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Meet a few more Trek Participants!

Not-all-those-who-wanderEarlier this week, we introduced you to the  first of our group of women about to embark on an experience that will surely change them and the lives they touch while traveling.

The group participating in The Trek is 15 women strong. They’ll travel to Senegal next week, live with host families and break ground on a school that will educate and empower the children in that village. Here are some more introductions: 

Ginny CarrollGinny Carroll

Western Kentucky University

Alpha Xi Delta

As the Founder of the Circle of Sisterhood, I felt a responsibility to be part of the first Trek we make to break ground on a school funded by us. It will be indescribable to see our vision become reality in this way.I believe I’ll be traveling with women who represent the best of what sorority is, we’ll meet the people of the village we are supporting and stand beside them as we break ground on their new school. I have been to England, Curaçao, Mexico and Aruba.

Megan O’Brien


University of Delaware

Delta Gamma

I wanted to go on the Trek because I feel it would be an amazing opportunity to travel across the world and truly learn about its culture and community, all while supporting Circle of Sisterhood’s mission. As a Human Services major and a 2014 Teach for America Corps Members, I am passionate about the movement for educational equity and because Circle of Sisterhood is our Panhellenic Philanthropy, I am very excited to get more involved in the movement while representing UD’s Panhellenic community. I have been to Canada twice and to Mexico once but never outside North America.

Katie Andrews


University of Alabama

Alpha Delta Pi


I have always had a passion for service. Even as a child, I would dream of traveling the world and making a difference somehow. When it was mentioned that Alabama was in the drawing for a chance to go, our Panhellenic Advisor asked me if I would like to go if we were selected. I, of course, eagerly said yes. She then proceeded to tell me about Half the Sky and now my passion for helping these women has grown tremendously through reading the stories of these women. I am most excited about the voice this experience will give me. It’s one thing to read about other people’s trips but now I can come back to Alabama and share with my experience to help fuel others’ passion.Last summer, I traveled to San Ignacio, Belize to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Belize has the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS in Central America and most is due to ignorance.

Mary Kate Slone


University of Kentucky

Kappa Kappa Gamma

I wanted to be a part of the Trek because ever since I learned about Circle of Sisterhood two years ago at SEPC I knew I wanted to help out. When I heard about the Trek I knew this was a way I could help out women less fortunate than us. Being a part of UK’s Panhellenic community has brought me so many wonderful opportunities and I feel that this is my chance to give back.I am most excited about spending the week in a completely different culture and learning about what life is like for the women we are helping. I have been to Mexico, some Caribbean islands and the Dominican Republic.

Paola Rivera


University of Missouri

Kappa Kappa Gamma


Over the last semester, Mizzou Panhellenic Association has been truly inspired by the book Half the Sky. The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation has touched our hearts as a group and specifically, for me, instilled a passion to educate those around me about the oppression of women worldwide. The Trek will allow me to gain more insights to the lives these women live, while also giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I am excited to experience this with with a group of women that is just as passionate about changing the lives of others as I am. I hope to return home with a sense of humility through appreciating the experience to the fullest and a sense of hope in surrounding myself with these Panhellenic women that are willing and able to change the world around them.I was born in Guatemala, so I have visited family there and have also traveled to the Dominican Republic on a volunteer trip.
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Meet a few of our Trek Participants!

CoS_TheTrek_Logo_Dft3-01 2July 17th begins the adventure of a lifetime as 13 college students and two alumnae represent the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation by traveling to Senegal to break ground on a school to educate girls in rural Africa. It’s the end of a journey of raising more than $40,000 but the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for these women. We’ll highlight these special women over the next 2 weeks, today, please meet Lynlee, Kristen, Riley, Emily & Erin:

