Non-Profit Spotlight: Ladybug for Girls Foundation
The Ladybug for Girls™ Foundation, Inc. is a growing community of parents and their daughters, school teachers, and health professionals who are concerned about the health and well being of girls in Atlanta, GA. Like many of our parents, Trinita Ervin was troubled by the soaring obesity rates, the gender gap in physical fitness, and the inadequate resources for the social and emotional well-being of children within the health system. Girls, Tea, Politics had the opportunity to interview with Ms. Trinita Ervin as she shares her heartfelt story and mission to help young girls.
“By the time our girls reach adolescent age they are faced with multiple social challenges and pressures. One major challenge is being accepted or rejected by their peers. This is heightened by our current social media environment and the digital world in which we now live in.”
Alvina: What ignited your desire to start a non-profit centered around girls?
Trinita: I lost both of my parents at a very young age. My mom died when I was just two years old from poor maternal health and my dad died of lung cancer when I was 16, both were preventable illnesses. So, as a young girl, I struggled to learn critical coping skills to overcome the grief of losing both my parents. As a parent myself, I wanted to make sure that my children were equipped with the necessary coping skills needed to get through their own emotional or social pressures. But the social pressures of today are a stark difference from what I faced during my own childhood. I became alarmed and concerned about girls in general during my youngest daughter’s first year in middle school, sixth grade. It was probably the most challenging time for me as a parent. While she had the skills needed, her friend’s were dealing with some serious issues such as emotional anxiety from social media, gender identity, sexual abuse, and even immigrant deportation. Our children today are facing some pretty big conversations and social issues at the middle school level and perhaps even younger. I was able to help these girls navigate their issues to get the resources and interventions they desperately needed. One day my daughter had asked me a very profound question, “how can I help other girls?” I’d been in healthcare my entire career sparked by the loss of my own parents. Acting on my daughter’s question, I really just began by volunteering in my local community with the refugee population here in Atlanta.
I started with 12 Liberian girls and just focused on what I already knew as far as nutrition, fitness, and gardening, which wasn’t much at the time. I had never intended to start a non-profit, but when Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move Campaign, the demand for me to work with other young girls in elementary schools expanded from one school to another school and so on. After researching tons of scientific data on girls health I realized that there are some huge gender gaps and inequities when it comes to girls physical health, childhood obesity rates, and their emotional well-being. This led me to launch a health and wellness brand specifically for girls. I also had a desire to become more knowledgeable about girls health and wanted to redesign the approach to health education. I went on to get certified in nutrition and dietary theory, I became a certified health coach, and studied child nutrition, as well as, International Women’s and Adolescent Girl’s Health at Stanford University. So, my passion for health and wellness has now become a grassroots movement that has evolved through organic growth with the support of other concerned parents, educators and healthcare professionals.
Alvina: Our young girls are under tremendous pressure and are unhappier, more insecure about their appearance, why is that, and how can we build and instill confidence in our youth?
Trinita: Great question! Ladybug for Girl’s is a health and wellness empowerment brand for young
girls. Our primary commitment is to ensure that young girls feel beautiful from the inside out. I believe this starts with focusing on a girl’s self-identity, self-love, and self-confidence at a very young age particularly for girls of color. By the time our girls reach adolescent age they are faced with multiple social challenges and pressures. One major challenge is being accepted or rejected by their peers. This is heightened by our current social media environment and the digital world in which we now live. There are many studies that are underway to better understand screen behaviors amongst adolescents.
What we know for sure is that adolescents are spending more time on social media and electronic devices than ever before. And while “screen time” has increased so has the prevalence of cyber-bullying, depression and suicide risks in children. The medical community is now beginning to explore the correlations between social media use and the real-world effect it has on a child’s well being. But, social media is just one factor. There is no single clear cut answer to why this is happening as there are many other social determinants that must also be considered. However, what parents can do is begin to introduce positive thoughts about self-image and identity to girls early on to develop their resilience and coping skills before they reach adolescence. One of the ways we achieve this is through the practice of yoga and we start as early as the first grade.
