Stardale Women's Group Inc.

It is through breaking the cycles by creating the circles with prevention, care and concern for at –risk Aboriginal female youth in supportive learning environments that Stardale fosters personal growth and builds healthy relationships.

Aboriginal girls in Calgary who are developing skills from the Stardale programOur Story Why We Exist

Courtney, Shae, Brittany, and Laila represent the faces of the urban Aboriginal girl’s ages 10 to 17 years. They come to Stardale Aboriginal after school program through word of mouth from their community or a referral through a counselor, group home or the Justice system. Honouring the Girls' Stories is a culturally sensitive, girl-focused empowerment programming for Aboriginal girls.

We are told that the girl is “shy”. She has trouble fitting in and is not doing well at school. And with her shyness she has difficulties making friends. As the girl has been moved around from school to school and to various community settings because of her family's situation, she tends to gravitate to girls who seem to be like her. They call themselves the misfits. Sometimes these girls gather together and harass, manipulate and physically hurt other girls. Then there are the other girls who come to Stardale who really are shy. They have difficulty speaking up in situations; find problem solving a challenge and mistrust authority figures. 

Stardale’s programming Model forms the girls group that everybody fits in, where everybody has a voice with something to contribute. The group and peer-mentoring format is used to maintain a balance of sources of positive influence for the girls as we find positive role-modelling and mentorship is often lacking in the girls’ personal lives.  In turn the girls exhibit more compassion and tolerance when supporting each other in the group.

The positive changes in the girls are amazing to see! It is like watching a flower blossom open its petals gradually into a full bloom. The once shy or withdrawn girl is communicative and can be rather chatty. We often laugh and playfully tease stating “do you remember when Courtney, Shae, Brittany, or Laila started the program?” They are no longer withdrawn sulking or moody.

The girls are enthusiastic to learn and stick with the classes in self–esteem, communication, relationships, boundaries, family dynamics, cooking, acting, health and wellness, nutrition, violence, abuse, and physical activities. They are eager to learn more about the Aboriginal culture and values, as well as women’s roles. Additionally, the girls are thrilled to volunteer in the community. They are proud to help where they can. It gives them a tremendous sense of self-worth!

“Fifteen-year-old Natasha said she's nervous about her first modelling gig, but says the program has helped boost her self-confidence. It's really helped me out. I've been more outgoing," she said.      SOURCE: Aboriginal all-girl gangs on the rise.   - By Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary HERALD, April 14, 2009”

Stardale girls back stage before they go on the stage to perform at the Calgary Children's FestivalOur Impact What We Do

Our Mission is to provide life skills and literacy, as well as advocacy to women living in poverty and abusive situations, toward empowering their lives, and their families, and their communities, thus overcoming systemic barriers. For 18 years, we've designed and tested the Stardale Model for the enlightenment of females as a multi–disciplinary approach to community development, culture, education, healing, social inclusion, prior learning, and social justice.

Stardale takes a two world view and includes Aboriginal literacy which is a learner–centred approach to lifelong learning that honours the interconnectedness of all aspects of creation for personal empowerment, community development and self–determination. Aboriginal literacy encompasses first languages, elder involvement, culture and community in a holistic developmental approach to unify mind, heart, body and spirit.

Mandate of Stardale:

  1. Introduce proactive interventions that empower Aboriginal girls to overcome systematic barriers and internalisation of lower standards of wellness, achievement, education, and employability by providing classroom educational opportunities as well as skills-training and strategies for healthy choice-making. 
  2. Focus on preventative measures of addressing abuse and violence by following a holistic approach in training, thus allowing each participant to heal in her own time(s) and place(s).
  3. Foster cross-cultural exchange of health and social development issues with community partnerships
  4. Develop research and learning schemes in order to have a better informed view of the needs in the province.
  5. Share our programming strategy, and encourage others to begin the healing journey

Program Activities embedded in the Stardale Model framework: Over the many years of service delivery, Stardale has initiated programming through group dynamics, whereby, the sharing has vastly similar experiences and realities.

  • Incorporation of oral tradition – There was an abundance of art and stories, (contemporary and traditional)
  • Incorporation of Aboriginal cultural traditions – The cultural aspect combined with the therapeutic processes made way for evolving programs such as the Talking Quilt and Sacred Weft, which correlated the experiences of women who had experienced the impacts of Residential Schools. The Stardale Sacred Weft Collection has been featured in an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum First Peoples for the past four years.

Teaching Approach:  Stardale’s programming format is multi-dimensional, but for the period of 2005 to the present it may be best understood by grouping healing strategies under two the broad, non-exclusive headings: the artistic and the communal. Art is employed as a healing tool in the program framework by adapting the woman’s sacred circles to work in harmony with the art, allowing an entire new dimension of [self-/ group- /ancestral-] awareness. It is a portal for the awakening of the young girls’ spirit. The art heals by freeing their creativity and expression, and resonating in their bodies, minds and spirits. When working within the group context, the healing becomes transpersonal. It connects one to another; it is an art of interconnection. The art may become ceremonial, environmental, performance or static. Whatever the art form is, the community becomes directly and indirectly involved. Stardale exploits the benefits of the support group and the mentorship relationship as educational tools, to enhance the girl’s development and to overcome self –destructive behaviours.

