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Jan 10, 2017

Letting them know that they matter

Learning about new careers in the arts
Learning about new careers in the arts

The holiday times for most of us are filled with family and friends, fun and laughter, gifts and good food.  Knowing that the girls we serve through "Beyond Bars" may have a more difficult time during this time of year, we made sure that these girls know that they matter.  Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to include more activities and learning experiences for these young women.  Over the past several weeks, we have embarked on enriching field trips such as the Women's Heritage History Museum, where they learned about strong women and were exposed to various career fields. 

Another recent highlight is a field trip to a local live theatre production of Cinderella.  The story of Cinderella -- perhaps one of the best-known children's tales and read to children at a very young age --  is not just one story.  More than 500 versions have been found with origins dating back to the ninth century.  The Cinderella of the 21st Century is more reflective of the original version of this story - a girl who is self-reliant and willing to make her own future.  This message resonated with each GSBB girl attending the live play.  As a bonus, girls were taught about the many jobs it takes to produce a live play, learned about musical scores and the equipment and technology required to deliver a live play. The experience of live theatre was a first for many of them. 

Over the past several months, we have taken extra care to let the girls enjoy a spirit of Thanksgiving and giving back. We have engaged them in activities that help them create joy for others.  They made fleece blankets and donated them to the Meals on Wheels Program to be delivered with meals at the homes of home-bound residents.  During this time, each girl worked on her "journey," a name given to a special Girl Scout process that culminates in earning a badge.  The journey for the girls was titled "Agent of Change."  This is all part of making the girls feel empowered with control over their life and surroundings, something they have had abruptly disrupted with the incarceration of their mothers.  This journey slowly allows them to see a return of their world to their control, and produces great byproducts such as increased self-worth and confidence.  They learn to be great within themselves, and to know they can achieve great things despite the challenges they have faced at a young age.   They learn that they don't have to accept being abused or neglected or turn to drugs to escape.  

Girls have also learned during this time to cook together - something they cannot learn from their moms.  These experiences form a bond between these girls, that history with this program has shown us lasts into their adulthood.  

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program.  We are one of the few programs in our State that allows for trips to the prison to visit with moms.  We are granted this privilege by the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women because of the great care we take with the girls and with the rules we must observe while we are inside the institution.  An overnight stay is allowed once each year and is a special treat for both mothers and daughters, who rarely have this time for closeness.  We plan to make the 25th year special in many ways for the girls, as well as reach out to alums of this program.  We hope you will continue to support this worthwhile investment in the future of very vulnerable young women at a critical period in their lives.   

Oct 12, 2016

GSBB Van in Motion

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Participant at summer camp
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Participant at summer camp

The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Van is a vehicle for change in every sense of the word.  Through your generous donations, the girls in the Beyond Bars Program have been transported for 18 trips to see their moms, or to participate in  "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" field trips.  

  • Visits early in 2016 to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) included sessions with girls and their mothers on healthy living, family traditions and making exercise fun.  
  • "World Thinking Day" (WTD) a longstanding Girl Scout tradition, was the focus of activity in February where the girls chose their country of focus (Switzerland, Ghana, Mexico, United Kingdom and India were selected this year) and planned activities based on traditions, food and culture of those countries.  WTD was held at the MCIW.
  • In March, visits to MCIW celebrated National Women's Month, and activities that honored the birthday of the Founder of Girl Scouts.  
  • College Tours were also accomplished in March, with visits by the GSBB girls to Howard University and Trinity Washington University.  
  • In April, girls and moms planned their Annual Sleepover, which  this year had a luau theme.  In Mid-April, the Annual sleepover at the MCIW was held, so all girls were transported yet again using this wonderful new van.
  • In May, Scout Day is celebrated at Six Flags.  The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars girls met girls from other troops and got a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the shows at this park.  
  • Later that month, GSBB girls attended a first aid training program at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland (GSCM) facilities, and went to GSCM's rustic camp, Camp Woodlands, for a weekend of camping. Several young ladies achieved many great accomplishments at camp, from mastering swimming to getting "up close" with animal life.  
  • In June, as is tradition nationwide, girls from the GSBB program received the badges they earned during the year, received their next-level uniforms (for bridging from Brownie to Junior, or Junior to Cadette, etc.) and new girls were given their first year uniforms and supplies.  All of this is done in the presence of their mothers, who cheered them on during this investiture/rededication ceremony.  
  • Meetings at MCIW in July and August focused on Girl Scouts 101, Back-to-School activities and welcomed them back to a new year of Girl Scouting.  
  • Girls again travelled to MCIW to focus on earning a "Performance Badge."  This exciting new Journey will introduce girls to all aspects of the performance arts from production to technology to artistic expression.  The culminating event of this badge activity will be the attendance at a live play in Baltimore, funded with the support of a local Bar Association.  
  • Eleven GSBB troop girls visited the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center in Baltimore on October 1 to have fun learning about famous Maryland women in the fields of art, literature, STEM and much more. They tried on child-sized lab coats and astronaut suits and created drawings honoring women in the museum.  

GSBB used this new van to transport these girls and young women to places in which amazing experiences left lasting impressions.    Without your support, the positive impact on these families would not have been possible.  

GSBB participants exploring careers in STEM
GSBB participants exploring careers in STEM
Jul 13, 2016

Beyond Bars Update

Jordyn Richardson at Camp Woodlands
Jordyn Richardson at Camp Woodlands

Thanks to generous donors like you, we were able to purchase a van for transporting girls to the Maryland Correction Insitution for Women (MCIW) for troop meeting and to other activities.  Since then, our girls have been on the move! 

In April, during a troop meeting at MCIW, girls and their mothers planned the Annual Sleepover, which was held at MCIW in April with a luau theme: grass skirts, leis, Hawaiian pizza and decorations. Eighteen girls, 11 mothers and five volunteers participated in the sleepover. In addition to sharing dinner and breakfast, girls spent time with their mothers doing badge work, arts and crafts, and playing games.

In May a troop meeting focusing on first aid was held at the Girl Scout of Central Maryland’s (GSCM) Seton office. A police officer and three nurses taught the girls how to recognize signs of injury and get help from 911. Volunteers helped girls create first aid kits and bandage-themed SWAPS.  Later in May, 15 girls had a weekend at Camp Woodlands in Annapolis. Although the weekend was rainy and chilly, the girls had fun learning about animals from a Girl Scout ranger, and cooking s'more treats. They also created skits, did science projects and completed two service projects at the camp. 

On June 18, a investiture, bridging and rededication took place at MCIW. New girls received their uniforms and older girls received this year’s badges or next-level uniforms, while their mothers applauded.

With the support of donors like you, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars gives girls with incarcerated mothers a more normal childhood.  The camping trips, the sleepovers, the investitures--these are are critical activities that help our girls, who are often isolated and stigmatized by their peers, overcome these obstacles and gain the confidence and strength they need to succeed in life. 

Over 1,000 women and daughters have been touched by the Maryland Beyond Bars program, and many more have benefitted.  Thank you for helping Girl Scouts of Central Maryland make a difference with Beyond Bars! 

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