In March, Delaney Fleming ’20 and Amelia Miles ’19 traveled to Washington, D.C., but they weren’t there to sightsee.
The students went as delegates of Dining for Women to the annual UNICEF Student Summit, a four-day gathering of ideas, community and action that focuses on how the group can unite for children.
Both students are involved with the campus chapter of Dining for Women (DFW), a nationwide giving circle founded in Greenville to fund grassroots projects that fight gender inequality in developing countries. Fleming, an education major and the campus chapter leader, helped establish the Furman chapter as a philanthropic project with her sorority, Chi Omega, in September 2018. A sustainability science major, Miles got involved with Dining for Women through an internship she did last year for her minor in poverty studies.
The organization brings women together over potluck meals to learn about the grantee of the month. At each meeting, attendees are encouraged to donate the money they would spend for a meal out. So far, in the 2018-2019 school year, the Furman chapter has raised just more than $3,000 for DFW.
Since Dining for Women is a funding partner for UNICEF, Veena Khandke, a visiting lecturer in Asian studies at Furman and the director of grants and partnerships for DFW, reached out to both students to ask if they’d be interested in going to the UNICEF Student Summit.
Both women jumped at the opportunity and were later told they would be required to give a presentation about DFW. Two high school students were also assigned to their team: Réka Blakemore, who started a DFW chapter on her campus, and Sam Albury, a high school freshman and the son of Beth Ellen Holimon, DFW’s president.
Their hour-long workshop, presented to a packed room, was called “Dining for Women: How Small Donations Transform Lives of Women and Girls Worldwide.”
The team began by introducing the group to the work DFW does. They went on to talk about DFW’s partnership with UNICEF, and the two projects DFW is currently funding. Then the students divided participants into groups to discuss three different simulations that they had created based on real-life situations in Syria and South Sudan. Finally, they explored ways to advocate and fundraise for DFW on high school and college campuses.
On the fourth and last day of the event, participants went to Capitol Hill to talk to legislators about federal funding for UNICEF. Miles had to leave on Sunday, but Fleming stayed for the lobbying effort.
“It was cool to see everybody with their UNICEF lanyards on walking around Capitol Hill,” she said. “You could see that things were actually getting done. It was something special.”
Both students were struck by the impact UNICEF has on children around the world.
“I learned a lot more about childhood global issues and how they relate to DFW,” said Miles. “It was inspiring to see how many students want to be involved in this work. I’ve always known I want to go into nonprofit work, in social justice and human rights. But the summit made me realize the importance of policy and advocating to politicians. It made me reevaluate some of my learning goals for the future.”