Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the
– Nelson Mandela
About three years ago, a mentor and role model of mine, Katie Nobbe, introduced me to the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.
The mission of the foundation is to leverage the collective influence and resources of sorority women to help remove educational barriers for girls and women facing poverty and oppression around the world.
To bring this cause to life on Indiana University’s campus, a team of Panhellenic women and I embarked upon the Circle of Sisterhood Trek with buildOn, an international nonprofit organization that connects U.S. volunteers with communities in developing nations to build schools and provide teachers, school supplies, and other necessities for school maintenance.
Trek is not a vacation, a cultural tour of poverty, a necessary labor for school construction, or a charity. Trek is an act of solidarity to live, work, and learn together with our international community. Before the
school is built, the buildOn project requires all community members to sign a covenant that requires boys and girls attend the new school in equal numbers. Trek volunteers celebrate the role and work of women and model gender-balance.
The Panhellenic community collectively raised $40,000 for buildOn. A team composed of me, eight other undergraduates (Adison Allinder, Annie Delehanty, Destiny Hibbs, Reilly Huelsmann, Maddi Lasson, Jordan Morgan, Amber Reigard, and Tarin Tischler) and two advisors (Sarah Cohen and Abby Ford) traveled to the community of El Toro, Nicaragua for an unforgettable experience.
Our buildOn Trek Team was phenomenal, especially our Trek coordinator Daniela, who educated us on empowering others; our two translators, Roberto and Ruth, who helped us engage in impactful conversations with the community at all times; Antonio, who shared unforgettable stories about Nicaragua’s history; and Sparling, who was a part of the first Circle of Sisterhood Trek Team.
We lived with host families who took each and every one of us in their homes with infinite love; worked on the construction site with shovels and pick axes side-by-side with our host mothers, fathers, sisters and
brothers; participated in daily cultural workshops – including a chat specifically with the women of the community – and together, reflected on our experiences daily. Our team developed a sense of responsibility to
share our experiences with others to multiply our impact and spread the word about the importance of education.
One memorable afternoon on the Trek, our team visited the dilapidated, temporary school structure in the community, where we met the bright-eyed children who will be attending the new school.
This visit left the biggest impact on me personally. Seeing firsthand how thrilled these loving children were about the new school gave me hope, because I know that the single most important way to empower a community is through education, and that with the power of education, anything can be possible. I think back to the brave kids in the classroom who told us about their favorite subjects, and what they wanted to be when they grew up—teachers, lawyers, doctors, and nurses. I hope that with their education, they can achieve anything they set their mind to. I hope that one day, they can be the change they wish to see in the world.
This entire project would not have been possible without my incredible support system and I am so thankful for those who donated their effort, time, and money along the way.
Check out photos of our Trek and our school’s progress.