Gallagher: Teaching girls their value |

Gallagher: Teaching girls their value

R.J. Gallagher

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” — Coco Chanel, “The Gospel According to Coco Chanel.”

I’m a big fan of giving back and making a difference, especially when it is for children in need. I also believe that making a difference has no boundaries. So sit back and let me take you on a trip to the Dominican Republic. That’s right — the D.R., a place where many residents of our valley head to hit the beach, windsurf, kite surf and let the good times roll.

There is a wonderful foundation in the Dominican Republic named Fundacion Tropicalia that is supported by Tropicalia, a tourism-development project. Tropicalia has set a clear and consistent goal of becoming a global model of sustainable, environmentally responsible, high-end and low-impact tourism. It is located in the municipality of Miches, along the southern coast of the Samana Bay, which is in the province of El Seibo in northeast Dominican Republic, a unique and unspoiled location of wonderful natural beauty.

As part of the Fundacion Tropicalia’s well-being and cultural initiatives, it has developed a summer day camp, Soy Nina Soy Importante (I’m a Girl and I’m Important) that serves girls ages 9 to 15. Its mission is to provide a safe, nurturing environment where girls can simply be girls. Gotta love that in this day and age.

The programs at the camp are focused on giving young girls the guidance and tools they need to be self-reflective, critical thinkers and to make better life choices. This is the third year that Fundacion Tropicalia has been supporting and organizing the summer camps, where the curriculum includes education in values, artistic expression and development, development of interpersonal relationships, self-esteem and self-awareness, sex education, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, gender and violence, nutrition and athletics. This is not your typical summer camp. Again, you gotta love that.

Why girls, you ask? After six years of work in the field, Fundacion Tropicalia has empirical evidence supported by investigations from the United Nations, the International Labor Organization and the Girl Effect that young and adolescent girls are at special risk in developing, rural communities. It believes that Soy Nina Soy Importante has the potential to teach a girl her value in society and how to navigate difficult situations. I’m a believer. To learn more about this research, please visit

In 2013, the camp brought together 100 girls ages 10 to 15 and incorporated self-esteem, safety, career and personal development, health, nutrition and exercise programs into fun, recreational camp activities. The camp’s objective is to remind girls of their value in society and instill in them the socio-emotional skills needed to make informed and important decisions such as staying in school, staying safe and avoiding unplanned pregnancies. The goal for 2015 is to host and serve 250 girls. The cost to sponsor a deserving girl at the camp is $150.

I’m a big believer in what this camp model for girls has created. My wife Nancy and I have decided to support three girls at this year’s camp, and we encourage others to join us. It’s a small price to pay, but will make a big difference in the lives of a bunch of young girls. If you would like to learn more or if you wish to support a girl or 20, please visit http://snsi.fundacion

I also would like to challenge forward-thinking leaders in our valley to take a good look at the social values that a program such as Soy Nina Soy Importante might provide in our neck of the woods. Let me know who you are and I will help set up an introduction. Together we’re better, as I always say. Who knows where this could lead?

Can you say “girl power”?

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach him at