Meet Catrinka Ambassador Laura Caro-Ruiz
Laura Caro-Ruiz, of the DPE Foreign Service Sorority Alpha Chapter at Georgetown, put together a campus-wide event for Catrinka earlier this year. Laura inspired 5 other campus groups to participate; coordinated volunteers from her sorority and the other groups to do outreach and build up buzz for the event; and hosted a trunk show outside of three separate events, including a screening of the film that inspired our 2013 collection, Girl Rising.
The result? 66 bags sold. 12 indigenous girls in Guatemala enrolled in a life skills mentoring program with the proceeds. A stronger, more cohesive sorority from the bonding experience of staging the super fun events. And Laura, a multilingual, budding social entrepreneur, has a host of new leadership and entrepreneurial skills, as well as knowing that she made a difference in the lives of women and girls. Read on for more details on Laura’s experience. And take a page from her book and host your own trunk show – each one makes a difference, and we make it easy.
Tell us about yourself:
I am a junior at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, where I am studying international politics with a focus on international law. I’m interested in global gender equality and international development work. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and came to the US when I was 7 years old. My mom grew up in a town about 5 hours outside of Bogota, and her father died when she was 11. My grandmother had to raise 8 kids by herself. My mom put herself through college, and moved to Bogota, where she got married and had me. Looking for greater work and education opportunities, my mother and I moved to America.
What inspired your interest in girls education?
My mom has always taught me that education is the most valuable achievement in life. We have always been on the search for the best education available and have even moved to live in towns with better school districts within our state.
Although in Colombia’s main cities most girls are able to receive an education, there are still many parts of the country where girls aren’t able to go to school. Children who are still expected to work as soldiers or on farms are neglected an education. I think universal K-12 public education is really important and a basic right every child deserves regardless of gender, race or economic status.
How did you get involved with Catrinka?
We were contacted by a DPE alum. Our sorority focuses on international issues and in particular ones that deal with women and education. Many of our sisters have taught English abroad through Learning Enterprises, and lot of the girls who did it have even helped establish programs in new countries. Sisters have also been involved with groups like Think Impact and Social Entrepreneur Corps. Catrinka was a natural fit and a way for everyone in the sorority to pitch in and work on something we are all passionate for.
It wasn’t just selling – it was teaching. We started with the idea of doing a trunk show but it turned out to be much bigger than we had imagined, and was a big campaign that also taught people about other issues of gender inequality abroad. And it wasn’t only about helping the cause – it was a great bonding experience, and a lot of fun!
How did you make your event a success?
We are not a huge student organization on campus. We realized that in order to make this a school wide event we should communicate with other organizations, which I did starting two months ahead of time. There were 5 groups plus DPE: Georgetown University Women’s Center, Georgetown Women in Leadership, Georgetown Global Microfinance Initiative, Smart Woman’s Securities, and Georgetown Women of Color. We shared ideas, assigned different roles, and set deadlines. We didn’t start marketing the trunk show or screening until two weeks before because everyone was on Spring Break. We did a lot of flyering – each organization was responsible for part of the campus – and we put facts about girls education so the flyers were educational as well as calling attention to the event.
Facebook was really important. We invited 600 people to our Facebook event, and all of the members of the various organizations shared it religiously. We also had a campaign on Facebook where 7 days before the screening and trunk show we shared a fact about girls education or a trailer from the movie. And we did a photo campaign. We went out into the quad and had people pose with placards about Girl Rising and then put the photo on Facebook and tagged them. We ended up with over 150 photos and a lot of people tagged who then told their friends and families about the issue and the event.
We held the trunk show outdoors in our quad area that everyone has to pass through to get to their classes. We had loud music, and it was really fun. People stopped by and asked what it was about. I would give everyone a spiel and some people would say they already knew about it and came just to buy – people came informed. We realized we were lucky in that March is women’s month; it was good to align the events with other similar events in the calendar.
The third event we didn’t plan but we realized there was a parents event so we went out and sold some more bags. Moms were really interested in helping and the parents have more money. A lot of moms were interested in the cause and a lot just liked the bags.
What motivated people to buy bags?
People were motivated by the bags or the cause or both. The cause was a huge deal. But sometimes people who didn’t know about it just stopped by and saw a pretty bag. Then we shared stories, which was a huge motivating factor. Especially when we told them where each bag came from, often someone had some kind of a connection to that country and would say ‘I have friends from there’ or ‘I lived there for a year’.
What impact did participating in this project have on you?
Besides the self-satisfaction of raising funds to support girls education programs and raising awareness, at a personal level it also helped me with developing leadership, communications and business skills. This was a big event for me to lead with DPE and our co-sponsoring clubs. It took a lot of teamwork. The accounting and business part of it I really enjoyed. I never thought I would like business or sales but it was a lot of fun. It helped me develop work skills that are useful in any career.
I am studying abroad this fall but DPE will keep selling bags! And I will stay in touch. I would love to do more in the future.