For the past ten years in Calgary and area, Stardale has worked with over six hundred Aboriginal girls, who are at-risk for experiencing violence, sexual exploitation and other destructive behaviours in their lives.

Benchmarks:

  • May 10, 2012 - Fashion Showcase in the lobby of the TransCanada building. Fashions were from Mealan, Hats from Zsa’ Zsa, hair and makeup from Delmar College. 
  • May 26, 2012 - Verb theatre group and Stardale partnered in the producing of the play "Calgary 1000 Night”, for the children’s festival, which was held at the Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP). This was first for an all Aboriginal girls to perform on a main stream stage in Calgary in a modern play. 
  • Oct 13, 2012 - Alberta Health approaches Stardale to coordinate and present a fashion show at the culmination of a 2 day conference on Suicide Prevention for Aboriginal youth. 
  • May 13, 2013 – The girls travelled by bus to Edmonton, whereby, they were the major entertainment in a conference entitled, “Youth Suicide Awareness”. The girls presented their play- Committing.
  • August 21, 2013 - Girls were selected from Stardale to work together with the Westin’s professionals to select nutritious foods, prepare delicious dishes and enjoy the meal they have prepared together. Both CTV and Global TV interviewed and filmed the project.

  • December 17, 2013 - the Calgary downtown Rotary held their annual Christmas luncheon at the Palliser hotel. The Stardale girls performed in a play “My Best Christmas Ever” was performed to an audience of 200 adults who responded with undivided attention, laughter and many loud applauses. Folded into the play for the Rotary were 2 songs, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Santa Clause is coming to Town”.

I’m so glad we were able to get you on the program and am also glad we were able to get the girls there. They really are delightful. I really commend you for the great work you are doing through Stardale. It’s a terrific program and one can tell that you are really making a difference in the lives of these young ladies” – Steve Allen past president of the Rotary, CEO Canadian Tourism Commission, Vice Chair of the Calgary Stampede Foundation. 

Awards and Recognition: Although not solicited, over the years Stardale has received recognition for its work. Most recently, these include:

  1. Awards of Distinction for Healthy Communities granted in 2013,  one from the Ministry of Education and another from the Ministry of Health. 
  2. The 2014 ECOS Local Hero Award for Communities and Sustainability under the Chinook awards category MPI International, Greater Calgary Chapter
  3. Stardale's Executive Director received the Government Alberta's Inspiration award for Leadership in Prevention of Bullying

Cooking it up with Chefs at the Calgary Westin hotelOur Programs How We Do It

Priorities: Stardale has taken an approach to Aboriginal girl’s issues by giving credence to social constructs that can create a potential for harm. Such constructs have been the sexual exploitation of the girl/ child through the media, through the internet, through prostitution and more. We have identified and widened the scope to protect the vulnerable due to their age, poverty, and subjection.  We have examined many of the activities that create, maintain or exploit the girl child. What does constitute a means of prevention and combats the sexual exploitation of the girl/child? The Stardale Women’s Group has introduced social and cultural activities through a diversionary process which strengths resiliency and combats destructive behaviours. Stardale will continue to explore dynamic intersections of art and mentorship and to advocate for Aboriginal female youth by “honouring our girls stories”.

Goal: To introduce an educational footprint for Aboriginal girls in Calgary and area that incorporates a preventative model of life skills and literacy that builds resiliency among the girls against exposure of destructive behaviours.

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The Stardale program is open to all Aboriginal girls aged 10-17 and targets those girls in particular who may be at-risk or at high-risk of destructive behaviour and/or whose families are financially vulnerable.  The girls who come to Stardale are referred through various sources. I.E. school counsellors, teachers, social workers, agencies, and word of mouth. Also, we have referrals through visiting our website and word of mouth. All participants will be fully informed about the goals of the project. Girls will need to have consent given by a legal guardian, and this will be arranged before the program commencement. Stardale, in conjunction with each referral source, will facilitate the consent form completion process.

The culturally-sensitive girl-focused content of the program engages girls in the areas of health and wellness, self-confidence, conflict resolution, constructive communication, emotional awareness, and risk-factors for destructive decision-making. The program builds on many unique experiences. This includes: fashion modelling – especially - as a tool for imparting skill sets in etiquette, poise, public speaking, personal hygiene, body awareness, and confidence while challenging the participants to discover a new lens for perceiving and engaging with fashion media.  Then there is the dimension of performance art, which opens group discussions to the depths of abuse, violence, traumatic incident, suicide prevention, etc.  Physical well-being, body awareness, and coordination are further emphasized in the classes on dance, hoola hooping and running.

We offer classes in cooking at the Community kitchens facilities, which the girls truly enjoy! And then there are the out of door physical activities, from hiking at Edge worthy park and Johnson Canyon, snow shoeing in the Kananaskis, swimming at the North East Leisure Centre, horseback riding at Longview, and building camp fires for story telling sessions out in the bush.

