Today we’d like to introduce you to Elaine Hamel.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I had taken in a young neighbor when I was in my twenties, as her parents were consumed with addiction. Summer camp seemed like a great environment for her once school was out. Having been a struggling contractor at the time when the camp was in session, I could not afford the fee to send her to camp. However, in exchange for her time at camp I offered to teach woodworking classes to the girls who attended.
During my first week of teaching woodworking at camp, it became evident that teaching girls to use power tools was a real ‘game changer’. It was then that a spark ignited and it was time to combine my passion for building and my passion for empowering girls. Fast forward a few years, I built a barn where I could create an environment that invited all girls and women to step out of their comfort zones.
This space would become a woodworking shop that defied all messages of powerlessness that girls and women are consumed with. Fast forward many years and thousands of girls and women have discovered their inherent power and courage while building in our woodshop.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Early on when I decided that I wanted to create an organization dedicated to empowering girls through woodworking it was pretty difficult to find support. Many still saw (and still see) young girls as powerless, and the need to ‘keep them safe’ from harm creates a pretty large hurdle that ultimately keeps them from the very essence of who they are, powerful and strong individuals.
Girls at Work – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Girls at Work is an organization that is focused on empowering girls and women through building. I think one of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that despite the relentless loud voices reminding me that I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that, (because I was a girl) I chose to listen to that tiny little voice deep within that said ‘yes you can’.
Not only did I listen to that voice but I built an organization that is focused on providing an experience that has enabled thousands of girls and women to uncover and connect with their core sense of ‘yes you can’. I think what sets us apart is the fact that we use such extreme’ measures, power tools. Power tools convey a message of power to all who use them. As a result, many feel they are ‘not safe for girls or women’ to use.
I disagree wholeheartedly and I believe that teaching a young girl to use power tools safely instantly shatters so many distorted messages of powerlessness that our society continues to embrace and drive home with our girls and women. Part of the message we also instill in our workshops is that power tools are actually just tools and that the real power is within each and every one of the participants in our workshops.
Building furniture is a powerful byproduct of learning to use power tools safely. But the larger more important part of the process is how quickly you can build yourself up and silence those voices of self-doubt and shatter the very real stereotypes. The furniture then becomes a reminder of what is possible when you step out of your comfort zone, silence those voices of self-doubt and believe in yourself.
Another thing that sets us apart is how versatile our workshops are. While our focus is on empowering inner-city girls facing adversity, we also offer classes for women and we now offer team building workshops. Unlike most organizations, we are able to provide the same powerful workshops to companies that we offer young girls.
What is most exciting about this is not only does it enable companies to experience first hand how powerful building with a team can be, but the items they build (picnic tables) are donated to area non-profits and the revenue generated from our Team Building workshops support our programs to inner city girls.
- Address: 4 Elm St. Manchester, NH 03103
- Website: Girlswork.org
- Phone: 16033450392
- Email: Info@girlswork.org
- Instagram: Girlsatworkinc
- Facebook: Girls at Work, Inc.
- Twitter: Girlsatworkinc