In June, 12 students from UT traveled to Mboyene, Senegal, to help break ground on a new school building for children in a growing community. The trip participants were members of UT’s Panhellenic Council, the governing body of the university’s 13 Panhellenic sorority chapters.
This is the second school build that UT’s Panhellenic Council has participated in with buildOn and the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.
In summer 2016, students traveled to Malawi, in southeast Africa, to help break ground on a school build after their planned trip to Haiti was cancelled due to political unrest in the country. That year they raised $40,000 to help pay for the school build and educational initiatives. This year the group again raised $40,000 through various philanthropic events and donations.
The village of Mboyene previously had one buildOn school block and one temporary classroom made of sticks and grass. More than 150 students were taking classes within the space. The second school block, which includes two new classrooms, helps ensure that every child has a seat in a proper classroom.
“Promoting access to education, particularly for women and girls, and working with communities to remove barriers to education was the primary point of this trek,” said Jennifer Pierce, assistant director in the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life. Pierce attended both trips.
With the help of buildOn staff and tradesmen from the community, the students assisted in various aspects of the build.
“We performed a variety of tasks like digging out the foundation, making bricks, digging the latrines, and moving supplies like water, stones, and dirt to make concrete,” said Pierce.
While a portion of their day was focused on building the school, students also participated in workshops and spent time in the community.
“One day the students got to learn how to make couscous and a second day we got to learn about the wrestling culture which is incredibly popular,” said Pierce. “But the most impactful workshop for me was a ‘gender talk’ with women from the surrounding villages. With our translators, we were able to ask questions back and forth of each other and learn more about how women live in both countries.”
While no plans are set for a trip for summer 2019, Pierce said that the Panhellenic Council will continue to raise funds for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation during the upcoming academic year.
Ginny Carroll, founder of the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation, will speak on campus at 6:30 p.m. September 20 in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building Room 51 to discuss the importance of the education of women around the world. Members of the trek team will also be on hand to discuss their experience.
Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365, email@example.com)