It’s all about what’s in the boxes for the Social Issues club. A daily walk through Jefford’s Center or Leavenworth Hall takes students past modest cardboard boxes beaconing to be filled with shoes and clothes.
The club, advised by Professor Lillian Jackson, is made up of four students: Erin Barry, Amanda Nigrello, Lisa Brown and Hillary Ward.
But even with a small number of group members, this club is making an effort to make a huge impact for female students half way across the world.
Jackson picked up an issue of the Rutland Herald in November of 2008 and read about a fellow Castleton professor’s son, Andrew Cunningham.
Cunningham, a Vermont native, had received a community service scholarship to attend Duke University. The Duke Blue Devil, however, was not studying in his dorm room in Durham, N.C. He was in Kenya, Africa participating in an effort to open a school for girls.
Jackson brought the article to the next Social Issues Club meeting and the girls jumped on the idea to help with supporting the female students and the school. The members took action making up boxes and placing them in high-traffic areas in academic buildings on campus. E-mails were disbursed to all Castleton students the week preceding February break asking for donations in the form of either money or clothes.
The group members also set up at Castleton hockey games this past winter and walked around the rink collecting cash donations. The group plans to continue to raise money at spring sporting events and the boxes will remain in all major academic halls.
“I think it’s awesome that they had a small idea and we have a small idea and together it’s become a big idea,” said Nigrello.
For several reasons, only a small percentage of girls in Africa attend school. This school in Kenya is being not only supported by Cunningham and the members of the Castleton Social Issues Club, but it is also being sponsored by Unicef and Johnson & Johnson.
Even the building itself is being done on volunteer time; builders and contractors from both the U.S. and Africa donating their time and services to the cause. The girls attending the school will also learn how to play soccer. A school in Switzerland has donated jerseys, cleats, and soccer balls to the school.
The school, which is scheduled to open in 2010, will accept about 150 girls who will be housed on campus and taught by African teachers trained by Duke University professors. The school will also have a nurse on campus for the students.
“This isn’t only helping the girls,” said Barry. “It’s helping the community.”
The Castleton Social Issues Club has set their goal at $1,000. A lot of the money raised will have to go toward shipping the clothing donations. The cost, according to Jackson, is “enormous.”
The boxes around campus are decorated with photos and a list of desired items to be sent. The group stresses that jeans are not necessary but cleats and shoes are important because they don’t have shoes. Skirts and dresses are asked for- both are a sign of respect.
If the group exceeds their expectations financially, they would like to sponsor a student. But for now, the group is focusing on gathering the necessary items from Castleton students and keeping in touch with Cunningham and making a difference.
“It’s time to make a change now,” said Barry.
The group meets every Monday at noon in Leavenworth room 205. Any items can be deposited in any of the boxes around campus. If any student has any questions or ideas, Barry encourages e-mails through her Castleton campus e-mail.
“We’re willing to go to any length,” said Brown regarding supporting the girls’ school. “I think it’s exciting to help another culture and learn about another culture,” she added.