Help Put Tools In Girls’ Hands Now, Empower Them For Life

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Women make up less than 4% of skilled laborers in the U.S. construction industry (9% of the industry, overall). It’s an unacceptable imbalance that has existed for decades, and I’m on a mission to fix it through a unique skill-building, confidence-boosting, stereotype-busting program “where strong girls are forged”.

As a pioneering plumber, tradeswoman warrior, and fierce advocate for change, I founded Tools & Tiaras, a non-profit designed to get girls excited about and interested in the Mechanical, Industrial, and Technical Trades through hands-on, mentoring workshops. Now I need your help to put tools in girls’ hands this July at our very first Construction Skills Summer Camp, where what they learn will empower them for life. We can do it… together!

I was born and raised on the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where I was one of the first three women selected to pursue plumbing at the John Donaldson Technical Institute (now the University of Trinidad and Tobago). For the last twenty years, I have been a plumber in New York City. I am incredibly proud of what I do, of the countless obstacles I have overcome, and of everything I have achieved working in one of the most male-dominated fields in the world. In addition to being the first woman accepted into Plumbers Local Union No. 371 in Staten Island, NY, I was the first woman elected to the Examining Board of Plumbers Local Union No. 1.

I know, firsthand, that the future of the construction industry depends on the ability to get all capable hands on deck, and that MUST include the hands of women. To ensure this happens, I also know that something has to give, and that something is making skill-based, rewarding, and lucrative occupations like electrician, carpenter, plumber, and auto mechanic accessible to and approachable for girls.

This is why I have dedicated myself to promoting a positive representation of women in construction, to crushing the stereotypes, and to showing girls’ the possibilities… all of them, because, as the saying goes, if they can see it, they can be it.

Launching a trades-based, mentoring organization for girls had always been my dream. My vision for Tools & Tiaras was fully realized at the 2017 MAKERS Conference while I was on stage sharing my story and speaking about overcoming discrimination in the workplace, gaining equal pay, and access to the Plumbers Union. In that moment, I made a public commitment to build a 501(c)(3) through which I would inspire girls and young women to consider the design and skilled trades by cultivating their interest in these fields, fields which still sadly fall outside the range of what society deems “women's work”.

It was part of my bigger promise to continue to fight to eliminate the many gender-based obstacles and resistance I encountered so no future tradeswoman has to experience the same.

These are the three principles upon which I founded Tools & Tiaras in February 2017. It is a true labor of love and sisterhood.

OUR MISSION is to inspire girls and young women - from elementary through high school - to imagine, design, and build their own futures. We do this by exposing them to rewarding and lucrative careers in the Mechanical, Industrial, and Technical Trades, by connecting them with professionals and tradeswomen leaders, and through our hands-on, skill-building workshops that teach the basics of plumbing, electrical, carpentry, sheet metal, architecture, and auto mechanics.

OUR ULTIMATE GOAL is to equip our girls and young women with the grit, moxie, and warrior spirit they need to succeed in whatever professional path they choose for themselves, be it the trades or otherwise.

To date, we have run 10 successful Tools & Tiaras workshops in and around NYC and are gearing up for our first Construction Skills Summer Camp (July 9 to July 28), which will be hosted at The S.T.E.A.M Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Over the course of three weeks, a maximum of 60 girls - ages 6 to 19 from the New York City area - will be able to participate in daily, hands-on workshops in plumbing, electrical, carpentry, sheet metal, architecture, and auto mechanics, led by myself and other highly skilled tradeswomen. Week one is for girls ages 6 to 10; week two is for girls ages 11 to 13; and week three is for young women ages 14 to 19.

Our Tools & Tiaras Construction Skills Summer Camp is COMPLETELY FREE to girls, but because of the materials and tools required to create effective programming, the cost to us is $375 per girl. Through donations made directly to our organization, we have the funds necessary to sponsor 15 girls at our 2018 Summer Camp. So with your generous support and as many “Dead Presidents” and you can spare, you will help sponsor another 45 girls to attend.

In addition to covering camper sponsorships, a small portion of the funds raised through this campaign will be used for general operating expenses of the camp. And as our long-term goal is to replicate the Tools & Tiaras camp model in different cities across the country, we hope that with your extraordinary generosity we will exceed our campaign goal and have additional funds to allocate toward our future expansion plans.

"When you hand a young girl a tool and a tiara, you're handing her confidence, independence, and power." - Tools & Tiaras

It has been proven that girls who participate in programs like Tools & Tiaras are more likely to be leaders. They take an active role in decision making, they don't shy away from difficult challenges, and they have total confidence in themselves.

By supporting our campaign you not only become an invaluable part of our movement of change, you are making a tangible impact by helping to forge strong girls. Could there be a more important and soul-filling return on your investment?

To underscore how critical our Tools & Tiaras work is to the future, we echo the words of Elizabeth Skidmore, business representative/organizer at the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and co-founder of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues… "We’ll know our mission is accomplished when little girls can find Bob the Builder and also Brenda the Builder."

Every great construction project starts with a solid foundation. Thank you for fortifying ours with your generous support.

In sisterhood, Judaline and the Tools & Tiaras Crew

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