Lynlee Jackson Jackson Western Kentucky University

Chi Omega

I am Lynlee Jackson and I’m from Western Kentucky University where I hold the position of Panhellenic President! I also am a Chi Omega! When first hearing about the Trek there wasn’t one second that I thought otherwise about going! When the opportunity opened up I just knew that I had to go! I immediately knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would be crazy to pass up! I think I am most excited about making a change in Senegal! I am so excited to be able to make “home” for these women a better place. I am also excited about our team of women making a difference. I have three brothers and all my life I’ve heard that girls can’t do what guys do and this is our chance to prove everyone wrong!I hope to gain a new appreciation for people. I think this will be a very humbling experience and will just be another opportunity for me to be thankful for all I have. I am so excited to learn anything and everything about the Circle of Sisterhood and knowing that I have helped be the change we want to see will be awesome. I have never traveled abroad, visiting only the Bahamas previously for vacations, so this will be a new experience for me.
Kristen KoniewiczKoniewicz

University of Illinois

Kappa Delta

For years now, I have wanted to make an impact abroad. I knew that this opportunity was exactly what I was looking for, a once in a lifetime trip with women from around the country who I could get to meet, learn from, and make a difference with. Africa always seemed like a place where this could all occur, but the plans never fell into place until the Trek. I cannot wait to be submerged in another culture and learn from the people of Senegal.I am most excited to get to meet and work with the Senegalese people. I have never been surrounded by another culture, and I can’t wait to live with my host family. I know that there is a lot to learn from another culture, and I hope we can teach them things about our culture as well. I hope that this experience speaks to me and motivates me to come back and teach others about Circle of Sisterhood Foundation and what I have learned. I used to be in a traveling choir group and we traveled to Italy together in 2007 and England in 2010.
Riley ShipmanShipman

University of South Carolina

Kappa Kappa Gamma

As Sorority Council president and Circle of Sisterhood committee chair at the University of South Carolina, I am so incredibly passionate about the Foundation. As soon as I heard about the Trek, I knew that I wanted to be USC’s representative. I so strongly believe in empowering girls through education and cannot wait to see the impact that sorority women are making throughout the world.I am most excited about staying with our host families and learning about the culture in Senegal. I can’t wait to interact with the Senegalese people and meet the children who will be benefiting from the school. I hope to gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures. I know this is going to be a life-changing experience and that I’m going to be exposed to so many things that I probably never would have without the Trek. I was born in Montreal, Canada and I traveled to Costa Rica during my sophomore year of high school.
Emily Christensen ChristensenUniversity of Colorado

Delta Delta Delta

When the University of Colorado’s Panhellenic Association announced that they were going to pay for one girl from our school to go to Senegal to build a school I jumped at the opportunity. When I’m done with school I plan to join the Peace Corps or just travel abroad in order to educate women on things that affect our environment, such as overpopulation issues (and birth control) and empower them to start their own businesses so my values definitely line up with Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.There are definitely a few things I’m excited about when it comes to this Trek. First, I’m excited to participate in a homestay – I’ve never done one before and I know they’re extremely powerful experiences. Second, I’m excited to spend time in Senegal and fall in love with the people there! I hope I can gain everything that I can from this experience; a better understanding of a new culture, new friends, and something powerful to bring home with me. Last summer I spent over a month in Kenya volunteering for a school for girls in one of the largest slums in the world. When I was in high school I traveled to Mexico to build a house in Piedras Negras.
Erin Kelly
KellyGeorgia Tech

Alpha Chi Omega

Last summer I studied abroad in Peru and lived with a local family. My host family was amazingly welcoming and my host mother, Señora Alvarez, was one of the most inspiring women I know. She invited me to come to work with her and meet her work friends. Not knowing what to expect, I agreed. We arrived at a home in a rundown area of the city. Señora Alvarez introduced me to about 15 young girls between the ages of 10-16. The first girl I saw was about 12 years old and was breast feeding a young baby. Most of these girls had children resulting from rape and all of them had been abused. Señora Alvarez teaches these girls how to sew so that they have a practical skill to use to support themselves. Before this experience, I could have defined Circle of Sisterhood but the power of the mission hit home for me when I walked through that door. When I learned about The Trek at the Southeastern Panhellenic Conference I felt called to be a part of it because I wanted to truly be an active sister in the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. I want to use my talents and blessings to give women around the world the hope of a better life.I have always been fascinated by new and different cultures and I think that The Trek will be an opportunity for me to learn about a new culture that is very different than anything I have experienced to date. I look forward to learning about the community and forming relationships with the local people. I believe this will be a unique opportunity to get to know Panhellenic leaders from across the country.This trip will be inspiration to continue to motivate sorority women to help communities such as the one I have the opportunity to be a part of for a week. I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world through school trips, study abroad programs and with my family. Some of the countries that I have traveled to include: Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, China, and Peru.
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Could I have imagined? A message from our Founder.

