11.28.11 / Category: Impact - Grant Awards

Helping Others Take Flight: Grant Profile

At University of Richmond to hear lecture by Half the Sky co-author, Sheryl WuDunn

Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.  Roger Tory Peterson

In my yard, I have several birdfeeders.  They were always more for decoration or for my children than for me, although I did try my best to keep them full.  Today, I see them differently, and here’s why.

Recently, I attended a lecture by Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of Half The Sky, the book that inspired the Circle of Sisterhood movement.  The lecture was at the University of Richmond, and I was invited to attend by the Delta Gamma chapter.  Ginny Carroll, our Circle of Sisterhood founder, was there, as was fellow Grants Division team member and UR administrator, Alison Keller.

WuDunn shared a story of a missionary who worked in a particular village and helped provide for the basic needs of its people.  When this missionary came home, she had been deeply impacted by her experience.  Soon thereafter, she was in her back yard and noticed the birdfeeder there.  She was struck by the observation that she had been born into a family that is not only able to provide the basic necessities for one another and more, but they could even to provide food and shelter for the wild birds.  She was humbled, and thankful, and motivated to further action.

Returning home from this inspiring lecture, I was drawn to a decorative birdhouse in my foyer. It says HOPE. It brought to mind the Circle of Sisterhood’s mission of removing the educational barriers for girls and women, uplifting them from poverty and oppression.

And I thought of Ronah Kanyama.

Ronah is a unique young woman.  She is 24 years old, divorced, and raising two children.  She dropped out of school, but returned in 2009 after KnowledgeBeat started working with her village, Masasabi.   Ronah won the 2010

KnowledgeBeat/Masasabi Science Fair and attended the KnowledgeBeat 2010 Girls Empowerment Camp.  Ronah scored 406/500 on her grade 9 exams, among the highest marks for girls in the entire district of Itezhi Tezhi.  The Circle of Sisterhood’s third grant, awarded in March 2011 to KnowledgeBeat, allows Ronah to attend high school.  After high school, Ronah would like to become a nurse.

In her culture, sending a girl to high school might seem as unnecessary as feeding the wild birds in that missionary’s backyard.  But metaphorically, enabling a young bird named Ronah to take flight may help an entire village to soar.

Beth Searcy is a volunteer for the Circle of Sisterhood, primarily in the Grants Division. She is the International President of Delta Gamma Fraternity and Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Mary Washington. She resides in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and has already bought copies of Half the Sky and birdfeeders for several friends as gifts for the upcoming holiday season.