GFS groups are a unique and important space where build their confidence, feel good
about who they are, and make friends.
But you don’t have to take our word for it –
Isla, Ziyal and Bella are here to tell you about GFS themselves.
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Bella is 10 and joined GFS Anfield in November 2021
Because of my ASD, people at school often take things I say the wrong way. That doesn't happen at GFS - they understand me.
My favourite thing about GFS is the people. I take part in more activities at GFS because I know I can trust the people there.
Everyone at the first session was welcoming. My friend, Connie, was a bit shy at the first session, but on the second week, she just cracked open. I like how everyone at GFS is friends with each other.
One of my favourite GFS activities was when we made necklaces with different colour cards on them to tell people how we are feeling. Green for a good day, amber for ok, and red for not very good. It was helpful to be able to tell people if I was having a bad day.
But favourite GFS memory is when we went to see Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – The Musical. I liked learning about the women and that, although they were all very different, they had things in common.
At the end of each session, we talk about what we would like to do in future sessions. I suggested that we should adopt an animal. The leaders said we could, so we held a fundraiser – I made bracelets to sell, and took part in the group talent show. We raised enough money to adopt our panda! Being listened to helped me realise I’m an ideas person.
I can honestly say hand on my heart this 1.5 hour session a week is priceless.
We moved house just before COVID, so Bella wasn’t at her new school for very long before we moved to home schooling. This really affected her ability to make friends at her new school, causing a lack of confidence and anxiety around people who weren’t family members.
In December last year Isabella a was diagnosed with Autism. This was something as a family we had no understanding of nor did we expect. The group had previously discussed neuro diversity and acceptance and this was a massive step in us telling Isabella and helping her understanding. Isabella now understand her ASD, and through this journey she has thrived in her GFS class.
This group has been huge for Bella – she has learnt that she can make friendships, and she can be accepted for who she is. Something she wasn’t getting anywhere else. I also think she is more able to identify how she’s felling and express herself. It’s the best thing that could have happened to her.
Bella didn’t know anyone else when she first started so it was hugely brave for her to come along and get stuck in…
Fast forward just six months and she was inviting the other girls along to her birthday party! Knowing that Bella has found friendships challenging elsewhere, it has been brilliant to see her develop a new support network and feel so at ease with her friends from GFS.
When she’s at GFS she is confident and free to express herself. She always has a story to tell us about what’s going on in her world, takes part in every activity and shares her experiences and ideas in group discussions. She feels comfortable enough to let us know when she’s unsure about something – for example, whether she might need her ear defenders if things get noisy – which not only means we can support her in the right way but means that the whole group has become more accepting and understanding of different people’s needs.
The most memorable moment of Bella’s journey with GFS so far is when she sang in public for the first time. She gave an amazing performance in front of a room full of adults that she’d never met which is a huge achievement for anyone, let alone someone who has previously struggled with anxiety around new people. We were blown away by her courage, talent and determination, and are so proud of her and how far she’s come.
Ziyal is 8 and joined GFS Rusholme in November 2021.
GFS gives me independence that I haven't had at other groups - they can look past my chair and see the real me.
The group has helped me learn that I am the boss of myself and don’t have to let other people tell me what to do. (Apart from teachers, because I am only eight).
At GFS, they never say – you have to this or that because you’re in a wheelchair, they let me say what I want to do. At GFS I get to be my own self and express myself knowing no one will tell me off or bully me. I do sometimes get bullied at my school – I don’t think anyone should be bullied.
All of my friends at GFS are kind and supporting – we don’t have best friends and all get along with each other equally.
Every week, we talk about different topics and do fun activities. I really enjoyed making drums out of tins, balloons and tape. I took mine to school because we were learning about air drums there – the teacher liked the one I made at GFS so much she put it on a shelf as an example.
At GFS, we celebrate who we are and who we can be when we are older. I want to be an architect when I’m older, and be the boss of my own business – I want to make the world a better place.
Ziyal has had an excellent experience at GFS.
Many after school activities ask me to stay, but GFS took the time to understand Ziyal’s condition and make it possible for me to leave her at the group. This is really important because it allows her to feel like the other girls and explore her independence. The leaders are so confident with her and include her with everything – even adapting a recent obstacle course for her.
I have really noticed an improvement in Ziyal’s confidence since she joined GFS, especially in a group of people – she’s much more sure of herself. We value GFS so much.
Having Ziyal at GFS Rusholme has been delightful. She brings so much joy to our group.
She is a role model to the other girls at GFS, but also to the staff with her resilience and determination to always keep trying. She is always sharing stories with the other girls about how she overcomes barriers in her way, to encourage them to feel able to do the same.
When Ziyal started GFS, she explained how many people treated her differently from the other girls her age because of her wheelchair. Since being a regular GFS girl, she’s been able to showcase her independence, which has grown her confidence in believing she can do whatever she wants in life. She has also found her voice in speaking up for herself and being a champion on topics that she wants to see change.
It’s been a pleasure to have Ziyal a part of GFS Rusholme and I, like many of the volunteers, feel proud of how far she has come and know she will be a change maker for other young girls within society.
Isla is 11 and joined GFS Pittington in March 2021.
I would say to anyone who wants to come to GFS, whoever you are, or however they feel, GFS is a place for you and you will always find friends at GFS.
I love GFS because I can be wild there.
I recently started secondary school and it’s so serious now. Some days I feel like there’s an inner beast that just wants to get out – I have an impulse to run around and make noise – at GFS I get to do that and just be me.
The thing about GFS is you don’t have to be just one way. When I went to some other clubs, I felt like they wanted us to be a certain way and do “girl stuff”, like sewing. But at GFS, you can be a tomboy and do activities that girls wouldn’t usually do. At GFS, everyone can choose to be who they are.
Taking part in GFS activities helped my confidence. When I got picked for the Girls Say book, I was so happy – when I got the book and saw all of the other girls’ works, I couldn’t believe that someone thought mine was good enough to go on the front. I felt valued and noticed, which I hadn’t been feeling for a long time.
I first came to a time when I felt everyone in my life, my friends, teachers, weren’t backing me up and I was all on my own. Having those GFS helpers who listened to me and cared about me showed me that my feelings mattered. That I could have good relationships and I wasn’t going to be unhappy forever.
I love that there are so many helpers. It means that there is always someone to talk to, or someone that can help.
Isla was having a really hard time at school when she came to GFS. I really believe coming to GFS did so much for her confidence. I wish she could have started sooner.
At GFS they spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re good at, and hearing form other people what they’re good at. It’s not something we really do often enough, and GFS really helped Isla see what was special about her during a time when she didn’t feel good at all.
The leaders at GFS are great at just making girls feel valued. I think it’s because they’re not there to achieve anything apart from to make the girls feel good about themselves. One of the reasons Isla has wanted to stick with GFS over other clubs is that it’s less structured. There is so much pressure with school and testing and it’s so important that, at GFS, there are no set outcomes. It means she can’t fail or not be good enough.
Over the past year Isla has embraced being a GFS girl and has jumped at any opportunity presented to her.
She is often one of the first ones to arrive and comes in with the biggest smile on her face, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this smile waver!
She is an active member of the group and is always willing to support the other girls and leaders in the activities and games. Since Isla has joined GFS, it has been delightful to watch her confidence grow, becoming more willing to contribute to the group, both in ideas and answers. It is clear that she very much believes that girls can make their voices heard and can be and achieve whatever they want to be in their life.
We can’t wait to watch Isla continue her GFS journey and to see what fabulous things she achieves next.