I wrote an entire post about how much my trip to Nepal to visit our 91 She’s the First Scholars meant to me. And then it disappeared. I hit publish, the page redirected to an error message, and I lost everything. All the awe, gratitude, joy that I had packaged in such a neat list to share with you… gone.

I was just about pulling my hair out… and then I stopped myself. It was only a blog post. I remembered what the She’s the First Scholars teach me: Patience and perseverance.

Rather than rewrite the post as it was, I’m going to write something else entirely, hopefully even better.

So here we go, the highlights of my third visit to a She’s the First partner school and my first-ever trip to Asia, to see Blink Now Foundation‘s Kopila Valley School.

The best takeaways come down to 3 Cs:

1. Collateral: I get to see my co-founder Christen Brandt and our Junior Board Chair Kate Lord work storytelling magic with our Scholars. This duo has churned out two short films about STF Scholars, Magho and Focused, and two more are on the way this year. Other organizations have spent six figures to millions of dollars on documentary work, so it mesmerizes me to watch C+K create equally powerful and effective content as a team of two on a shoestring budget. Follow @shesthefirst so you don’t miss any of it.

Kate and Christen at work filming Scholars

Kate and Christen at work filming Scholars

2. Collaboration: We detest the word charity around here, because She’s the First is a model of collaboration — our Scholars are receiving the money needed to attend school, but they are giving back so much more to our mission. The “Race to Equality” 5K organized by a team of STF Scholars while we were in Nepal is the perfect example of this. It was the first-ever race through the small town of Surkhet, in the valleys of the Himalayan mountains, involving 200+ boys and girls, men and women. Every participant had a sign on their back dedicating their run to a person or reason. There were even cheer squads along the route! (How cute are they?!)

Scholars raise awareness on the back of every 5K participant

Scholars raise awareness on the back of every 5K participant

3. Color: Our trip happened to line up with Holi, which is the Hindu festival of love, color, and spring. 50 children and adults pelted us with colored power down by the river (imagine a Color Run on steroids). We’re helping girls be the first in their families to graduate, but this week, they gave us an unforgettable first of our own: Celebrating Holi. I’m so grateful to the Kopila Valley family, led by fearless founder Maggie Doyne, her co-founder Taupe, and the superhuman fellows: Nena, Anjali, Patty, Luke, Jamie, and Chris.

Can you recognize us? That’s Brooke Oliver, me, Christen Brandt, and Erin Leigh Patterson

Can you recognize us? That’s Brooke Oliver, me, Christen Brandt, and Erin Leigh Patterson

It wouldn’t be completely fair of me to just share the happy photos and not reflect on the challenges that come with them.

The hardest part of STF trips is trying to reconcile your own human capacity with the tremendous need and injustice you see all around you. After I meet our Scholars and explore their communities, I want to knock down more doors, make bigger and bolder asks. My daily life in the office is very much about firing away emails and making phone calls to bring in our major funding, and when you’re in a place like Nepal, you have to take a break from that. I went the entire day without Wi-Fi and email. I had to keep reminding myself to be in the moment and disconnect so that when I came home, I could activate more.

You think you have all the drive in the world, and then these STF Scholars have an uncanny ability to get inside your heart and find these power switches you didn’t know were in you. So that’s where I am now — feeling incredibly thankful for all the supporters who have sponsored these 91 girls and made us one of the top funders ever to the Kopila Valley School. But that’s not enough. It’s time to do more because these girls are on fire, ready to reinvest.

Our goal this year is to sponsor 600 girls across the She’s the First partner schools.

You can make a donation at shesthefirst.org/donate and turn more girls in Surkhet into She’s the First Scholars. Or maybe you can connect me to corporate and foundation sponsors for our two milestone events this year, the Campus Leadership Summit and the Mentor Breakfast. You don’t need a plane ticket to make a difference in these girls’ lives. You can do it from where you are in this very moment.

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