Reflections on our first International programme By Jane Kenyon, our Founder.
I have spent the past week in Dubai celebrating the graduation of our first international Big Sister programme at Dubai College. It has been an enlightening experience – observing the culture, wealth and fast-paced development of a growing metropolis and the ex-pat community who are flourishing within it.
Dubai College is a high performing school with long waiting lists to secure a place. The teaching is outstanding as are the facilities, but not surprising, in an environment where academic excellence is the goal and A* is a standard expectation, the middle girls suffer with low self-esteem, poor confidence and a sense of not being good enough, as they struggle to find their place and purpose. Sound familiar??
Over 2 years ago we opened a dialogue with the Head, Mike Lambert to support these middle girls and began a recruitment campaign to find 20 Big Sister mentors to support 20 middle girls in 2022. In May 22 I flew out to Dubai for 10 days to host a Role Model Relay event for over 100 Year 8 girls, then trained 20 Big Sisters, amazing women who stepped up from a diverse range of organisations including PWC, BrazenPR, Dubai Eye Radio, Nandos, Houbara Communications and Hilton Hotels to name a few. I then worked with the school to select 20 girls from over 70 who had put their hand up to join the programme, then matched the Big and Little Sisters and launched the programme a week later! After the launch I then stayed on to train a couple of the senior Leadership teama t the school to facilitate our 12 month programme with virtual support from GOL HQ in the UK. Phew it was quite a ride!
A year later, this past week, I returned to Dubai to facilitate the graduation ceremony and judging by the testimonies of both Big and Little Sisters and the number of parents waiting to thank me, I would say the impact was pretty evident and the room was buzzing.
Every girl stepped up and out of her comfort zone to share her journey. They were articulate and authentic as they talked about the difference their Big Sister had made to their life, quoting poems and reading letters that highlighted how much more confident they felt and how they were more able to cope with exam stress, being different and be more resilient. The changes in their confidence, self-belief and aspirations was evident and they all remarked on how important it was for them to have a non-judgemental relationship with their Big Sister, as they felt seen and heard and able to breathe in a very special space.
It was like every other Big Sister graduation
It made my heart sing
Big Sisters also shared their personal lessons from the experience which included the art of living in the present moment, active listening skills and self-reflection
The parallel process was evident with mentor and mentee sharing a similar journey.
Big thanks to you all and here’s hoping we all stay connected and our international story continues.
My learning from this experience – Middle girls are middle girls regardless of location, culture, academic prowess or school environment.
Moreover teen girls are universal citizens being influenced by the same trends, same people and addicted to the same social media accounts. Life is played out on smart technology the world over!