Girls Rising in a Camp Filled with LoveEarlier this year I got to see the premiere of the movie, Girl Rising. Despite the many and varied hardships faced by the very real girls in the film, I nevertheless left with a feeling of hope. Hope at the tenacity and courage of the girls; hope that the issue of special hardships faced by girls was being raised; and hope that in many of the cases someone took an interest in the girls and helped them.
This past week I saw that same hope played out at Camp Appalachia in Philippi, West Va. For the past eight years Women of Vision from Charlotte, North Carolina have been pouring themselves into the lives of these girls and young women in this rural mountain hamlet. Their consistency has paid off in strong relationships with these girls and often reaching out to their families.
I loved watching the hugs exchanged as the girls found friends from years past. Every day there was an exercise class, a nutrition class, a new craft to do, and a time of spiritual nurture with their Women of Vision buddy.
I felt inspired to see girls who hung back at the beginning of the week maybe out of shyness or even fear to trust, who by the end of the week were running to catch the hand of their buddy or standing up to sing and dance in front of the whole group.
The natural beauty of Philippi can take your breath away, but that beauty doesn’t help the many families in the area who live below the poverty line. Many industries have either left the area or been forced to lay off workers. Parents often must drive up to an hour to get to a minimum-wage job.
Caleigh, one of the junior camp counselors, who also interned in Philippi earlier this year, says that the camp offers many of the girls an opportunity to just breathe. It’s also a chance to see God’s word acted out in the love, care, and consistency of these women.
Seventeen-year-old Justina has been coming to camp for the past five years. She offered what the camp means to her: “It’s a place where you can kind of get that love that you might be missing. It’s a place where you can be yourself and they’re always lifting you up and they’re always thinking about us. There’s not a moment that you’re going to feel unloved or that you’re going to feel alone.”
With that kind of experience, I foresee more girls rising up in this community to be all that God has created them to be.
by Laura Reinhardt, World Vision photojournalist