WARNING: Contains Inspirational Perspiration

May 11, 2011

Awesome DC have been busy bees this Spring! In part inspired by our wildly energetic April grantees – GirlTrek. I talked to Vanessa about the project and what the Awesome grant means for them. Warning: Get ready to be inspired!

What is GirlTrek all about, what do you do, and who is it for?

GirlTrek puts the Move back in Movement. 80% of Black women are overweight.  Researchers predict that 100% of us will be overweight by 2034.  We were two ordinary Black women, with no real health background or health role models.  To get moving – we set goals and started walking everyday.  In a few months, Vanessa ran a half marathon for the first time, and Morgan went on her very first backpacking trip – 50 miles!

But our personal victories weren’t enough to shake the haunting statistics that implicated our families and friends. We had inspired them by our own transformations. We knew they were listening and watching, but how could we get them to join us?  Better yet, how could we ignite a national movement of motivated women?  One step at a time.

GirlTrek is a 10-week walking challenge and a call to action. Each spring we recruit women from around the country and challenge them to take charge of their health by walking. Women walk as solo Trekkers or in Trek Teams. They commit to walking at least 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes a day for the entire challenge.  We push them, encourage them and hold them accountable. The transformation over 10 weeks time is inspiring. The seed is planted. The walking is just the beginning.

We’ve found that once women get moving they won’t want to stop. To address the larger issues of cultural attitudes towards health and fitness in the black community we created a dynamic and engaging online community where we post daily photos of real Black women being active. Running, doing yoga, going sailing…we tell them on a daily basis -if she can do it, so can you. It’s working. In the last 3 months we have gained more than 15,000 followers.

Find us at: http://www.facebook.com/HealthyBlackWomenandGirls

What does winning the Awesome Foundation DC grant mean to you? How will you use the grant?

It means that the world is full of awesome people who really care about the larger community in which they live. Everyday we receive an unbelievable outpouring of thanks and encouragement from the thousands of women, whose lives are being transformed because of GirlTrek, but it is truly encouraging to know that people who may not be Black or a woman or facing a health crisis can still see the value in what we do.

We were honestly just excited to find out that an organization like the Awesome Foundation existed. The process of securing funding through grants can be extraordinarily daunting and even a bit intimidating. If you are an organization such as ours, run solely off the love and spirit of two friends, and not a full time staff of grant writing experts, then you are really at a disadvantage. The fact that someone somewhere recognized this gap and is filling it in this amazing way. Well, what can we say? It’s awesome.

Now that we have our Awesome grant we can pay it forward by awarding walking shoes to our most dedicated and in need Trekkers.

What sort of impact do you hope your project will have in DC? And how does winning the Awesome grant help?

DC is more than 50% African American, but go to the National Mall on the weekend where people are running and walking, or to Rock Creek Park where people are riding their bikes or roller blading and we are hardly represented. In the predominately Black wards, you rarely see people outside being active. We want to change that. One of our main goals is to put a new face on healthy living. The Awesome Grant will help us to advance our mission by getting more women out on the streets of DC walking!

How did you find out about the Awesome Foundation?

Twitter (Isn’t that where everyone finds out about everything these days?) Some awesome people were tweeting about how awesome the Awesome Foundation was and we thought, this is too good to be true! We checked out your website and WOW! It was totally legit!

What other support do you need? How can people get in touch to support you?

We need courageous funders who are willing to think outside of traditional nonprofit structures to a fresher model of social networks, colorful testimonies and positive peer pressure.  This is not a charity, it is a grassroots movement.
Our change model – perfected by women like Ella Baker and Septima Clarke – has provided sustainable change in African American communities for 400 years.  This GirlTrek health strategy is effective chiefly because it’s lead by curvaceous single mothers and little old church ladies.

GirlTrek is equally compelling in busy boroughs like Brooklyn and quaint towns like Tupelo, Mississippi. Our urgent cause, joyful tone and effective strategy has led to exponential growth.  We’ve grown from 700 women last year to 20,000 women as of today.

We are looking for funders who are not afraid to support a topic that is difficult to talk about – Black women are the most overweight group in America.  If we can talk about, we can do something about it – and inspire the country in the process.

How are you going to celebrate your win?

A victory lap around the National Mall! We’re going to throw on our GirlTrek gear and hit the DC streets so if you see us out, give us a holler – or heck a hug. We love the support!

What advice can you give to other people thinking about applying for an Awesome Foundation grant?

Speak from the heart!