Creating a creative and uplifting space for teenage girls has been a success for organiser Ren Mathieson. she shares with Focus her Girl space journey …
How would you describe yourself as a teenager?
As a teen I was incredibly self conscious and really lacked any belief in myself whatsoever. I battled with what we all now know as “anxiety” and had many hurdles to overcome … which is why I am so passionate about guiding these girls and getting them to see how truly amazing they are.
Tell us about Girl Space …
Girl Space is about instilling a sense of community, self love and compassion for others. The goal is to create a safe place for the girls to be able to come and be themselves, to be inspired, empowered and supported by each other.
We are incredibly passionate about showing the girls that they can be, do, and have anything they want in life with the right mindset, hard work and belief.
What inspired you in the beginning, and how did you get it off the ground?
As I mentioned before, I myself had struggled with worthlessness and lack of self belief as a teen. As an adult, I noticed a distinct lack of connection between people today, especially with our youth. Basic social skills are being lost, and self worth is now predominantly being defined by the amount of likes and attention we receive online, rather than the relationships we build in person. I felt it was time for change, and Girl Space is a movement toward that.
Getting off the ground was seemingly easy, as we had instant support from the local community and especially the Port Macquarie Youth Hub, who had belief in us and have been so generous in providing us with a space to meet each week.
Who makes up the team?
At this stage it is myself and Mariah McMahon, who is a local makeup artist. She has been a part of Girl Space since our very first workshop.
Mariah is incredibly selfless and connects so well with the girls. She really encourages them to own who they are, to express their individuality and to be kind to one another. She is a key component to Girl Space’s success, and I am so grateful for her.
What are some of the activities the girls can undertake at Girl Space?
The girls who attend can expect a wide variety of actives, including interactive workshops such as dance, self defence and DIYS. We also host “Hang Outs and Hot Topics”, where we openly discuss anything from personal experiences with bullying, self esteem and worth – to their passions, hopes and dreams.
Outside of our regular Monday meet ups, we have been working on different events that will be offered on some weekends. They will be announced shortly.
Also, you will soon see us collaborating with other local organisations to get the girls actively out into the community and giving back to others. It’s all very exciting!
What are some of the most fulfilling parts of this project for you?
One is seeing the girls engage with one another, open up and be themselves. To have a room full of teenage girls that aren’t just playing on their phones or taking selfies is so uplifting! That is all credited to the girls themselves; they are such a beautiful bunch with huge vision. The culture and atmosphere in our meet ups was created by them, and they continue to inspire me every day.
Another is in having so many amazing women who have given their time to help facilitate our workshops by sharing their knowledge, passion and expertise with the girls. It would be hard to mention them all, but I would love to express how incredibly grateful we are for all of their support.
Is there a fee involved in joining?
There is no fee to join, and we would love to keep it that way. We are currently funded by the Port City Bowling Club and Port Panthers Club in conjunction with the Club Grants Association. Due to their fantastic support, we are able to offer all that we do and keep our membership free.
Girl Space has been blessed with such great community support, and from that we have really been able to prove both our worth and need with the young women of the Hastings.
How can new members join?
They can join by coming along! Currently we meet every Monday through the school term from 3:30pm – 5:30pm @ the Youth Hub on Horton Street. Everyone can stay up to date with what we are up to via our instagram or Facebook pages. Alternatively, you can contact me directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What kind of feedback do you get from the girls, and how do you feel this program helps in overcoming/dealing with teen issues better?
We receive feedback from the girls on a regular basis. From this we know that the girls feel comfortable to be themselves and really enjoy connecting with each other. They love having valued input with what we are doing, where we are headed and how Girl Space is evolving. They respect the program and are invested in its growth just as much as we are.
During our “Hang Out” sessions, our discussion topics come direct from the girls themselves. This allows for them to open up and share their concerns regarding current teen issues.
This month we celebrate the young people in our community; what has Girl Space got planned?
We are collaborating with the HBWN Freethinkers Initiative to encourage and support our local girls in their professional development for the future. With this, Girl Space will be sponsoring some girls to join the Freethinkers. It is important to us that we provide as much opportunity as possible for the girls, so they can thrive in every aspect of their life.