If a girl follows the path laid down by poverty, she’ll leave school and enter marriage.  As a girl mother, an unskilled worker, and an uneducated citizen, she’ll miss out on the opportunity to reach her full human potential.  And each individual tragedy, multiplied by millions of girls, will contribute to a much larger downward spiral for her nation and the world. – Lloyd, Cynthia. (2009). New Lessons: The Power of Educating Adolescent Girls.

Could I have imagined that in less than three years the Circle of Sisterhood would…

  • Help remove barriers to education for girls in 12 countries?
  • Fund a school-build project in Africa?
  • Take a trek team of college women representing 10 different sororities and 13 different campuses, as well as an alumnae donor, to Africa to break ground on a school?
  • Unite sorority communities on more than 150 campuses to create awareness about the global issues affecting women and raise funds to help educate girls?
  • Have over 500 individual donors?
  • Receive support from more than 20 alumnae organizations?
  • Raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars?

Or could I have imagined the byproducts of this global humanitarian effort by sorority women?

Improved social capital for participating sorority communities, including:

  • Affirmation from several Vice Presidents of Student Affairs appreciating the global awareness created within their sorority communities.
  • A message from a university president indicating his pleasure in his sorority community’s involvement in this relevant and important global work.
  • Campus fraternity/sorority advisors expressing unsurpassed community unity because their women are standing together around an important global cause.
  • Women – alumnae and collegiate – have found a renewed sense of purpose in their sorority membership.
  • We’ve uncovered a means to involve general sorority members in the community in a significant and meaningful way.
  • Sorority women are teaching those they influence about important global issues.
  • Organized alumnae organizations (ie. Alumnae Panhellenics) are engaging with college sorority communities in new ways.

Three years ago, I was inspired to act because I am an educated woman and because I believe educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. I also believe schooling can be an impetus for girls to stand up against injustice. And, as a sorority woman committed to inspiring other women to realize their potential, how could I sit by when so much human potential was being wasted? So I asked a large group of sorority women to help, and the Circle of Sisterhood was born.

Could I have imagined that so much would be accomplished?  No. And yes.  We did not know what it would look like, but we were certain the sorority community would step up.  We were certain that a community of women already dedicated to education and altruism would answer the call.  We took a chance that the Circle of Sisterhood would be viewed as a compliment to the already very important domestic philanthropic work of ALL sororities.

Clearly, the impact in three short years demonstrates the power of the sorority community, and educated women, to stand up against injustice – together.  What I have witnessed transcends letters and umbrella organizations.  Sorority women are having an significant impact on the movement to educate girls around the world. And we can do so much more.

Imagine this:

  • What if every sorority community on college campuses across the U.S., numbering more than 600, got involved?
  • What if every sorority woman, of which there are over 5 million, gave or raised $100 per year ($8 per month) to this effort?
  • What if the friends and family members of every sorority woman gave or raised just $10 a year?

Sorority women are changing the world.  When EVERY sorority woman gets involved in this work, we will transform the world.

Our mission is to “leverage the collective influence of sorority women to raise financial resources for entities around the world that are removing educational barriers for girls and women facing poverty and oppression.” We want all girls, everywhere, to be given the opportunity that we all have to achieve education.

To do that, we need every sister to step up.  Will you?

One World. One Sisterhood.

Ginny Carroll

In addition to establishing the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, Carroll operates her own consultancy and frequently speaks, coaches and trains on topics surrounding professional skill development, volunteer training, team building and strategic planning. She is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and when not traveling, her home is Indianapolis, Indiana, and she is an Alpha Xi Delta.

