My Small Idea
The pandemic was a very isolating and polarizing time, and more than ever, self-care was needed. Girl Well was needed.
I have always had a heart for changemaking. Growing up, I saw a lot of homelessness and always wanted to help the undersheltered community, but I was unsure how I, an individual person, could tackle a social problem that felt much bigger than me.
During the summer of 2020, I completed an online program that helps teenage girls understand the makings of a business. Most of my classmates chose to explore a for-profit venture, but I knew I wanted to explore the idea of a nonprofit.
The program was helpful because I found my niche audience: teenage girls experiencing homelessness. I knew I wanted to focus on that particular population because, while I did not understand their social circumstances, I knew the societal pressures teenage girls face. And such experiences often go unacknowledged by initiatives that support undersheltered communities.
Starting Girl Well
I always knew the Girl Well kits would consist of physical items, but I decided to focus on self-care after realizing how impactful it was in my own journey toward self-love.
I began researching ways different people practiced self-care, and it clicked for me that many of the proposed practices were inequitable. Many people, particularly 13–18-year-old teenage girls experiencing homelessness, do not have the means to purchase expensive skin care items or take multiple days off school or work to decompress. At that moment, I knew I had to find a way to make self-care more accessible.
After the program, in August 2020, I spoke to my parents about bringing Girl Well to fruition. Together, we were able to come up with the mission of GirI Well: to distribute self-care items to undersheltered teenage girls and remind them how truly valuable they are. We knew we could accomplish this through the lens of holistic wellness.
I wanted everything in the kits to offer mental, emotional, or physical wellness. For example, mental wellness in the kits looks like self-care books, which help the recipient process life, struggles, hopes, and joys in a tangible way.
Physical wellness comes to fruition through shampoo and conditioner, lip balm, fuzzy socks, shirts, and more. Physical wellness is the most practiced version of self-care, yet its power is underestimated. Finally, emotional wellness shows up in the kits through a hotline card and affirmation note. Having resources such as access to hotlines is lifesaving.
Becoming a Changemaker
On August 17, 2020, I dropped off the first 60 kits to A Place Called Home, a youth and community center in South Central Los Angeles, California. The kits got such a positive response that I was requested to come to speak to the girls in the GirlPower program about the importance of self-care and how I started my business at a young age.
At the time, I was 16 years old; today, I still keep up with many of the girls I spoke to that day and have had the honor of watching them achieve some of their wildest dreams. Many of the girls were the first to graduate high school in their family and some are now the first to go to college.
I have recently begun working with community partners to expand the reach of Girl Well. In December of 2021, I worked with fellow Emerging Visionary Khole Thompson (with the projects Khloe Kares and PeachTree Pads) at her community event and had the opportunity to pass out Girl Well kits on Skid Row. In July of 2022, I had the opportunity to connect with Simmi Sen (with the project Tints Streetwear) to reach girls in Bangladesh, who will be receiving Girl Well Kits shortly.
Most importantly, Girl Well has made a difference. A recipient of the Girl Well kit stated, “Having a Girl Well kit made me feel deserving and entitled to prioritizing all aspects of my health!”
You can be a Changemaker too
The future of Girl Well is bright! I am currently looking to expand Girl Well to every state in America. I want anyone who needs a Girl Well kit to receive one. I am also looking to fill the kits with feminine products.
Two years later, I think back to the young girl who thought she was too small to make a difference in anybody’s life. Being a changemaker means tackling an issue, no matter how large it may seem, and doing your best to combat the problem. I know I cannot solve homelessness on my own. But I do know that I can make self-care more accessible for teenage girls experiencing homelessness.
I also know that there are other people trying to solve homelessness as well, which is why partnerships and relationships with other changemakers are important. And now, here I am, having reached almost one thousand different girls across the globe. If I have the power to be a changemaker, so do you. Let’s make change together!
Kayli Joy Cooper, 17 from Studio City, California, is the founder of “Girl Well,” an organization that aims to make self-care accessible for teenage girls facing displacement, transition, or homelessness. The organization’s carefully curated self-care kits emphasize physical, emotional, and mental wellness, featuring items like fuzzy socks, affirmation cards, self-care books, and hotline information. Kayli Joy is a 2022 Prudential Emerging Visionary. You can learn more about Kayli Joy and her project here.
The Behind the Vision Blog Series is an opportunity for 2022 Prudential Emerging Visionaries to tell their stories, offer their insights into making change, and reflect on their impact journeys in their own words. To apply to the 2023 Prudential Emerging Visionaries program, go here.