Cool Girls Round the World

What’s not to love about a girl who’s out to make major world changes? We’ve rounded up three of our favorite do-gooder gals.…

Hannah Teter: Couldn’t be Sweeter
Competitive snowboarder Hannah Teter, 22, won gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics, but she didn’t let that medal muddle her head. Instead, she put her newfound clout to good use. “I’ve always wanted to help out in the world,” she says. “I now have the opportunity to pursue this dream.” So she decided to “sweeten the world one bottle at a time” with maple syrup from her home state of Vermont. Huh?

No, Hannah doesn’t think the Earth is flat as a pancake. But all profits from sales of her Hannah’s Gold Maple Syrup help poor children in the African community of Kirindon, Kenya. “I got to see the difference between clean water and dirty, disease-infested water that the kids were drinking previous to their rain water catchment system,” says Hannah of her trek to Kirindon. So far, she’s raised over half her goal of $100,000. Sticky sweet!

Ayna Agarwal: Doggone Do-gooder
During a trip last year to visit family in New Dehli, Ayna Agarwal, 16, was appalled to see helpless, homeless dogs wandering the streets. So she started Stop Pet Overpopulation Together Globally (SPOTGlobally), an organization to prevent animal overpopulation, starvation and cruelty.

SPOTGlobally has project sites in several locations worldwide: South Africa, Thailand, Nepal, Italy, Philippines, Mexico, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Columbia and India. At the Friendicoes shelter in New Dehli, over 200 pets are cared for at any given time, but sadly, most have little hope of being adopted. Ayna’s program provides medications and surgical supplies. How does it benefit the world as a whole? Stray pets on the streets can lead to the spread of diseases -- such as rabies, a great endemic in India.

Amira Mortenson: Making Changes out of Change
What’d you drop on your last mocha latte? Three bucks? Five? A single cent in Pakistan can buy a pencil, and a dollar educates a girl for a month, says 13-year-old Amira Mortenson as she travels the world with her father promoting Pennies for Peace. Pennies for Peace inspires kids to collect spare change to support causes, such as building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Amira’s dad has received death threats and even been kidnapped, mainly because he wants to help educate girls in volatile countries, as documented in his book, Three Cups of Tea. Amira continues to follow her father and her heart, influencing kids to care and share. “Our generation should be totally dedicated to peace, not war,” says Amira, “and we should make sure every kid in the world can go to school.”

A World of Difference

Many girls around the world live in towns that have been war-stricken. Lots of girls have been sexually assaulted and some suffer from HIV. Many are not getting an education. Check out these programs that are reaching out to girls. It’s all about the sisterhood!

The Girl Effect This campaign’s message? The world is one big whopping mess. The solution? Girls! The Adolescent Girls Initiative kicked off The Girl Effect by donating millions of dollars to educate girls in developing and post-conflict countries, such as Afghanistan, Nepal, Rwanda and South Sudan. The philosophy is that with training in areas like agriculture, business, public works and health care, girls will turn this world around!

Because I Am a Girl The Plan UK campaign tells it like it is: “Governments are failing girls on a massive scale.” A shocking 2008 report found that one in five countries has used girls as child soldiers, 20 million girls in war zones are not in schools and far too many are at risk of being raped, beaten or abducted. Recently, 20 girls and boys were kidnapped by rebels in eastern Congo. Yes, the facts are brutal.

Being a HERO Twenty-one stellar teens were selected as Youth Ambassadors to take part in Being a HERO 2008, a six-week volunteer effort in Namibia and South Africa, where the YAs are building homes and classrooms for kids in Africa, among other things. It’s part of a United Nations Association Campaign to provide care for children in need.

Girls for a Change This nonprofit org for urban girls just wrapped up a national tour, hitting 25 schools in a monthlong trek across the United States. GFC taught thousands of girls to take action within their communities. “The girls spoke of the killings they’ve witnessed, the gunfire that makes it unsafe to walk out their front door, abuse, global warming, racism and the bailout! These girls are on top of it,” says program director Carrie Ellett.

Dear World Two hundred and seventy-five girls, ages 7 to 17, from across the United States and Canada wrote letters about growing up, then recited them on videotape for the world to see. “Dear World celebrates the passion, imaginative spirit and intelligence of girls,” says a Girls Inc. spokesperson. Your voice counts!

Don't Be Sidelined!

Hey, it’s not that girls don’t want to play sports. But a recent Women’s Sports Foundation study shows that many girls still aren’t getting a fair shake in the athletic arena. That’s out of bounds! Especially when it’s been shown (and this research confirms) that kids who participate in sports are healthier and happier, get better grades and have more family involvement.

The Gender Gap
Yep, there’s a gender gap in physical activity between girls and boys. In general, boys are exposed to more athletic opportunities than girls. In the United States, a staggering 68 percent of girls living in rural communities have no physical education classes at all in 11th and 12th grades. For urban girls in the same grades, a whopping 84 percent report no phys ed!

An Uneven Score
Not all girls are losing out. In some communities -- usually suburban -- girls and boys get equal playtime. But girls from urban areas, which are often economically challenged and have fewer school resources, are the ones largely left out of the game. One in four 9th- to 12th-grade urban girls has never participated in an organized school team sport.

Nothin’ About Biology
OK, so some people might think boys are just naturally more interested than girls in sports. Wrong! The study finds that girls’ and boys’ differences have more to do with opportunity and encouragement. In fact, boys tend to exaggerate their enthusiasm for sports (maybe they think it’s expected of them). Forty-two percent of third- to eighth-grade boys said “sports are a big part of who they are” even though they weren’t athletes!

Girls Got Boys Beat
While girls are less athletically involved overall, they participate in a way wider array of various activities than the boys do. The boys tend to stick to the traditional old-school stuff, but the girls do that and then some. They explore recreational activities, like double Dutch, dance, cheerleading and volleyball, that break away from the strictly conventional.

Late in the Game
Girls generally get involved in sports at a later age than the boys. On average, boys join the team at around 6 years of age, and girls jump in when they’re about 7-years-old. Girls also drop out of the game a lot earlier and in greater numbers than boys, and some researchers blame this on the late start setting girls up for failure. This usually happens during the middle school years, but perhaps this will encourage you to stay in the game: Girls who participate in a team sport are more content with their lives than girls who don’t play sports.

Make the Team
Researchers observed that the positive social, health and educational (triple threat!) benefits of being athletic were most apparent in girls and boys right around sixth- through eighth-grades. So, what’s a girl to do if her school doesn’t offer any sports opps? Well, the report’s title says it all: Get Out and Play! Round up your crew, and start a dance club, plot a bike route or kick off a soccer game in the park. Better yet, get the gals to rally your rec center or school officials about getting girls active in organized athletics. There’s no way you can’t win!