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Supporting Auckland girls to become 'prejudice proof'.

The Grassroots Giving programme is an important part of Auckland Foundation’s annual granting. Enabled by the support of The Tindall Foundation, funding is given each year to organisations across Auckland, all supporting families and community services in their area.

One such organisation is Sources of Unconditional Love (SOUL), who successfully applied for funding in 2016.

SOUL is dedicated to replacing prejudice and discrimination with respect and empowerment, particularly towards girls and young women. Through 'SOULcircle' programmes, girls from all walks of life are brought together. With the guidance of mentors they build circles of trust and friendship through regular meet ups - while also learning a variety of new life skills.

Executive Director Julie Bartlett also founded the award-winning charity StarJam, where she created an attitude-changing model which reduced discrimination and prejudice towards children with disabilities. Building on this model, Julie and her team now want to reduce discrimination and prejudice towards girls and young women.

Julie says, "Our programmes are totally unique in that they are dedicated to empowering girls to become 'prejudice proof'. We do this by having an exclusively positive focus in our activities - a focus which is both fun and thought-provoking."

"The most common feedback from the girls is that they really value making real friends, rather than 'fake' friends. They also gain a new understanding that they can 'hang out' with girls from all kinds of backgrounds; something they didn’t previously entertain."

"We are incredibly grateful for the Grassroots Giving grant which has enabled us to develop our programmes in Greenlane, Takapuna, Manurewa and Henderson."

Manurewa 'SOULsista' Lahronda Liugalua is one of the girls who got to take part in the programmes developed with the Grassroots Giving funding.

The then 18-year old was attending the NZ School of Travel and Tourism to become an airline hostess. Passionate about achieving highly in life, she was looking for a group within her community that would help her grow as a woman.

While actively involved in her church youth group, Lahronda says SOUL added a whole new group of girls to her life – something that she wasn’t used to, having grown up with three older brothers.

“I got to know new girls that lived in my community but who were all from completely backgrounds. It was great being able to help other girls and connect with different people from the same community.”

She also sees SOUL as having a role breaking down barriers and stop discrimination. Herself of of Tokelau and Samoan descent, Lahronda says the girls in her SOULcircle group tried to make small changes to improve attitudes in society, in the hope that it would create a domino effect.

"SOUL has a lot of potential to shine a light on discrimination with love. In our SOULcircle, we connected with many girls of different cultures and built past any boundaries. Breaking that discrimination and being able to build a strong foundation from different backgrounds and different realities will help to make the world a better place for girls. It’s about time something like this was established.”

Photo supplied by SOUL.