Girls Rock! Iceland
Stelpur rokka! (Girls Rock! Iceland) is a volunteer-run non-profit organization founded in 2012. We work to empower girls, trans boys, gender queer and intersex youth through music. Our core programming focuses on the rock camp. Campers learn to play an instrument, form bands, and write a song together. They participate in various workshops on music, gender and social justice, attend lunchtime performances by established women musicians and perform live at a final showcase in front of friends and family. At rock camp, campers amplify their already strong voices, strengthen their self-esteem, and collaborate creatively with positive role models.
We have also actively taken part in building up an international network of rock camps, both through bilateral collaborations (with f.ex. rock camps in Poland, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Togo, Africa) and larger projects, such as conferences for rock camp organisers in the US and Europe. In 2018 and 2019, Stelpur rokka! led a youth exchange project with 11 other organisations funded by Eramsus+, in the form of a collaborative international rock camp with over 100 participants and leaders.
In January 2020, we will open up a music centre for young people in Breiðholt, where they can form bands together and rehearse, attend workshops and concerts, get instrument lessons and even access a small recording studio. Breiðholt is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Reykjavík, and research shows that children of immigrants are far less likely to participate in extracurricular activities. We put strong emphasis on reaching out to children and youth who would benefit the most from being involved in rock camp activities, and offer activities both free of charge, and on a sliding scale fee (you pay what you can).
Outreach and accessibility
Reaching out to young people with diverse backgrounds is always a priority in our work. Even though we have years of experience by now, we still have a long way to go to make our programming accessible and feasible to different groups of people, and to be able to offer our participants the support and follow up they need. A big part of that is having a diverse group of volunteers, so each participant has someone they can relate to and look up to at rock camp. We have gained valuable experience in some areas, such as physical accessibility and supporting young asylum seekers, but we are always looking to improve and learn. Partnering with other organisations (nationally or internationally), that have experience and expertise in specific areas, has for us always been the most fruitful way of improving practices.
Wellbeing and burnout amongst volunteers working within feminist initiatives
Through our international collaborations in recent years, we have created trusting ties with our sister organisations across Europe and further. We share both our success stories and our struggles, and find ways to support each other. Some of these organisations have been active for over ten years, and others are younger. But what is striking is that almost all of them are dealing with burnout amongst staff and/or volunteers. This is not surprising with the scope and conditions of our work in mind (which can be very different from country to country). We support and empower young people who often come from very challenging situations, while at the same time having to justify our work and feminist ideals to the larger public, and deal with extreme financial uncertainty. Furthermore, many of the volunteers are musicians who might not have the knowledge or training to handle challenging issues that rise at a camp. We want to delve into these matters and find concrete ways to better support rock camp volunteers, so they don’t burn out and give up on their important work. Not the least those who do not have support from their local communities and authorities, morally and financially (that is usually where the need for their work is the most!)