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Grantee Spotlight: GoodWeave

GoodWeave girlImagine being a 13-year-old girl in Afghanistan. Your family makes and sells rugs as it’s only source of income, and in order for your family to make enough rugs, you must stay home and weave instead of attending school with your brothers. You weave nearly 14 hours a day, without making any wages, and rarely leave your home or interact with people outside of your family. When you ask about opportunities for education like your brothers have, you are told your duty is to your family and that school is not an option.

One day, you meet a woman who works for an organization called GoodWeave. She tells you that the mission of her organization is to help girls like you obtain education and to stop you from being exploited. The people from GoodWeave offer to talk with your Dad about the importance of providing you with education. He adamantly refuses at first–but eventually they convince him that you should have some home schooling with a female educator from the area. Soon, not only are you receiving education, but 13 of your female family members have begun attending these classes as well. You have now changed the future of your entire family. This is the story of Basma, a young girl who has benefitted from GoodWeave.

The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation is proud to announce that GoodWeave is one of our Spring 2013 grant recipients. The $5,000 we are able to give to the organization will allow GoodWeave take 50 girls like Basma and give them the opportunity to overcome educational barriers and change their futures. GoodWeave seeks to provide

…Emancipation, education, rehabilitation, and shelter to young victims and preventing children from entering the workforce by offering schooling for at-risk children to attack and eliminate the cyclical problems of illiteracy and poverty created when children are forced to work rather than receive an education.

GoodWeave is already well established in Nepal and India. This grant will help the growth of the organization’s newest branch in Afghanistan. This will aid women and children throughout Afghanistan, where the literacy rate for girls is a mere 13%. Because of the money raised across the country by our Circle of Sisterhood campuses, we will be able to aid GoodWeave as they aim to provide increased educational opportunities for girls and women in Afghanistan.  Thank you for your continued support that allows Basma, and countless other girls like her change their lives for the better.

KaitlinKirkHeadshotThis blog was written by Kaitlin Kirk. Kaitlin is a volunteer with the Circle of Sisterhood, working primarily with the marketing committee. She currently serves as the Coordinator of Greek Affairs at the University of Alabama Birmingham.  Kaitlin is a proud member of Sigma Kappa Sorority.  

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Campus Spotlight: Western Kentucky University

WKU Panhellenic Association’s 2013 Executive Officers.

WKU Panhellenic Association’s 2013 Executive Officers.

This past year the Panhellenic Association of Western Kentucky University continued to develop their support and advocacy of the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation on our campus. Our goal is to make our Panhellenic women educated about the mission of the Circle of Sisterhood. We also hope to encourage them to become as passionate about Panhellenic’s philanthropic cause as they are about their individual organization’s philanthropy. By continuing to host our Panhellenic Pride week in the fall semester and piloting new fundraisers during the spring semester, Circle of Sisterhood continues to grow in our fraternity and sorority community.

Sister sororities Sigma Kappa & Alpha Delta Pi teamed up to host a popsicle stand in the center of campus to raise money for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.

Sister sororities Sigma Kappa & Alpha Delta Pi teamed up to host a popsicle stand in the center of campus to raise money for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.

During the fall semester, WKU hosts a Panhellenic Pride week for sorority women. During the week, events are hosted each day including a bake sale, a photo booth, a dine and donate night and a viewing of the “Half the Sky” documentary in the auditorium of our university center. In addition, WKU’s Panhellenic Association created “Panhellenic Loves the Tops” buttons to sell during Panhellenic Pride week and throughout the rest of the year where all the proceeds from the buttons go to the Circle of Sisterhood. “Tops” is short for Hilltoppers, our campus mascot.

Panhellenic women enjoyed the photo booth during Panhellenic Pride Week at WKU!

Panhellenic women enjoyed the photo booth during Panhellenic Pride Week at WKU!

During this past spring semester, small fundraisers were planned to raise money for Circle of Sisterhood during WKU’s Greek Week. A bake sale was planned where every sorority prepared a certain dessert to contribute and in addition, a drink sale was hosted during the tug o’ war competition, and all sororities donated waters, sodas and Gatorades.

Every year our Panhellenic Association pairs up different organizations to be sister sororities for the upcoming school year. This past spring sister sororities were encouraged to co-sponsor small fundraisers to benefit the Circle of Sisterhood. The sisters of Sigma Kappa & Alpha Delta Pi teamed up to host a popsicle stand outside of the university center during an afternoon.

