“Thank you for making us feel like sunshine and rainbows. You made us shine brighter than ever before.”
That was the handwritten card the year 6 girls of a local primary school had made after participating in Ruth Lewis- Jones’ Esteem Designz Program.
Ruth’s faith and God-given passion to see girls valued, to know their worth and be empowered kept her pushing through with the implementation of Esteem Designz, even when it seemed every door was slamming in her face.
Ruth was heartbroken as she witnessed the confronting issues and ever-increasing pressures girls in her youth group faced daily, much like the issues she had faced in school. Just like any other girl they received messages of perfection through the media, constant comparison, peer pressure, unrealistic expectations and were not confident in who they were.
Ruth was determined to follow the passion God had place on her heart and create a solution so the girls would be assured of their identity and better able to face those relentless struggles.
Studying a Bachelor of Design at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW, she knew the power of design to create change, provide direction, meaning and hope in girls’ lives. She decided to use that unique creative approach to meet the needs of girls in our community, giving choice, freedom and skills.
“I wanted to design something that would empower girls through these issues, championing them to know their true identity and be confident in it, providing tools to help them flourish in life.”
In the Christian context, Ruth said, “leaders had the amazing opportunity to focus on the girls’ identity, value and worth in God, revealing their true identity in Christ.”
She didn’t just want to help the girls she knew and cared for; she wanted to affect many more. She wanted anyone to be able to empower girls and reveal the love and faithfulness of God.
Her vision was realised in Esteem Designz Program, a comprehensive resource that gently takes girls through a journey of self-exploration and empowerment, utilising the creative process as a joyful, uplifting and transforming experience.
With the new Bible study, girls are equipped and empowered through God’s word to know their true identity and value in God, and live out their purpose with confidence and trust in Him. This Bible Study is being stocked at Word Bookstore.
Each stage of the program provides another coping strategy and an opportunity for girls to discover more about themselves. With fun, interactive and meaningful design projects, the girls are engaged, equipped and empowered to create value, confidence, worth and self-respect.
Esteem Designz Program is now being implemented in churches, primary and high schools, and welfare and community organisations.
It has been endorsed by pastors, physiologists, teachers, social workers, and school principals and strategic partnerships have been formed with Girls’ Brigade NSW, Youth Vision, Kids Hope Aus, Genr8 Ministries and many more.
After running Esteem Designz Program, the kids pastor of a local church said, “Through creativity the girls were able to shine as individuals and came to recognise that their differences should be celebrated and encouraged not to be a point of criticism or fear. It was a wonderful experience that created a great sense of worth and unity.”
But it was no easy process for Ruth to get the program started. With no finances to embark on the endeavour and receiving endless rejection letters to her funding requests (although all commending her initiative) did not stop her.
She was not interested in all the things she couldn’t do and didn’t have but was determined to make a difference – she knew her God was bigger than any obstacle she faced.
“Every knockdown was just an opportunity for something better – an attitude I hope to impart to the girls through the program. God always had the best plan, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. I learnt to trust God with everything and depend on Him for everything.”
With positive feedback from the programs she was running, Ruth decided to take a leap of faith and get kits professionally produced in China — beautiful gifts for the girls to receive.
That adventure brought many new logistical and linguistic challenges. She went from one factory to another when they stopped production due to the intricacy she required.
But Ruth persisted by the strength of God to produce a resource that would value the girls and be immediately ready for use by facilitators.
She said, “When everything felt like it was crumbling around me, I kept my eyes focused on God, knowing that He is faithful and more than able and that He was the one working everything out. God become my strength when I had none left, my comfort through this lonely process, my shelter and anchor when it all seemed too much, my peace, joy and motivation to continue.
“God was gracious to let me see the abundant fruit Esteem Designz was having, the inspiring comments from participants, and instilled a passion in me to empower creative identity and self-worth in girls.”
It was comments like Jas, a grade 8 participant, that helped motivate Ruth to continue: “I discovered more about myself and learnt to trust and believe in who I am. Through the awesome projects, I now know I can cope with anything and I learnt really helpful ways to deal with life. I also learnt that we all have a purpose and not to put others or ourselves down. I feel much more confident in myself.”
Ruth said, “This has been the hardest and most challenging thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding, meaningful and growth producing. I wouldn’t trade those hardships even if it helps only one girl. In producing Esteem Design Program I have grown in confidence in my God and myself too, experienced strength from God that I could not have imagined, his timely provision, faithfulness and goodness and know without a doubt His calling on my life.
“I am forever grateful for the hardships I faced in school, which God has turned around for my good and His glory, giving me the compassion and the heart to make a difference for others.”
She said, “I really hope more people will join me in this revolution of empowering girls. Take the opportunity to give this gorgeous, meaningful, life-affirming gift today. Anyone can make a difference.