The Girls´ Brigade started in 1893 in Dublin, Ireland. Since then, it has grown to have groups in over 60 countries of the world. The aim of the Girls´ Brigade is to "help girls become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and through self-control, reverence and a sense of responsiblity find true enrichment of life."
I am running a club for girls with the same aim here in rural Ecuador. Most of the 50 girls who come go to a church, be it the Catholic, or an evangelical congregation. The club gives them the chance to learn from the Bible together, to discuss their beliefs and ask their questions. One of the common errors in their thinking is that they believe they can earn their way to heaven through good works. We try to help them understand that salvation is the free gift of God, through Jesus.
The girls love playing games, working in teams and making crafts together. The club gives them the space to form new friendships and deepen existing ones. Often it is these friendships which lead to the opportunity to offer counsel and advice in their daily problems.
In a community where teenage pregnancy is rife, where girls are often not respected, and poverty abounds, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to speak frankly with the girls about self control, self respect and responsibility in the context of sexuality. Alongside giving practical support in the form of sponsorship so that they can attend school, the girls also need much guidance, encouragement and building up as they make decisions.
They also learn responsibility through activities such as the business badge the teenagers have just completed. I gave each small group $10, and they had the challenge of cooking and selling to make a profit. All the groups returned me my investment and made a profit. We celebrated by using the money for a trip to the cinema (something most of them had never done before). More importantly, the girls have realised they can take responsibility for their own lives. They can do something about their poverty. Many are continuing to make and sell things for themselves, alongside their ambitions to study and make something of themselves.
Only time will tell what the future holds for these girls. I personally owe a great debt to those who taught me as a girl in the Girls´ Brigade. Their example and encouragement played a large part in forming my faith and self confidence. I hope the new generation will similarly benefit from this and other similar initiatives.