Volunteering:  Not only does Stardale have a variety of dedicated and loyal women who volunteer with the girls. It is the girls too who are encouraged to volunteer within the community. It is giving back to the community that they feel a deep sense of purpose. The girls have volunteered at the Red and While club for the Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Len Webber, RBC – Stampede BQ on the Eight Ave mall, Clearstream for the Cochrane Rodeo, etc. They really enjoy getting out into the public and demonstrating their self-confidence. 

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An Artistic Lens for advancing social change: It has been through the communication of creative innovation that Stardale continues to voice the needs of Aboriginal youth and the fostering of knowledge from what we learn in our processes of programming that we have developed and experienced.

  • Committing - 2013 Aboriginal youth production on suicide awareness, tragedy and hope https://vimeo.com/66316504  -Edmonton presentation of the production Committing 
  • Alesha's Dream - 2014 Stardale's collaboration with Alberta Ballet production with a modern and traditional story line of Aboriginal girls interpretation of suicide  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw3RndSSBVQ - behind the scenes of the concept and collaboration of Alberta School of Ballet and Stardale 
  • Committing Program: Honouring the Girls Stories 2015 another unique concept in a performance piece, based upon our knowledge acquired to date in outreaching to a broader spectrum of audiences in disseminating  the story line of youth suicide and prevention

Antidotal information:

  • The Moms are much more involved in the program as well as supporting the girls in the program. When one 11 year old girl did not come to group, Stardale contacted the mother immediately. The mother attended and showed up to 3 other classes to make sure the girl was attending. We are finding that the girls are building better relationships with their mothers.
  • “I wish they had something think this when I was growing up on the rez”, said one Mother
  • “I am so proud of these girls they have come a long way”, said many of the Mothers
  • “My girl has confidence and likes to go to school”, said the Mom of one 11 year old girl.
  • At some of the celebrations when all the families attend we hear over and over again, how proud the parents are of what the girls are learning and demonstrating from attending the program. 

High kicking - a flowery moment by the Stardale girlsOur Requests What You Can Do

“We really need a program like this specifically for the girls. They are the forgotten ones.” “Nobody knows how to handle them” – Community Elder  Stardale’s focus is to give young Aboriginal girls a leg up in life! No more sliding through the cracks of the system. We want these girls’ lives to matter.  We need your support to continue to make this a reality.

I believe that by working with these youth, we will not only provide an immediate safe option for their lives during the time they choose to be in a dance environment, but also be able to provide them with enough tools and support through their natural interest in dance and fashion, so that we may find a way to gently transition them over the course of a year to a point where they could confidently participate in a mainstream dance or performing arts class of their choice. We can then take the lessons we have learned in working with these clients and share our experience with other non-profit arts and service groups working in related areas.             Tara Blue  -  December 11th, 2009

Attention Must Be Paid by Eugene Stickland  Posting excerpt: Last night, I attended the Stardale Aboriginal Girls Christmas party. (I wrote about my teaching experience with the girls in October in the post titled Do No Harm...)  Their confidence and charm and humour came through in all aspects of the evening. So much care and preparation went into the Stardale Christmas party that when I arrived and saw all of them dressed up to the 9’s, I almost felt like running home and putting on my best suit. (If I had a car, I probably would have!) [cont'd]...    Read on at: http://eugenestickland.com/2012/12/07/attention-must-be-paid/

Volunteer Opportunities: 

By mentoring the girls you will learn about Aboriginal cultures as well as the trends of the youth of today. It will give you a picture of the challenges at –risk Aboriginal girls must endure on a day to day basis. i.e., Walking to school and being harassed by men who want sex.

  • Bringing your ideas to the table and grouping with other women to make a fantastic idea, a creation and a reality that the girls can participate in. i.e., A community fashion show and fundraiser
  • Coaching or facilitating a class, whereby, you gain the experience for your resume and at the same time are educating / role modeling for the girls. i.e., A class on depression
  • Have a desire to write a play and would like to develop it further; need girls who could act in the play and would love to learn new techniques, work your wonders/ methodology with eager minds from Stardale
  • There is a community event, which needs a youthful touch and volunteers, then approach us. You coordinate – the girls volunteer. (Good idea to make sure you have food for them- they are teens)
  • Set up learning sessions, whether it is study groups and tutoring, and artistic endeavours such as painting or drawings i.e., Having a class in an art gallery
  • Offering a setting and having the girls come in to help prepare a meal, then afterwards play games or share stories.

Donations may take many forms. Times are tough out there, especially for our cohort. We must continue to aware of the needs of the girls.

  • $15,000 support our Elders Wisdom Council and their instructions for the girls to grow and prosper, culturally relevant teachings
  • $10,000 per year will pay for rides for the participants to and from the program & events.
  • $20,000 per year will pay for recreational activities for the participants
  • $50,000 per year will pay for a coordinator to organize the events and activities
  • Personal hygiene items, make-up/skin care products, clothing and jewelry for young girls
Calgary