My eleven year old daughter, Ellie, and I have been brainstorming all day on how to create a way for girls to meet new friends all over the world--girls with whom they can become true friends in the old-fashioned sense of the world, some who may become dear soul mates, as well as some who will remain only fond acquaintances, as so many of our own Facebook friendships are. We want to create a setting in which new friendships can be pursued safely, without fear of stalkers or predators, the lurkings of online wolves in sheep's clothing. We want to find a way for girls who wouldn't have otherwise ever met to get to know one another, regardless of the geographical barriers, a place where girls from all over the United States and all over the world can meet and learn about life on this big blue marble, promoting global understanding, whether they ever have the opportunity for extensive travel or not.
We are still working out all the details, but this is where we are headed: the Girls International Friendship Trust.
For those of you on the Punctuation Patrol, we are going to forgo the apostrophe some would wish to add after 'Girls' and treat it as simply a plural. It is a friendship trust, then, for all girls on the international level. A trust is something held securely that will continue into the future. Perfect.
The format of GIFT will need to be somewhat complicated, unfortunately, as we are dealing with matters of utmost security--our daughters. At this point, we are thinking that in order for a girl to join, she must be recommended by a sponsor, which will be defined for now as an adult that I know and trust. A sponsor may recommend someone who has, in turn, been recommended by an adult that he/she knows and trusts. Thus, there is a limit of only a few degrees of separation between any of the girls in the Friendship Trust. This is not as limiting as it may seem at first glance, and could very quickly and easily net a very large group of girls from all over the world. Simply put, my friends' daughters, granddaughters, nieces, neighbors, etc., can join on their recommendation. In addition, my friends' friends' daughters, etc. can join, but it can't go further than that--at least for now.
Ellie and I will create an application form to be filled out by each interested girl, which will be more of a profile to help other girls get to know her a bit, as well as contact information, an agreement to the group's terms, and the name of her recommending sponsor and that person's connection to me, if not readily apparent. Yes, this sounds a little egocentric on my part, but hey, it is our group that we are starting and a group has to start somewhere. If you wish to start your own group, I will be happy to fill out my own application noting how I am related to you.
We are thinking at this point that the group should be opened to girls who are between 10 and 17 years of age (junior members, 10-13, and senior members, 14-17). At 18 years of age, girls are reclassified as alumni (provided they were active members for a year or more before 'graduating') and kept in the listing of members under that new heading. Alumni may then act as sponsors, recommending new girls to GIFT and eventually taking over the leadership of the group altogether.
Eventually, I'd like to see the whole endeavor managed on a secure website, but I don't have the ability to make that happen just yet. Perhaps some of the GIFTs will be gifted in the area of web design. For now, the organization will have to be run from a file box, literal or digital, at my house. The profile/application forms will be available online, attached to this or a designated blog, perhaps, and can be either printed out and snail-mailed to us, or emailed back to us. The profiles will need to be updated at least annually--perhaps coinciding with each member's birthday. It will take some further thought to create a way to maintain security and protection of personal information from those outside GIFT.
I have lots more thoughts on this and Ellie and I will be putting quite a bit of work into pulling all the scattered details together into a single, simple format so that it can work smoothly and effectively--accomplishing the purpose for which it is designed: providing girls a safe social network in which an international spirit of sisterhood and understanding can be fostered, leading to lifelong friendships and future networking opportunities worldwide.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Really. Share, please.
UPDATE: The story continues! Ellie and I have created a website and an application. The GIFT society is coming to life.