Girls Club and Boys Club provide activities to children from East St. Louis, Illinois, to entertain and challenge them and to temporarily take them out of their often harsh environment. The adult volunteers act as “big sisters” or “big brothers,” friends to the boys and girls, encouraging their self-image and self-esteem, encouraging them to grow and develop in order to reach their full potential.
Join Hands ESL initially focused on children in two East St. Louis housing projects. Using volunteers, Girls Club and Boys Club provided Saturday recreational outings for thirty to forty children from 8 to 13 years old. We currently serve about 70 children with 85 volunteers. Through these programs, we learned the best way to help children is to also work with their parents.
Girls Club and Boys Club typically meet every other Saturday afternoon. Both clubs have approximately 15 children on their rosters with a lengthy waiting list. The clubs are open to children age 8 or older. Activities are usually scheduled several months in advance. Activities vary, depending on the seasons, the children’s (and adults’) interests, and the events that occur in the metropolitan area on a particular weekend. Typical activities include the zoo, the circus, swimming, bowling, children’s theater, martial arts, apple picking, hiking, African storytelling, skating, sporting events, arts and crafts, mock trials at local courthouses, and community service.
For more than 25 years several hundred young professionals in the St. Louis metropolitan area have regularly committed their time and energy to provide staffing for the clubs.