In over 20 developing nations, illiteracy rates among women are GREATER than 70 percent. (We couldn’t believe it either.) And even worse, two-thirds of the nearly one billion illiterate adults worldwide are women.
Meet Lindsay Brown. She was a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame when she started taking action around this issue. Now a senior, the 21-year-old has helped dozens of young girls in Nepal receive an education.
Brown was recently named the winner of Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” Reader Cover contest for her work with She’s the First, a nonprofit focused on girls’ education in developing nations. Check out our interview below!
Can you tell us about your work with She’s the First?
I decided to organize a tie-dye cupcake sale in my dormitory to sponsor a girl’s education in Nepal for $300. With the help of my soccer teammates, I raised over $1000 after a few bake sales, enough money to send 3 girls to Kopila Valley School. When we first started, we had no idea our simple cupcake sales would be able to make such a profound impact in these girls’ lives.
How did the tie-dye cupcake movement grow from there?
A few months later, I shared my tie-dye cupcake recipe on the national She’s the First website so other university campus chapters could host cupcake sales of their own. We decided to organize a national tie-dye cupcake campaign in November 2011. Within 8 days over 100 cupcakes teams in 35 different states across the US raised more than $22,000. Enough to send 48 girls to school in Africa, Asia and South America!
Who/what inspired you to take action?
I decided to get involved with She’s the First because the importance of educating girls in the developing world resonates deeply in my own life. Growing up on less than $2 a day in rural Puerto Rico, my grandmother was the first in her family to graduate the 8th grade and go on to earn her nursing degree. Getting an education allowed my grandmother to escape the cycle of poverty she was born.
Was it a hard decision to leave soccer behind?
I started playing at the age of five so retiring felt like I was losing part of my identity. However, sacrificing my senior season will never compare to some of the sacrifices these girls have made to go to school and get an education. When I came to this realization I knew retiring was the right decision and one I’d never regret.
How are you helping girls in Nepal?
I spoke with the founder of Kopila Valley School, Maggie Doyne [a Do Something Award winner!], and told her that my Notre Dame soccer team and I wanted to help her school achieve a bigger goal. After learning that the school had a boys’ soccer team, but no girls’ – I decided to spend the summer in Nepal coaching Kopila Valley School's first girls’ soccer team.
Can you tell us about the organization you founded?
While in Nepal, for the first time I realized the huge impact playing soccer has had in my own life. It was also the first time I thought about the transformative role it could play in even more girls’ lives around the world. When I first arrived, the Kopila girls were so timid and shy in the classroom but after playing soccer for a few weeks I noticed they became more engaged in school as well as confident. I decided to create my own nonprofit organization, The SEGway Project ("Soccer Empowering Girls Worldwide and You") to help empower even more girls on the soccer field so they can segue into the leaders they were born to be.
Any advice for young people looking to make a difference?
Don’t let the enormity of any problem overwhelm you. If I had become overwhelmed by the fact that millions of girls remain out of school, then I would have failed [to help] the one little Kopila girl I started with. Start small and before you know it you’ll have created a huge impact!