MU women head to Nicaragua to help build community school

Jun 16, 2014

Students stand outside of the current school in Elena Maria, Nicaragua. Twelve women from the Circle of Sisterhood chapter at the University of Missouri visited the village from June 7 to June 14, 2014 to build a new schoolhouse.
Credit MU Circle of Sisterhood

The Senior Coordinator of MU Greek Life, Julie Drury, describes the Circle of Sisterhood foundation as a way to bring all women together for a common purpose.

“The focus is on awareness…trying to show the women on campus how their experience is not the norm compared to women around the world,” Drury said.

Recently 12 sorority women from the MU Circle of Sisterhood chapter started construction on a new schoolhouse in Elena Maria, a rural village in the Chinandega District of Nicaragua. The group helped make the school a reality by raising $55,000 and partnering with national nonprofit organization buildOn.

The Circle of Sisterhood foundation is a national nonprofit organization that aims to breakdown educational barriers for females all over the world. In order to do so, the foundation utilizes the power of sorority women across the country. The MU Panhellenic Association, the governing body of the sixteen sororities at MU, adopted the foundation as their philanthropy almost two years ago.

The women working on behalf of Circle of Sisterhood to build the Elena Maria school joined buildOn staff members on Saturday, June 7 to begin the physical startup of the school. They will return to the U.S. on Saturday, June 14 and buildOn will complete the project.

“Within the next four months they’ll have a schoolhouse with floors. Right now it’s just a dirt room that really is impacted by the rainy season in Nicaragua, so that really limits how much education the students get there,” Drury said.

Women from the Circle of Sisterhood chapter at the University of Missouri pose for a photo outside of a hotel in Chinandega, Nicaragua on Sunday June 8, 2014. After stopping to take the picture, the women traveled to Elena Maria, Nicaragua to start work on building a new school.
Credit MU Circle of Sisterhood

According to the MU Circle of Sisterhood chapter’s Facebook page, there are currently 40 students enrolled at the Elena Maria school. Forty five percent of those students are girls. Before Circle of Sisterhood committed to building a new school, Drury said the village had to guarantee that at least 50 percent of the new school’s students would be females.

With that condition in mind, buildOn staff members began work with the Elena Maria community to make sure the logistics and technical aspects of the project were handled. Skyler Badenoch, Vice President of New Business Development for buildOn, said the organization has had staff in the country since 2001 and has built more than 110 schools.  He explains that the sustainability of their program is rooted in their relationship with the local government.

“In Nicaragua there are local ministries of education in every city. And so we work with the mayors’ officers and the ministries of education to identify villages and communities that need primary school infrastructure,” Badenoch said.

The local government also provides teachers and establishes the curriculum for the potential new schools. Badenoch said the ministry of education in Chinandega identified the Elena Maria school as a possible new project. Then they asked buildOn to further investigate whether the community would be interested in replacing the current school with a new one.

“What we do is we organize the community and we work together with the community who develops a leadership team of six men and six women who help drive the project to completion and get other people in the community to volunteer,” Badenoch said.

He said this group of people will continue to work on the school and ensure the project’s sustainability after the MU Circle of Sisterhood women leave. The project will be finished in about ten to twelve weeks. When the school is complete, the ministry of education and the local mayor’s office will run it.

Badenoch said buildOn’s partnership with Circle of Sisterhood has been an advantage due to both organizations’ common goals of improving education conditions around the world.

Furthermore, he says he is continually impressed with the quality the Circle of Sisterhood foundation brings to their partnership. He said the organization’s high standard starts with its founder, Ginny Carroll.

“She’s an incredibly dynamic woman with a wonderful vision of engaging sorority women and making a difference in people's education in the developing world and all around the world, in the U.S. and overseas,” Badenoch said.

When the MU Circle of Sisterhood members return from Elena Maria, Drury says they will continue to fundraise and build awareness for the foundation’s cause.