Burma 2015: Girl Determined Colorful Circles, day 3

The circles of life, learning and empowerment come together for our travelers visiting Girl Determined.

By Helen Belletti
Falls Church, Va.

Full Circle.

It is our 3rd day in Yangon and a thought keeps echoing in my mind: I have come full circle.

Three years ago I was a member of DFW’s Program Selection Team. When reviewing grant applications, I was very impressed with an application from an organization in Burma/Myanmar, a nation which had been closed to the world for many years. Girl Determined, founded by Brooke Zobrist has been working in Burma since 2010.

Her DFW grant application requested funding for their “Colorful Girls Circle” program, it is the program our travel group has come to visit here in Burma. Through weekly classes and a summer camp, young girls learn life skills, including empowerment, leadership, female health, diversity and tolerance, so girls can become change agents in their families, their community, and their country. Today, I have come full circle as I met these young women and joined their circle.

Our first visit was to a nunnery, where young Buddhist nuns live together. They are mostly cloistered, they don’t interract with the community and live a fairly sheltered existence. We learned about their daily routine, and the fact that they only eat two meals a day, in the morning, as they can’t eat any food after noon. We sat in their circle, played games with them, and learned what being in the Colorful Circle means to them.

Tisha Scurich from Santa Cruz California, led a creative art activity. Sitting on the floor in a circle of about 40 girls and DFW women, we each drew a circle on a piece of paper, and then made a doodle in the circle. We passed our circle to the girl next to us and she added her doddle, then she passed it to the next girl/woman to add her doodle, and this continued around the circle. When we finished, we walked around the circle looking at the beautiful art we created together. It demonstrated the value of working together, when creating art and in daily life. What a great “circle” activity!

Later in the day we had a picnic in Yangon with girls from schools around Yangon. Again we sat with the girls, this time in small groups, and heard about their experiences with Girl Determined. In both the morning and afternoon groups we saw similiarities in their answers.

Many said that before Colorful Circles they were shy and wouldn’t speak in a group, but now they are confident speakers. They feel empowered and can make decisions for themselves. They also said that talking about puberty and menstruation was very helpful. Before no one talked about it, now they understand their bodies and can talk to other girls. They also loved the “check in” time in their circles, when they could share their thoughts and feelings. Before this no one asked what they thought or felt, especially in schools where the style of learning is teacher-focused. They told us what they wanted to do in life: some wanted to be doctors, some teachers, one a singer, a flight attendant, a facilitator with Girl Determined, and one wanted to continue her life as a nun, as a teacher. They asked us questions… did we have children, why did we want to visit them, were we ever sad, what was our religion, did we have Colorful Girls circles in our country, and had we met Malala and Angelina Jolie. Over the next week we will meet with other girls in other locations, and I will again feel fortunate to be invited to join in their circle.