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Girl power seems to be the hot topic these days. Women ages 1 to 99 are finding more strength to speak out against those entities that are threatening to put them back in the kitchen.
But this power to speak and act does not find every woman or girl. Some, especially the ones in need, have either lost or have yet to find their voices.
In the Capital District, there is a place that can help. My Daughters and Me is a Schenectady-based program where women and girls can go for most anything they need. The volunteer-based nonprofit organization helps with employment, housing and parent education. But it also goes far beyond that.
Established in 2015 and officially launched in December 2017, MDAM is a community-based organization that provides programs such as Home Economics, The Arts, Peer Mediation and Self Esteem Building. The Arts program teaches art, music, dance and theater, which helps women and girls channel energy in a productive manner. MDAM participants are currently working on a stage production in which they learn every aspect of theater, from props to costumes and scene building.
The Peer Mediation and Self Esteem programs focus on generating a feeling of control. They also help the women to feel more comfortable about themselves, as well as warm up to the agency volunteers. Workshops are also offered to help girls understand how they view themselves. The Home Economics program teaches women how to cook, sew, decorate and develop other skills or hobbies they might enjoy. Group or one-to-one mentoring provides additional support.
The need for this program in Schenectady is great because some women feel shame or fear about their situations or circumstances and may not come forward or ask for help. Often they lack social skills necessary to meet their needs. Very often the women lack self-esteem. MDAM mentors the participants with a culture-based approach. The agency has begun outreach programs, partnering with the YWCA and Eyes Wide Open, an agency devoted to helping trafficked women and girls. MDAM plans to partner with other agencies in Schenectady in the future.
The women who participate are not bullied into doing what they “should” or “have” to do. MDAM’s basic mission is to help them succeed. That success is not measured by the agency or social standards; it is measured in the client’s own personal goals.
To take part in My Daughters and Me, women only need to make an appointment and fill out a registration form. There is no endless paperwork or having to endure an invasion of privacy or space to get their needs met. There are no hoops to jump through. The only requirement is performing two hours of community service a month. This is empowering because it lets the participants know they have something valuable to give.
My Daughters and Me is run solely by volunteers and is funded by donations. Anyone interested in donating or helping MDAM can do it in a variety of ways, such as sponsoring one of the women or girls so they can attend retreats, workshops, college courses and more. MDAM is accepting donations in the form of craft items, food items and gently used instruments. Stopping by to volunteer is always welcome, and anyone can come in to teach a class. Holding a fundraiser for MDAM’s behalf is also welcome. Fundraisers of any type, such as bake sales, car washes, tournaments, or craft parties are always a great way to help.
MDAM is also available to do outreach in the form of speaking or performing for your civic or church group. They will also visit schools.
My Daughters and Me comes just in time to address the particular needs of women and girls who could use a hand, and as a culture-based program, it is filling a void that most other programs ignore.
To Contact My Daughters and Me to make an appointment, volunteer, or donate:
My Daughters and Me
570 Lansing St.
Schenectady NY 12303
Theresa Davis is a former early childhood educator and has worked in childcare centers for more than 15 years. She is also an adoptive mother, living and taking care of her family in the Capital District.