The founders of Girls to Girls were in the eighth grade when they started the group. Today, they are part way through their senior year of high school. To honor their four years of hard work and accomplishments, they have revisited their history. Below, Aubrey Kraabel recounts the group’s story:
I remember our first official meeting in 2011: it was small, held around a friend’s kitchen table.
We were shy and quiet, and several of the moms were there to help us run things. I still have the flyer about leadership and planning that my own mom put together to share. The feeling of the first meeting was overwhelming; our ideas seemed impossible. How could six eighth grade girls help change the value of education over halfway across the world, in Kenya, Africa? However, it is amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish and what a difference we’ve been able to make by all working together.
Originally, we were working with an organization called Maasai Children’s Initiative (MCI). With MCI, we raised $2,000 to start a playground at one of their schools, as well as wrote pen pal letters with many of the girls. In the summer of 2012, four of our group members, including myself, were able to visit both of the schools that MCI was funding. It was an amazing and rewarding experience to meet the girls in person, go to class with them, and see what our money and support was doing. I cannot fully tell you what it felt like to step into a class of students like that, to share a desk with them and discuss geometry and swahili words. The differences between us seemed so great at first, but being there in person broke down the void between us and instead brought out the greatness of our similarities. It is our hope that we can return to Kenya someday with the rest of the group, so that they can share the true experience of meeting the students and exploring Kenya.
Unfortunately, not long after our trip, MCI developed financial challenges and could not maintain their nonprofit status. Because of this, we began to research other organizations that supported our mission. In the fall of 2013, we met SeaVuria and have been working with them to continue our mission ever since.
In 2014, Girls to Girls alone funded ten girl’s scholarships and two boy’s scholarships. Together, with the Mercer Island scholarship group (PETRI), we provided a total of 28 scholarships to students in Kenya. We worked with the Mercer Island group again in 2015, and we raised the total number of funded scholarships to 38 (33 girls and five boys).
I could not be more proud of the work Girls to Girls has done.While I am forever grateful for all the work our parents have put in, and for all their guidance, I am proud to say that we have taken on that leadership, and today, we run the show. I am proud of what we’ve learned, from public speaking skills to knowledge of Kenyan culture and customs, and of the difference we’ve made for the Kenyan students. It has been a true honor to lead this group through the past four years.
The best part about our story is that it is always growing. This is our history now, but I am confident that it will continue to be added to for many years to come.
For all who have helped us along the way, from those who donated great sums, to those who listened to our message and encouraged our work, I am forever grateful. I hope that each of you will continue to support us in whatever way you can as we write these next chapters of our story.
PETRI Supports the Philomena Kimoi Scholarship Program
PETRI is a club started by girls from Mercer Island to encourage their peers to consider opportunities that science can provide. PETRI (Philanthropy, Experiments, Teaching, Research, Involvement) began by inviting science speakers to their school and expanded later to include the Scholarship Project.
PETRI was inspired by SeaVuria to identify disadvantaged girls from Kenya with a promising future. The scholarship is unique in that it forms friendships between girls across the globe who inspire and support each other. In 2012 the Mercer Island girls raised enough funds to send 16 girls to high school for a year. They hope to continue supporting those 16 friends. They also hope to expand their reach to even more girls in need.
Through SeaVuria, PETRI learned about Kenyan girls like Elizabeth who have financial need.
The PETRI girls sent select recipients a digital story of their academic pursuits. The girls in need then shared their own digital story of thanks.
Gladys Kietany grew up in Kenya and received a PhD from Seattle Biomed. She started her relationship with SeaVuria as a scientist mentor. Inspired by the work of the PETRI girls, Gladys has joined the scholarship committee. Gladys shares her story here.