Our Panhellenic Association at WKU is extremely excited to have our Panhellenic President, Lynlee Jackson, traveling to Senegal this summer to help the Circle of Sisterhood and their efforts in building a school for women there.  WKU’s Panhellenic women look forward to the many great things to come as we continue our efforts to support the Circle of Sisterhood foundation. We cannot wait to hear firsthand from Lynlee about the difference that is being made by the Circle of Sisterhood and the sorority women that support it!

Bio pictureThis week’s campus spotlight contributor is Lilly Davis. Lilly will be a senior in the fall at Western Kentucky University where she is pursuing a degree in Strategic Marketing. Additionally she is serving as the Philanthropy Director for WKU’s Panhellenic Association, and as an officer in the Epsilon Delta chapter of Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She is a proud sorority woman and Hilltopper!



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Encouraging Philanthropy in Children

The Duct Tape Store created by a 10 year-old girl supporting the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.

The Duct Tape Store created by a 10 year-old girl supporting the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.

My daughter, Avery, and I sat this morning pooling change and dollar bills for a school fundraiser. She was insistent that I match her giving (something we do with her savings account and other good financial choices) and I sat and thought “Oh boy…look what you’ve created.” A little background might be necessary…Avery, a fourth-grader, is 10 going on 35. She’s wise and caring, smart and often sassy. All of these traits were illustrated during this morning activity.

My husband, Scott, and I have tried to teach her to ‘help when you are able’ because we have been helped ourselves in so many ways. We’ve tried to model the way through our actions – be they serving others through volunteering or giving financially when able. Circle of Sisterhood has certainly been a strong influence on Avery given my role on the board. She frequently sees me working on the Foundation’s administrative work, travelling to a conference or attending board meetings. I most enjoy talking to her about our grants, grantees and what the funds we’re raising will do for others.

I feel blessed that my work with CofS is giving Avery a window into the concepts of philanthropy and service and, perhaps even more importantly, insight into her privilege as a girl growing up in the United States. It wasn’t until this past Christmas that I realized she was really paying attention to what we were doing — that the paper doll cutouts and stamping and sealing of envelopes she’s helped with have left an impression.

On Christmas morning Avery proudly gave me the most beautiful gift – $52.17, all in change and all for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. She had been the lucky recipient of her Nana’s ‘change jar’ contents over Thanksgiving and while she had been evasive when I’d asked about taking it to the bank for her, I didn’t see this coming. Her card stated that she knew the money would help girls in Africa through our school build more than it would help her and she wanted CofS to have it. I was shocked, humbled and proud. This was a selfless act by a child who wasn’t always the picture of selflessness.

What has followed since is inspiring — she came home from church with a dollar bill and had been instructed to use it to help someone else. It landed in the CofS bank account with some matching funds. She went to a book-signing where the proceeds went to cancer research and was triggered to create a duct-tape store (any of you living through the ‘you can make anything out of duct tape craze can appreciate this) to raise funds for CofS. She set a goal of $20 after expenses and raised more than that with her door-to-door visits and generous friends. It was quite an undertaking – and 100% her own.

I share this not to brag about my daughter as I know others in our extended Foundation family have similar stories. Rather I offer this to remind us that the work we do for the Foundation, in any capacity, is making an impact and is internalized by others. College students, alumnae, friends and family – even the youngest girls in our circles of influence – are being impacted. In turn they are making decisions that will change the world. They are owning their role in improving the lives of others and advancing the Foundation’s work through acts of service and philanthropy large and small. And if this means I will forever be matching any gift Avery gives, regardless of charity, I will gladly do so. I’m ever grateful for the Foundation’s influence on my daughter; what a gift it has given us in shaping her view of ‘other’ and her role in – and responsibility to – the world.

This blog was contributed by Sue Kraft Fussell, a proud member of the Board of Directors for the Foundation, she has been involved in the organization since its inception. She is a Delta Gamma alumna. If you have an idea for encouraging philanthropy in children, we’d love to hear it! Feel free to post on Facebook or send via email to blog(at)circleofsisterhood.org. 

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