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A mentor in time gives girls a lifeline to a better future

March 13, 2015 -  Imagine being a young girl without hopes or dreams for the future. Nobody has encouraged you to be curious or independent. Nobody has told you every girl should believe in herself, and realize she matters.

Sadly, this is a reality for many of the girls that live in Toronto’s Thorncliffe community. But thanks to Something for the Girlz, a peer mentoring program offered by the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, girls as young as 7 are learning to believe in themselves and look forward to the future.

According to the RBC Kids Optimism Survey, more than half (51 per cent) of Canadian kids say the opinions of mentors play an important role in how they feel, think and behave.  

Something for the Girlz offers two streams of mentoring: one for girls aged 7-13, and another for young women in high school.  Both focus on building confidence, and developing a girl's belief in herself and in her community. The program also introduces girls to Canadian culture and activities—important because many are from newcomer and culturally diverse families. The mentorship helps bridge the gap between the younger girls’ influences in Canada and their parents’ more traditional views.

So who are the mentors? The program participants of course.

“In keeping with the program’s goal of fostering leadership, empowerment and social and community engagement, the younger girls are mentored by the high school aged girls,” says Nawal Al-Busaidi, Manager of Child and Family Services at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. “This helps them build a relationship with someone to ease their transition into high school. Think of how much easier your first day of high school would be if you knew you had a buddy to guide you through this difficult time in your life.”

As the girls move through the program, they’re trained to become mentors. The teens are mentored by outside professionals, guest speakers and trained staff. They can even become an associate mentor if they’re not comfortable becoming a mentor right away. The key is to build a sense of responsibility and accountability.

Ultimately, many of the young women who leave the program continue their education at college or university, and also continue advocating for the program.

“I’ve seen so many girls with no hopes, dreams or expectations of a prosperous future,” says Nawal. “But after participating in the program, many become successful, independent women who continue to give back to the community as guest speakers and advocates. Our participants are a beautiful example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.”

Something for the Girlz is funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) Girls’ Fund.  The Fund invests in community programs that teach girls how to be resilient, by exploring science and technology, playing sports, learning critical thinking skills and working with a mentor. RBC Foundation is one of the founding partners of the Canadian Women’s Foundations’ Girls’ Fund, and recently committed $500,000 to help fund a number of CWF programs.

RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2014, we contributed more than $111 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $76 million and $35 million in sponsorships.