09.26.11 / Category: Volunteer Spotlights

You Don’t Choose Your Birthplace…

“You never know where you could have been born”. I heard this statement on a regular basis throughout my childhood. My parents recited it so my siblings and I would begin to understand we were lucky. They wanted us to recognize the gifts we had been given in this world and that it was our responsibility to give back to others.

This statement fostered a sense of service throughout my life. By the time I was in high school I had traveled on five service trips domestically and had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador to help in a local community. I jumped at the opportunity and began gathering supplies to bring with me. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured bringing toys, soccer balls and books could benefit the community.

I was also able to bring scholarship money for a local student, raised by my hometown community. I met the scholarship recipient, Maricela, in one of my first days in El Salvador and we had an instant connection. She told me about her dreams: long-term she wanted to see the Eifel Tower, travel the world, get married and have a family. First, she wanted to graduate from high school.

She knew that if she could graduate from high school, then she would be able to support her family in the future. She was currently living with her mother, aunt and her cousin who is deaf and mute.  Her father had left her family early in her life and she never knew him. The idea of graduating from high school was a novelty in her community. However, she was determined to accomplish this goal. She wanted to do it not just for herself, but for the betterment of her family’s livelihood.

Thankfully, I was able to provide her with his opportunity – the opportunity for a better life because of the education she would be able to receive with a small contribution from my hometown. She graduated the following December in the first graduating high school class in her community. We still keep in touch and she is working and able to provide for her family.

A few months later I graduated from high school and went through sorority recruitment. The sororities kept mentioning service as one of their values and this was one of the reasons I am now a sorority woman. However, I couldn’t help but feel that we could do more. I had the opportunity work as a traveling consultant for my fraternal organization and this experience opened my eyes to the resources and support we have as sorority women.

When I heard about the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation I was excited. We, as sorority women, have an enormous  responsibility to give back. We have been given the opportunity to receive an education, thanks in part to some of our founders who stood up for women in education in the late 1800s. The founders of the sorority movement gave a voice to women everywhere in hopes that we could all achieve our dreams.

It is now our turn to rise up and give a voice to the voiceless. There is so much devastation happening in the world to women and girls. Regardless of where were born, where we went to college or what organization we affiliated with, we are one sisterhood. A sisterhood of women. It is now our turn to stand as one and unite for the rights of women and girls everywhere.

This may seem impossible, to help ignite change for women in the world, but we can do it. If we each take one step forward and spread the message, give ourselves, our time and money to this organization we CAN change the world.  If you don’t believe me, then read Half the Sky and pass it along to someone else or simply drop a copy in an airport waiting area. Consider beginning a book club in your sorority or alumnae chapter or Panhellenic Council. Hold an event to raise money for the Circle of Sisterhood.

If anything, start talking. I guarantee you’ll be amazed at the amount of women that will listen and be a part of the change. So I encourage you to join me and the Circle of Sisterhood to start using our voices, because every time you use your voice you are giving another woman her voice. So speak up and speak out.

This blog was contributed by Hilary Holmes. Holmes is a volunteer for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. She went to school at Ohio Wesleyan University and joined Kappa Alpha Theta. She became and Educational Leadership Consultant (ELC) for the sorority and traveled full-time in her first year and colonized a chapter at the University of Tampa in her second year. She is currently working at Dartmouth College in their development office.