Panhellenic Association member to participate in Africa philanthropy 'trek'
Paola Rivera is one of fifteen women to help build 50 percent female schools in Senegal.
Jul. 08, 2013
When the Panhellenic Association’s Paola Rivera ventures to Africa on July 16 to help build a school for girls, she will not only advocate for women’s rights but also further MU awareness of the cause.
“Myself and other collegiate representatives will be participating in the groundbreaking and construction of the school,” Rivera said of her trip to Senegal’s Kaolack region, which is a four hour drive from the capital, Dakar.
Rivera, PHA vice president of risk management and member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, will go to Senegal with 12 other sorority members and two alumnae from various universities — one of whom is Ginny Carroll, founder and chair of the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, PHA’s official philanthropy.
Rivera’s experience will also be enhanced through experiences outside of construction.
“We will be participating in a daily culture and education workshop, and get a look into people’s day to day lives,” she said.
The workshop will provide insight into how the people of Senegal live and, hopefully, provoke discussion and reflection, Rivera said. Rivera will also live with a host family.
MU is one of 13 schools participating in the trip.
“If the university donated a certain amount of money, you are put in a drawing,” Rivera said. “They chose 13 schools at random. Then, each school nominates someone to represent them.”
The Senegal trip, which MU chose Rivera to go on, was created by the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.
Circle of Sisterhood partnered with another education-oriented organization, BuildOn, which builds schools in developing countries.
“When we decided to work with BuildOn, we asked them where there was the most need for a school,” Carroll said. “The answer was Senegal, so we picked Senegal.”
The main goal of this “Trek,” as these trips are known among Circle of Sisterhood members, is to empower women and help them receive an education.
The classrooms of the school have to be at least 50 percent female.
“BuildOn requires that the village sign a covenant that promises to send girls to be educated in equal numbers as boys,” Carroll said of the partner organization’s efforts. “After construction of the school, the BuildOn staff continues to monitor and evaluate the school. Schools constructed by BuildOn are designed to promote gender equality in countries with imbalances between the sexes.”
“The main purpose is to gain insight into what these women are going through,” Rivera said. “A lot of it is seeing the oppression they are exposed to, and additionally, we're giving these women a chance to get an education.”
This trip not only marks the first time BuildOn is sending groups to build schools in Senegal, but also the first time MU has sent a student on a Trek.
“With this new school in Senegal, countless women will have their lives impacted because they will have the chance to receive an education,” Jory Mick, PHA vice president of public relations, said. “This trip will hopefully spark more interest in the Mizzou Panhellenic community and continue to educate Panhellenic members about the power of education and the power of sorority women.”
Rivera said she has a similar goal in mind.
“I’m excited to get firsthand knowledge of what (Circle of Sisterhood) is about, because we’ve been working with them all semester,” she said. “This trip is a chance to see it in real life and to translate this passion into getting people involved.”
Rivera’s Senegal Trek will also be a starting point for the school PHA plans to build in Nicaragua next summer.
“Paola’s stories will be a huge help in other women learning about (the) Circle of Sisterhood Foundation and gaining information on what the Mizzou Trek will be like in June 2014,” Mick said.