I have a Brownie unit in a rather affluent area. This, obviously, has advantages (for example, we don’t need to worry about an activity that costs a few extra dollars). It does, however, present some interesting challenges – a major one being that kids who lead a fairly sheltered, comfortable existence have trouble adapting to new situations.
This example is fresh in my mind, and I would love some feedback on how to handle it!
We decided to take the girls on an outing for pizza followed by a fun workshop at a local dance studio. They were obviously very excited about the evening! Once we got to the pizza restaurant, the girls realized we would need to walk about 600 meters up the road in an unfamiliar, less affluent, area of town – in the dark, to get to the dance studio. Some of them got nervous, and one said “Are the poor people going to attack us?” I was shocked – where would she have gotten that from? I have known these families to be very charitable in the past (through other activities we have done) and we have also spent time this year talking about poverty around the world, including the need for food banks, etc. I realized she was referring to two homeless men sitting outside of a supermarket across the road from the pizza restaurant – and tried to calmly explain that these men were not going to hurt her, and that we would be just fine walking up the road (which of course we were).
So how do you teach little girls – who have never known hunger, cold, mental illness or poverty – that sometimes circumstances lead people in different directions? That while you should be vigilant about your safety, not every stranger is out to hurt you? It is a fine line we tread, working with children – they’re small and vulnerable, so I don’t want to make them fearless about the world around them, but I also don’t want them to judge people as “bad” simply because they have different economic circumstances.
We leaders have discussed this issue in the past, but I would love to hear from other leaders about what they have done.
By anonymous Guider.
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I don’t know how popular they idea would have been, but maybe go and talk to them? We are ALL 3 bad decisions away from being on the streets, I’ve worked with the homeless population many suffer from mental illness and addictions, but very few are actually bad people. Letting the girls know that there are good and bad people in all walks of life, and just because someone lives on the street doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad.
What a fantastic response! My unit is also in a very financially comfortable geographic location, and I was struggling to figure out how I would have handled that situation. Thanks for your input!!!
Take the girls to a food kitchen to help out . They will meet people from all walks of life .They will come to see that homeless and / or the poor are people like us . They may even see some homeless children . At your next meeting discuss things they could do to help out .Input from the girls will surprise you .
What a great topic!! I love that GGC has seemed to be tackling bigger and bigger social justice issues as of late! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Melva Watt’s idea here — take the girls to volunteer at a soup kitchen.
We have taken our girls in the past to carol or volunteer at senior’s homes, and they always start out uncomfortable around the elderly, many of which are now facing health issues, both physical and mental. They ease us the more time they spend, and I imagine this would be similar.
Congrats on being able to recognize this as an issue, and looking for ways to talk about it with your girls. My kudos to you! Hushing it up as an issue will never solve any problems, so keep asking the tough questions, and guide on!
I agree with Rainbow . The more times girls are in unfamiliar situations the more they will feel safe and comfortable .Hushing it up is never an answer . The talk should always be age appropriate . I was actively in Guiding for over 30 years and have encountered many situations .
Great ideas! I’m in Brampton, Ontario and you must be 13 years old and supervised at a 2:1 ratio to volunteer at a soup kitchen. This meant that only our 3rd year Pathfinders and a few of the second years could participate. The Senior’s Residence seems to be a great alternative. Thanks Ladies!
I am a Cub leader in a very afluent area. We took our kids to the foood bank that served that area and talked to them about how even where they lived their were poor people who needed food. We also talked to them about how some kids in their town might wake up with nothing under their Christmas Tree at Christmas time if it were not for donations of toys to the food bank. They were quite surprised to know that and we talked about how they would feel if that were them. If they woke up with no food in their house and if they had nothing to open on Christmas morning. We had them two weeks before our trip to the food bank collect food for the food bank and the kids were amazed at how many boxes of food they had helped sort in the end. The food bank people tlked to them a bit about hunger as well. It was a good experience and one I think they will remember for a long time. It was also a service project cuz the kids helped sort the food. Also if you know a person who is less affluent then your children having them come to a meeting so your Brownies can see poor people are not much different then them. Make a poster about how all people are the same as well…poor or afluent…what they need, want and have like feelings. Just some thoughts.
I’m a Brownie Leader and my Unit did a food drive and then we brought our food to the local food bank. They did a great presentation on how poverty can affect everyone, and they were pretty shocked to learn that kids, just like them, were some of the people who relied on the food bank. They also got to help out by weighing and sorting their food donations and they all were pretty fascinated with how the food bank works. One of our girls was so touched that she asked her teacher if she could hold her own food drive in the school and the school agreed!