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Innovative partnership provides inner-city girls with unique opportunity for growth at A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre
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In a recent survey, 64% of students said bullying was a normal part of school life. With bullying serving as a key factor in poor school performance with long-term personal and community impact, innovative solutions are required. In South Surrey, BC, girls are finding opportunities for change and growth at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre, as they take both the bully and the bullied outside – together.



A Rocha, an international Christian Environmental Stewardship organization with it’s Canadian offices based in Surrey, BC, is partnering with an innovative program developed by the Surrey Public School District. This "Girls in Action" program engages children in North Surrey's inner-city neighbourhoods who are identified by their teachers as either potential bullies or those who are bullied. From the girls’ surprised and enthusiastic responses to getting their hands dirty with farm activities, it is clear that getting up close and personal with creation is quite a novelty, and requires relationship building and trust with those they’re working alongside. It turns out, nature is the great equalizer when it comes to sixth-grade pecking order.

"I've learned to appreciate others," said one student after an afternoon spent on the farm. "I love everything at Brooksdale," said another, "but especially eating together as a family." It’s clear that A Rocha’s commitment to transformational engagement, seeing the transformation of people and places by showing God’s love for all creation, lived out intentionally in small ways, can impact communities deeply.

When the girls visit the Brooksdale Environmental Centre together they participate in the activities of a working farm: from planting seeds, to making kale chips to exploring the surrounding forest and wetlands. In fact, for many of the girls who come, it is their first experience of picking a vegetable from a garden or looking through a pair of binoculars. When embarking on a forest walk it's not uncommon for a thoroughly urban tough-girl to ask nervously if she might meet a bear or a wolf on the trail.



The Girls in Action program is carefully designed to help girls build self-esteem as they learn new skills and form new relationships, thereby breaking cycles of bullying. Girls learn how right relationship with God leads us to a right relationship with self, others and all of creation. Bully and bullied alike turn to each other for support and courage. Nervousness quickly transforms into wonder as the girls become comfortable in the natural world. Shared fears and shared wonder in their encounters break the cycle of bullying and allow friendships to kindle. Results have been clear: kids are nicer to each other when they're outside. (And there's research to prove it!)

With sustained success in innovative, community-building programs like Girls in Action, A Rocha has embarked on a growth campaign to expand their Brooksdale Environmental Centre and Farm. They will be hosting a Barn Raiser fundraising gala to help raise $2.5m to transform the centre's 1930s heritage barn into a Learning and Hospitality Centre. Click HERE for more information on Brooksdale and the Barn Raiser.