“When I feel embodied I feel strong and powerful and confident and nothing can bring me down.” Sophie, 19 year old Golden Girls Global participant

Here are some of our Golden Girls Global Leaders in action in their home communities.

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UPIJATA ARTS COMPANY

Upijata, founded in 2019 by Yolanda Cordova Swalley, is dedicated to creating safe, inspiring, and empowering spaces for women, girls, and families to express themselves and heal themselves through the arts.  


Upijata provides relief from historical trauma and impacts of reservation life by combating the public issues of suicide and pervasive substance abuse through arts education on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, USA and surrounding areas. This form of education empowers the community and gives students an emotional outlet by giving them access to therapeutic artistic expression, providing fun and enriching experiences, practical skills and healthy challenges. Upijata programming is focused on personal growth, and developing healthy community identity and pride serving everyone from young children to senior members of the reservations. 


Golden Girls Global has helped us in so many ways including access to 4 years of leadership and movement therapy training. Melissa’s support program helps Upijata’s Leaders through the emotional journey involved in chasing a dream, provides access to funding for office equipment necessary to execute a nonprofit, and access to a positive loving support system helps Upijata thrive and continue to move forward. Translating the knowledge of the skills gained from Golden Bridge and applying it to personal growth and therefore into Upijata’s growth”~Yolanda Swalley, Founder, Upijata Arts Company 


To learn more, please visit: www.upijataartscompany.org


RECENT CHALLENGES

  • TEEN SUICIDES - In August 2020 a state of emergency was issued on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation in response to an increase in youth suicides. Upijata is striving to meet the needs of the youth in these difficult and often dangerous times. The prevention of suicide, and other dysfunctions that permeate reservation communities, by access to artistic venues is top prority. The goal is to eventually incorporate movement therapy to support the teens in need. 
  • COVID-19 - The project is severely struggling with the social and economic impacts of the global pandemic.  Participation has decreased significantly due to classes not being able to take place. Lack of access to the internet and computers make online classes not possible.
  • FUNDING - Upijata is in need of funding for all things necessary to run a non-profit.  At this time the focus is to raise funds in order to train and contract with local artists, mentors, healers and teachers who are longing to find safe ways to reach, empower and inspire the youth living in isolation. Access to basic art supplies, PPE and transportation will allow Upijata to bring creativity, community and joy back into everyday life on the reservation.


MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS 

  • NON PROFIT STATUS - In June 2020, Upijata reached a major milestone when it met all the requirements to qualify as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Upijata is now eligible to fundraise and receive tax-deductible donations to support its mission.
  • COMMUNITY SUPPORT - Some members of Upijata’s Board of Directors are residents of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation. This has given the Upijata team access to leadership skills that empower the community. 
  • 2021 SUMMER INTENSIVE - Relative to the past summer, there was a 200% increase in participation in the summer program.  


GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

  • FUNDRAISE - The biggest focus for Upijata is to fundraise to strengthen its operations. The list of fundraising goals includes:

              * Funding for salaried full-time employees

               * Purchase a van/bus to transport youth to classes and events

               * Secure professional insurance for our programs. 

  • STUDIO SPACE - Upijata is looking to secure a property to house a studio and housing for instructors who travel in from different areas. Additionally there is a desire to establish artistic venues in the area that will help boost self-esteem in the youth served and perhaps lead to career choices in the arts.
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NGUVU YA AFRICA

Founded in 2019, Nguvu Ya Africa provides a unique economic empowerment model that combines both psychosocial and creative artistic tools to equip marginalized girls and women. Engaging men as powerful partners helps fulfill Nguvu Ya Africa’s mission for a more equal, healthy, and peaceful society. 


In addition to entrepreneurship and self-development training, women receive tools and grants to support their family and build their communities. Nguvu Ya Africa stays connected with these women on the ground to evaluate how they are doing with their small businesses to help build their self-esteem and confidence. Women who were successful, repaid the initial grants and sometimes applied for a second round of funding. Women who were not as successful continued to receive training and grants. These grants were made possible by funding from Golden Girls Global and the Watson Accelerator.


The support we have received from Golden Girls Global (GGG) and Golden Bridge is the foundation of all of our successes. GGG mentoring and the community of colleagues to support our inner life and outer plans have been invaluable to us. The curriculum for teachings was generated from the SomaSource (Golden Bridge) curriculum (menstrual health, micro-grants, financial support, and day to day leadership). Our affiliation with Golden Girls Global gives us status in our country” ~ Claudine Migisha, CEO & Founder, Nguvu Ya Africa.


To learn more, please visit: www.nguvuyaafrica.org


RECENT CHALLENGES

  • GLOBAL PANDEMIC - The Covid-19 pandemic kept the organization separated from the women they served, and more importantly they had a lack of finances to fund their operations. Staff had to volunteer their time, while beneficiaries were unable to grow in their endeavours due to ongoing lockdown.  
  • TRAUMA FROM VOLCANO - The volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo proved very disruptive to Nguvu Ya Africa. Attendance and engagement fell as people were traumatized, including organizational leaders. Many had to flee, family members died due to pollutants from volcanic ash in the water. There was an outbreak of diarrhea and Cholera due to communal housing in schools without proper toilets. Lack of access to proper food, and shelter was another serious issue.
  • SECURITY ISSUES - In the past year, the Nguvu Ya Africa center was broken into resulting in the loss of phones, computers, and sewing machines. The organization had to turn towards women in the community to share personal tools and sewing machines to keep the education and entrepreneurship going. The community collaboration was inspiring and critical. 


MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS 

  • RESILIENCE - Even with the grave hardships of the past year community teamwork remained steadfast and stellar resulting in:
  • Significant increase in engagement from 18 women in 2019 to 80 women in 2020/2021
  • 180 women received microfinance grants
  • 200 women and families who engaged in some way with the organization reported life improvements
  • CENTER FOR WOMEN - The establishment of the Nguvu Ya Africa Center for Women in 2021 provided a physical location in which to organize workshops and training. It also created a safe space for people to come and share their struggles and successes every day.  
  • NON-PROFiT STATUS - Nguvu Ya Africa received national recognition as a not-for-profit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  


GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

We have narrowed our goals to the following three in order to focus our efforts:

  1. Make the Nguvu Ya Africa office stable and secure with permanent staff that can live there. Create and build a sustainable team (youth who need to survive).
  2. Build community connections by reaching out to schools and orphanages to bring movement and the arts to teens and young people.
  3. Strengthen the core program’s reach by supporting the key women who have shown up to make sure that they continue to succeed. Empowering the community leaders who will eventually be teachers (of teachers) on the Nguvu Ya Africa team.
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GOLDEN GIRLS MOHANAM  

Rajaveni, fondly referred to as Raji, created Golden Girls Mohanam under the guidance of Melissa Michaels, Golden Girls Global Founder and Co-Director. Raji has followed in the able footsteps of Bavanna, a now Ancestor and long time mentor, who started women’s village work after meeting Melissa in Kottakarai in 1987.  

Golden Girls Mohanam is working to preserve and teach the traditional Tamil cultural arts, natural healthcare and diet. The programming serves as an antidote to the infiltration of western ways, phones, TV, drugs, early sex etc. Raji has cultivated freedom and empowerment to go work with the girls and is lifting the veils of oppressive cultural protocol. Her work has been so transformative that the girls’ mothers want to learn what their children are doing. They want to participate.

I did not have guidance or idea about how to create this future fully. This Golden Girls Global group gave me enthusiasm and vision to continue the work. My sisters are there surrounding me, making me more strong.~Rajaveni, Executive Director, Mohanam Village Heritage Center

To learn more, please visit: www.mohanam.org

RECENT CHALLENGES

  • COVID-19 - With the closing of the Community Center during the pandemic, it was hard to find a good place for the girls and women to gather and stay connected. Meetings were organized in village homes when possible.
  • FUNDING - While Golden Girls Mohanam received some donations over the past year, funding has been sporadic, making it challenging to sustain programming. Even with volunteers helping at no charge, programs have been closed for almost one year. 
  • INFLUX OF TECHNOLOGY - Young people are being exposed to excessive amounts of out of context technology without any discernment about content. This can lead to confusion about cultural identity and other destructive diversions from healthy human development. 


MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • FOCUS - The unprecedented challenges of the past year have made the leaders at Mohanam more courageous and confident. This has led to new levels of creativity and ever greater collaboration. The focus has shifted from thinking about the BIG vision to living a simple life in a humble, connected, and satisfied way with consistent visioning.
  • HOPE - The girls and women served by Golden Girls Mohanam have come to see the organization as a mother who helps them see sunlight, fresh air, bigger horizons, movement, connection, and...HOPE.



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BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL GIRL PROJECT 

B & B Project believes that all girls are bright and beautiful because they carry the soul of the universe with beauty and grace. It supports new generations of Chinese young women by building self-confidence, breaking myths and stereotypes, and coping with physical and psychological changes throughout their adolescence. Since 2013, their programs have reached thousands of young women across the country. 

Many thanks to Melissa Michaels for sharing #Herstory with us on Sunday. We are proud and inspired to empower ourselves and more girls around the world like Golden Bridge does.” ~ Juliet Zheng, Founder, Bright and Beautiful

Watch the video!

RECENT CHALLENGES

  • Team Building 
  • Operation Model

MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • PARTNERSHIP - In 2020, B&B Project launched a fundraising and awareness campaign with Alibaba Philanthropy Foundation and Aixiaoya Funds. Over 700,000 people participated in this campaign to learn about the real needs of adolescent girls.  
  • GROWTH - B&B Project now has a beautiful office in Hangzhou and the team has grown to 3 full-time staff members.

GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

  • CREATING COURSES - B&B Project is working to produce courses for teachers who work with middle school girls in rural China.  
  • CONNECTIONS - Connect volunteers with girls in vocational schools for our Moon Sisters Online Program.
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WAKEFUL NATURE  

Founded by Johannah Reimer, Wakeful Nature is led by educators and ceremonialists trained in soul-centric human development, Rites of Passage through SomaSource, wilderness education, and most importantly deeply blessed and guided by the wisdom of their elders including Sage Hamilton and Melissa Michaels.

Wakeful Nature currently works with 30 girls between the ages of 10-17 on a weekly and monthly basis. What makes this project unique is that they offer long-term, not short-one-time or even year long programming. This allows the leaders to track and support the youth throughout their adolescence and all the changes that come with it.  

“Golden Girls Global has helped connect my work to the larger body of "girls work" happening in different communities throughout the world. I have been fortunate to have mentorship and group dynamic/embodiment tools through SomaSource as well.” ~ Johanna Reimer, Director and Girls Group Leader

To learn more please visit: https://wakefulnature.com/

RECENT CHALLENGES

The biggest challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic has been finding ways to stay connected with the online/computer saturated lives of the girls.

MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

There is more interest than ever before in the girls group facilitated by Wakeful Nature. This is a result of the high praise the facilitators have received for their incredible work with their current girls group.

GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

Continue to support the teens and tweens in my life and work.

Learn More!