Alvina: Your foundation provides many programs for girls including yoga sessions and agriculture which is unique. How can young girls benefit from the practice of yoga?
Trinita: Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years. There are many
evidence-based benefits from the practice of yoga which supports both our physical and mental health. First, yoga promotes physical movement and improves your flexibility, balance, and heart health. But another major benefit of yoga is that it’s a great tool to support our mental and emotional well-being. As you mentioned earlier, our young girls are under a tremendous amount of pressure which leads to anxiety, stress and in some extreme cases depression. For Ladybug for Girls, the practice of yoga is at the core of our social and emotional learning objectives. When we work with young girls using yoga we are able to incorporate breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to reduce anxiety and stress while encouraging relaxation. So, we have found that when we are able to introduce our girls to yoga at an earlier age, they are better able to develop coping skills over time which makes them more resilient to some of the social pressures they face daily.
Alvina: Tell us about Global Girls Health?
Trinita: I am a Spelman woman. Our motto is “A Choice to Change the World,” which means that we are encouraged to bring positive social change to our community and engage globally. So, when the opportunity came along for us to charter a chapter in Africa I pursued it. In 2017, Ladybug for Girls chartered its first chapter in Bong County, Liberia. Our primary focus there is on food insecurity, nutrition literacy, and agriculture. I founded this organization with a group of girls who were refugees from Liberia so I felt like this opportunity was bringing us full circle, especially as we approached our 10 year anniversary.
In addition to our work in West Africa, I’m a global ambassador for adolescent girls health in Tamil Nadu, India with a focus on menstrual hygiene management. What I learned throughout this new global venture is that the need to redesign health education for girls is broader than the Metro Atlanta community. While there are some cultural differences, the context for girls health issues is relatively the same across all ethnicities, regions, and countries. Our Global Girls Health campaign recognizes the commonalities found in girls health inequities and we use the United Nation’s SDG goals as our framework to connect us and grow our global footprint.
Alvina: Are there any upcoming Global Girls Health Traveling Initiatives?
Trinita: Not currently, but we are exploring the possibility with some local organizations and universities. We certainly have an interest in bridging our domestic and global outreach initiatives by starting in Africa and India where we already have existing relationships.
Alvina: What advice can you give to teens struggling with insecurity, and lacking self-confidence?
Trinita: My top three tips for teens struggling with insecurity and a lack of self-confidence is
- Connect with others to share. The power of sharing our story allows a girl to realize that she is not alone, also that her story can help others, and more importantly it will strengthen her own resilience. Social isolation is another growing concern and
sometimes these girls need someone to talk to or someone to just listen. So, this should be done with someone they trust such as a close friend, their parent, a mentor or a counselor.
- I would recommend journaling. Keeping a journal is another great tool that helps us process our thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly but it also gives us a greater sense of self-confidence.
- Lastly, I would recommend practicing positive affirmations. Practicing positive affirmations is simple, and have been proven to boost self-esteem. But positive affirmations also help girls develop their own self-identity by creating a very positive narrative of themselves, in addition to, maintaining their self-integrity. These are some pretty simple tips for teens.
Alvina: What is your enrollment process and how can referrals be made to Ladybug for Girls?
Trinita: At this time, our enrollment process is primarily done through our after-school programming at local elementary schools here in Atlanta. But, we recognize the increasing demand for us to expand to other States. So, we will be launching some pilot studies later this year to identify key strategic growth strategies and pathways that will allow us to offer Ladybug for Girls throughout the U.S.
Thank you Trinita for taking this time to share your amazing story with our audience.
Please visit Ladybug For Girls Foundation at the following:
Name: Trinita Ervin
Social Media Facebook: @ladybugforgirlsfoundation Twitter @LadybugforGirls Instagram@ladybugforgirls
Photos Courtesy of Trinita Ervin