March 2014 eNews

At CorStone, our passion is unleashing potential, holding a powerful mirror to inner strengths, and awakening agency…in the marginalized, the economically disadvantaged, and the under-served.

Our 2014 has started out with a bang — nearly 4,500 at-risk adolescent girls and boys in India are currently enrolled in CorStone programs. And ambitious plans to expand to Kenya are underway. Read on!


Girls First – Bihar, India: First-of-its-kind research reveals significant impact on well-being

Bihar girls in Group
Girls in Bihar share during a group at their school

In rural Bihar, girls face high rates of gender-based violence and are often forced to drop out of school and marry by age 14. Now, more than 3,000 at-risk adolescent girls are completing Girls First, a peer support-group program, empowering them to improve their mental and physical health, prevent early marriage and pregnancy, and advocate for their education and health rights.

Girls First combines an Emotional Resilience curriculum on topics such as character strengths, coping skills, assertive communication and problem-solving, and an Adolescent Health curriculum on nutrition, reproductive health, and gender-based violence reduction. The program is facilitated by local community women, trained and certified by CorStone.

Our research team has just completed preliminary data analysis from the first 5 months of the program, and results already show many significant impacts!

Girls First significantly improved emotional and physical well-being relative to the control group:

  • Emotional resilience increased 23%. Girls in the Emotional Resilience groups significantly improved their coping skills, self-confidence, courage, persistence, and ability to handle negative emotions relative to the control group. Girls’ resilience in the control group increased just 8%.
  • Health knowledge increased 71%. Girls in the Adolescent Health groups significantly improved their physical health knowledge of HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, menstruation, anemia, malaria, clean water, substance use, and health consequences of early marriage, relative to controls.Health knowledge among girls in the control group increased only 2%.

Additionally, Girls First significantly protected against erosion of emotional and physical well-being relative to the control group.Girls First clearly safeguarded participants in some of their most vulnerable areas:

  • Self-efficacy increased 3% for the Emotional Resilience groups, while the control group decreased 4%. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to control one’s own life trajectory and thrive, and is a predictor of academic and career success, and positive health behaviors.
  • Physical well-being increased 3% for the Adolescent Health groups, while the control group decreased 23%. Physical well-being includes girls’ perceived feelings of physical vitality, functioning, energy, pain, and overall health.

This rigorous impact assessment is one of the first of its kind in any developing country, and includes standardized measures of well-being within a multi-arm randomized controlled trial. Our research team includes leading developmental psychology and global health researchers from University of Pennsylvania and University of California, San Francisco.

Girls First – Bihar has been made possible through the generous support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Additional findings will be available in June 2014. For more information, please contact Kate at


Girls First reaches nearly 900 girls in urban slums in Surat, India

Girls First  – Surat facilitators gather in a community center for a program meeting

Similar to our program in Bihar,Girls First – Surat combines CorStone’s foundational resilience curriculum for improved emotional well-being with comprehensive adolescent health training. The typical attendee is a Dalit (so-called ‘untouchable’) girl between the ages of 12 and 16; is the first generation in her family to attend school or has already been forced to drop out; lives in an urban slum with scarce running water, poor sanitation, few toilets, and high levels of violence; is at high risk for child marriage or is already married; and is likely to struggle with self-reliance and employability.

More than 20 women from the Federation of Slum-Women in Surat, India are conducting Girls First peer-support groups for nearly 900 girls in 11 community centers throughout Surat’s poorest slums. The program will run through November 2014.

Our sincerest thanks to the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation and the Abbott Fund for their generous support of Girls First – Surat!


Next stop: Kenya!

SHOFCO girls
SHOFCO’s Kibera School for Girls students play on the school’s roof during recess

CorStone staff traveled to Kenya in January to meet with local community organizations and explore project opportunities for our youth programs.

In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, we met with Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a community-based organization that runs Kibera’s first fee-free school for girls and empowers local women through health and financial services. Nearby, we met with BasicNeeds UK-Kenya, a mental health organization providing services for urban and rural Kenyans throughout the country, including members of nomadic tribes, urban slum-dwellers, and rural farmers. And in Nyeri, a rural area near Mt. Kenya, we met with Caritas-Nyeri, which works to improve access to mental health treatment, provide support groups, and help those with mental illness become economically self-sufficient. There, we also met with Baraka Children’s Centre and Peacebuilding School, a home and school for orphans and children vulnerable to orphanhood caused by HIV and violence.

The potential for a diverse and expansive reach in Kenya is truly inspiring. Our sincerest thanks to American filmmaker Abigail E. Disney for her generous support of the initial planning phase of this project!

We are actively seeking funding support for new projects serving at-risk youth in Kenya. Please consider a donation, or for more information please contact Steve at


CorStone needs your support! To make a tax-deductible donation today, please visit our website to donate online, or kindly mail your donation to CorStone, 250 Camino Alto, Suite 100 A, Mill Valley, CA 94941.CorStone is a US registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. For more information, please visit us at, where you can watch a brief video of our work, or read more on our blog at

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