Auntie Summit: I see you, I hear you, I believe in you

“Look at these women,” said one Auntie of the summit participants. “If only I had met them long ago, and the love and passion they show for others had gotten into me!”

GSGC hosted all 11 of its girls club Aunties at a workshop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in early June of 2017. The multi-day event featured an open-discussion format and was guided by Dr. Donna Rasin-Waters, a GSGC volunteer with professional expertise in trauma counselling.

Many of the Aunties met for the first time. After icebreakers, each was given the opportunity to unburden and share experiences with her peers. Then she was encouraged to ask for any help she might need, and was given suggestions of best practices and methods for handling crises.

GSGC Aunties face tough issues daily

Working with some of the most vulnerable girls in Southern Africa, the Aunties often voiced concerns that revolve around a girl’s crisis situation. They also shared concerns about their own levels of burnout and compassion fatigue.

Many of the girls that GSGC support have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; the death of their parents; HIV/AIDS; isolation, and/or profound poverty. GSGC’s Aunties often come from a similar background. Because counselling professionals today are well versed in trauma healing, the summit brought welcome relief.

Discussions ran the gamut:

  • How to connect with girls on both an individual and group basis
  • The challenges of working with girls who have limited experience in expressing themselves, and little understanding of the world
  • Creating privacy, and a safe space for sharing
  • Encouraging community buy-in for educating and empowering girls
    Legal actions for serious abuse
  • Finding support for their own mentoring efforts; not doing it alone
  • Trust and responsibility

Dr. Rasin-Waters also led the Aunties to discuss their club’s future, and to name their dreams and goals. But for now, these are the basics that they seek for their girls.

  • Completing school, sitting for exams
  • Valuing their bodies and preventing pregnancy, even when parents are absent and prostitution is a means of feeding their family
  • Finding and engaging in healthy interests
  • Gaining confidence and motivation, standing up for themselves

Leaving energized and strong

One person offered that the summit was the equivalent of “hitting a Refresh button”.

In addition to the solid peer support they received, the Aunties heard more about the GSGC members who stand behind them. Some were surprised to hear that we “get it” – that we understand and applaud how they are changing young lives in their communities.

Each Auntie walked away with tools and techniques, as well as feeling a part of a stronger network. They have a renewed sense of hope. They no longer feel they work alone.

What did GSGC leaders have to say?

  • “The talent, intuition, and commitment of the aunties is profoundly inspirational. I have no doubt many girls’ lives are deeply transformed.” – Donna Rasin-Waters
  • “One of my favorite aspects was watching the more experienced aunties connect and share with the newer ones. Their conversations were amazing. How lucky I feel … the GSGC family is remarkable.” – Maddy Hauenstein, Pitzer student intern
  • “We danced! The Aunties had a safe place to have fun, to let go of their heavy stresses and refuel.” – GSGC founder Priscilla Macy

May we all find a way to dance, together in spirit. Sincere thanks to every GSGC member – for seeing, for hearing, and for believing in the value of our Aunties’ work!