GIRLPowR’s Around the World fundraising gala lived up to its name Nov. 9, treating 250 guests to a lively celebration with a global focus at a new, larger venue in the Rococo Theater.

The event featured eclectic live music by Mesonjixx with collaborative dance by Embi, more music by vocalist/guitarist Gerardo Meza and friends, performances by Star City Strings and Jordan Ellis on viola, and energetic and festive cultural dances by Viva Mexico and the African dance troop Impundo.

Guests enjoyed international dishes specially crafted by 15 local restaurants. Master of ceremonies Aaron Davis presided over the live auction. Guests also bid on silent auction items donated by local businesses and individuals. Event co-chairs were Emily Green and Amy Wright.

GIRLPowR Executive Director Julie Reager moved the fourth annual gala to the Rococo Theater in downtown Lincoln “to match the growth of the GIRLPowR organization,” she said. The move resulted in triple the attendance and fundraising numbers of the Lincoln-based GIRLPowR’s first Around the World event four years ago.

“We surpassed this year’s goal of $20,000 and were graced with over 250 guests!” said Reager, who founded the nonprofit organization in 2013 to support girls’ education and empowerment in Kumaica, Nicaragua.

Since then, GIRLPowR has expanded with a local focus by partnering with community learning centers to offer after-school clubs for girls at Belmont and Arnold elementary schools, and a summer camp at Air Park Recreation Center. This year, GIRLPowR launched an after-school program at Goodrich Middle School.

“Stretching ourselves further, on Jan. 20 we will begin participating in an after-school boys’ group to challenge ideas about masculinity,” Reager said. GIRLPowR will partner with the Asian Community and Cultural Center and its Young Men’s Leadership group, which consists mostly of boys from Sudanese refugee families. A regular GIRLPowR group will also begin at the Asian Center in January with Sudanese girls, she said.

Challenging ideas about gender roles was the focus of a girls’ group that Reager formed 16 years ago while serving in the Peace Corps in Kumaica, Nicaragua. “That was really the beginnings of GIRLPowR,” she told the audience at the Rococo Theater.

Seeing that girls did not have the same educational opportunities as boys in the village, she vowed to return to Kumaica after her 10th anniversary of working at Friendship Home in Lincoln.

Reager returned in September 2013 and started a group of 30 girls to reduce barriers to their equal participation in formal education and to foster the girls’ self-worth, socioeconomic independence, leadership potential and vocational opportunities. A former member of the group that Reager had formed while serving in the Peace Corps became a local leader for the new GIRLPowR group.

Today, GIRLPowR programs are coordinated in Kumaica Sur and a second community, Kumaica Norte, by community volunteers in cooperation with the primary and secondary schools, and supported by Kumaica’s mayor and local community leaders.

Reager also announced that Kumaica’s mayor and vice-mayor recently vowed to continue to support GIRLPowR graduates with college scholarships and promised a gift of a small plot of land in Kumaica Sur, where a GIRLPowR community center will be built.

“Looking ahead, we’ll be looking for volunteers to go with us to help construct the center,” Reager said.

To learn more about GIRLPowR and to make a donation, see www.girlpowr.org.

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