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Daughters/Sisters goes national

"Five years ago, two Bainbridge women pulled together a group of teen-age girls to ask them about their lives.Those sessions grew into the Daughters/Sisters Project, now a model for mentoring teens that has spawned a network of similar groups nationwide.“For me the whole thing started when I realized that my own daughters were going to be teenagers,” said Linda Wolf, who led the orginal group with Wind Hughes. “I was seeing the same issues for girls today that I had dealt with as a teen-ager.” What is different now, Wolf said, is the lack of some of the resources that were available to her as a teen. She cites the women’s movement and its consciousness-raising groups, which served as the model for Daughters/Sisters.Wolf and Hughues initially planned to set up a short-term “focus group” with the goal of identifying issues important to teen girls and publishing their findings in a book.“We anticipated meeting weekly for 10 weeks,” they wrote in the introduction to “Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun,” published in 1997. “We ended up meeting for two years. Even one of the girls who had run away from home and quit school never stopped coming to the group.”Encouraged by the response, in 1995, they founded the Daughters/ Sisters Project. The non-profit organization now sponsors groups for teen-age boys as well as girls.They also run an individual mentoring program, a prison project for incarcerated teens, and a summer camp.From the Bainbridge Island office of Daughters/Sisters, Wolf regularly fields phone calls and other correspondence from adults around the U.S. and Canada who want advice on helping teens and forming focus groups. In the past year, more than 75 people have come to the Seattle area to participate in their training programs.Earlier this month, Hughes established the first branch office of Daughters/Sisters in Santa Fe, N.M. And earlier this fall, 30 women and men came to Seattle for a weekend-long training session.Adele Sherman of Toronto, Ontario, heard about the organization through a friend, and flew here to attend the training.“So many of us floundered at that age,” Sherman said of her teen years. “The value of the work is for us to facilitate teen-agers’ transition from childhood to adulthood.”The mother of a 15-year-old daughter, Sherman hopes to set up a focus group in Ontario.“We want to expand our work into as many neighborhoods as possible,” said Wolf, who has two teen daughters. “The teen-age years are a time when young people absolutely need a safe space in which to tell the truth with others who listen from their hearts and allow them to hear themselves speak...“Establishing a sense of self is hard when you are afraid of being ostracized and criticized for being who you are.”The Daughters/Sisters Project also runs a program called GenderTalks, which brings young women and men together for discussions. General Wadkins, a senior at Bainbridge High School who has taken part in GenderTalks, summed up the point of these meetings.“They cover the basic teen-age topics: sex, drugs, religion, parenting, identity. Teens have heard all the clichéd responses, and want a little deeper feedback.”Wadkins hopes someone will start another all-boys group on the island. “It’s harder for men to speak about their feelings,” he said.In addition to their book, Wolf and Hughes have spread their message via an active web site as well as radio and television appearances. This fall they were featured on New Dimensions, a syndicated radio program that airs on public radio stations worldwide.The organization is looking for youths and adults for their mentoring program, and volunteers to lead groups and develop their web site (www.daughters-sisters.org).They are currently part of the Bainbridge Foundation, and welcome donations which allow teens to attend the focus groups free of charge.For more information, call 842-3000 or email daughtersi@aol.com.#####"

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