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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Spring 2012, Issue X Connecting with the Voice of My Grandmothers' Song

Connecting with the Voice of My Grandmothers' Song

Read a story from the Coming of Age for Girls journey written by our 2012 Basecamp Manager (and Mentor on the Coming of Age for Girls trip this summer), Idil Levitas.

By Idil Levitas (and Emily Pease)

At its center the Coming of Age for Girls, like all of Journeys’ programs, is focused on the deepening of connections. In the absence of the comforts of where they come from --- a given family, a home, a group of peers --- participants enter the wilderness as individuals and return as a group of friends with a strong bond which is united by a shared challenging experience. During the three-weeks that they spend together they discover ways to support each other and how to ask for support, how to resolve conflicts, and how to listen to each other with openness and acceptance. They also discover what their own inner-compass looks like --- what they value, what drives them, and how they can contribute with their own personal gifts to their communities.

An intentional rite of passage allows each girl to step into the lineage of all the women who were initiated before her and all women who will be initiated after her. She becomes a young woman and an important part of the linking between all generations --- building in her a sense of purpose and responsibility in a changing world.

“I am because we are, and because I am, we are.” African circular philosophy.

Below, Idil Levitas (our 2012 Basecamp Manager and a Youth Program Mentor), shares insights from a recent Coming of Age for Girls journey. If you would like to read more directly from the participants, please visit our Blogger site.

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After backpacking through the majestic forests and along the sandy coast of Olympic National Park on the Coming of Age for Girls (COAG) trip last summer, we allowed the warmth of the wood-burning stove of the Moon Lodge to wrap comfortingly around us. Over two and a half weeks of ‘work’ preceded our arrival at Sacred Groves, an incredible 10-acre space devoted to the feminine. It was time to celebrate all that the girls had accomplished together and to welcome them into young womanhood --- formally.

Next to the fire, we adorned the girls with beautiful garments for their Maiden Ceremony, a ritual that welcomes girls (and uninitiated women) into womanhood. Excitement built as each girl enjoyed preparing for the ceremony. With a strong and beautiful voice, Therese Charvet, the owner of Sacred Groves, sang the girls into ceremonial space. Through her Djembe drum and song she shared the story of ‘every’ woman --- a story that follows a girl from birth until death. As the girl in the story transitioned from a daughter to a maiden and at each following life transition she faced, Therese invited the circle of girls and women to repeat a chorus:

I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling to me. I hear the voice of my grandmothers' song. They say wake up! Wake up!

We all understood that through this experience we were all connecting with the wisdom, spirit and guidance of all the women before us. Woven into all elements of our stay, just as in the Grandmother’s song, was the teaching that we are all deeply connected to our ancestors as well as the future generations. What had been missing from my own rite of passage, this sense of connection, had been a constant theme on the Coming of Age for Girls. And the experience at Sacred Groves only deepened an understanding the girls had been cultivating throughout the entire journey: We can all be connected.

Connection is cultivated over weeks of living, traveling, working, sharing and playing together; it is fostered through a shared experience. And it happens at a critical time in the young girl’s life --- a time that is often deeply entrenched in cliques and experiences of isolation while bodies, social lives and family relationships are in total flux.

The Coming of Age for Girls program provides the space, time and activities for these feelings of isolation to wash away. As a guide and mentor, I watched as this group of girls from different ‘worlds’ found common ground and learned that despite their differences they were still able to be friends --- and that even when they were tired of each other they could still pull upon skills to work together, cook dinner together, and support each other.

On just the second day during our time together, after a morning and afternoon full of grumbles of discomfort and the early construction of clique-like-structures, we held an unplanned council in the middle of our hike during which each girl and mentor shared (some for the first time) what was really on their heart. While sitting on the trail, we taught the girls about the power of being true with one-another, the comfort of really feeling heard, and the importance of consciously deciding to be friendly with everyone in the group. This council transformed an exhausting and challenging day into the most amazing hike of our trip.

After our time in circle, the slower hikers charged ahead at the front of the pack while others led songs, told jokes, and asked questions about each other’s lives. The camaraderie that developed out of the challenge of discomfort and new surroundings encouraged the girls to push forward --- in fact, nobody wanted to stop after we held council until we reached the Enchanted Valley, miles down the trail. Suddenly the girls were curious about the waterfalls, the bears, the elk that they might see --- and they were genuinely interested in each other despite any differences they had originally perceived.

After a long and grueling start to the morning we unanimously voted that we had made the right decision to push ourselves to reach a goal together --- we celebrated the encouragement that we had given to each other and our successes as a developing community. That day, and consistently throughout the rest of the three-week trip, each girl realized that they were capable of far more than they thought they were. At the close of the journey, one participant wrote in a letter:

"Thank you all for an amazing summer, well for an amazing three weeks. I know I am not always the easiest person to be around, and people sometimes will just give up on me. Thank you guys for showing me just how much I am capable of. Before I came here I didn't think very highly of myself at all. I didn't know who or what I was supposed to be, and I didn't like what I was. I realized here that as long as I'm true to myself, and I do what I love, that everything will fall into place. I learned to love myself, and that once I love myself, others will love me.” Coming of Age for Girls Participant, 2011.

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It's not super easy to grow into young womanhood --- and often we are left to navigate the change without much conscious guidance. But what if every girl had the opportunity that only about 250 youth (this includes both boys and girls, between 8 and 18) have with Journeys each summer/fall --- how different would the world be? Every girl deserves the opportunity to be celebrated as she takes the step into young womanhood within the context of a caring community and with attentive mentors who have walked the path before her.

 

Read more about our Coming of Age programs here:

Coming of Age for Girls

Becoming a Young Woman

Coming of Age for Boys

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