many things in life do). Hopefully though, dressing up for the spooky season can be a highlight on the calendar.
10. Water slides
Roller coasters in liquid form!
We no longer have to hide our passion for toys under the serious moniker of “collecting.” Playing with dolls is a fun practice in storytelling and has even shown a very specific set of therapeutic benefits. Permission, granted!
Remember peacefully imagining made-up worlds while staring up at the clouds? Those were good times.
Whether you are a traditionalist or prefer to go crazy and twist yourself up for some epic spins, a swing set is a perfect place to let your inner child out.
14. Taking sick days
Everything is more fun when you do it during a time you technically should be somewhere else.