Event benefits Ugandan National Spelling Bee

Students, teachers compete in Girl Up's 'Spell 4 Uganda'


Girl Up is part of the United Nations Foundation and is aimed at raising awareness and funds for women’s issues around the globe.

At a recent general body meeting, Girl Up members presented on the importance of spelling bees, in particular the value to girls education. This exercise allowed the students to get in the right mindset for their own spelling bee April 11.

The organization hosted “Spell 4 Uganda” April 11 at 1515 University Ave. The event raised money through the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn fund for the Ugandan National Spelling Bee.

“Spell 4 Uganda was to support the National Spelling Bee in Uganda,” said Maggie Zhang, a third-year Commerce student and Girl Up co-founder and treasurer. “It’s a part of the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn fund that is supported by Girl Up. Girl Up has this goal of trying to reach $2,500 so we wanted to help with that.”

Money was raised through donations and entries into the spelling bee. Girl Up also hosted bake sales beforehand to benefit the cause. According to third-year College student and Girl Up co-founder and president Nivedha Kannapadi, it was difficult to obtain donations during the event.

“Beforehand, we did a lot of fundraising so weren’t entirely reliant on the event itself to raise money for the spelling bee,” Kannapadi said.

Girl Up is part of the United Nations Foundation and is aimed at raising awareness and funds for women’s issues around the globe. The University’s chapter was founded in January of last year and has about 20 active members. From an intergenerational dialogue to a period drive, where members raised money for feminine products for a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, they host numerous events benefiting global and local communities.

“We started a local chapter at the University of Virginia and they have a bunch of local chapters in other schools as well,” Zhang said. “What that means from a meeting-to-meeting basis is that we talk a lot about girls within a University context but also internationally and then we think about fundraisers and we also think about some of the global issues that girls have to face.”

Around 30 people watched six professors and nine students compete for the prizes. After the scores were tallied, Anthropology Prof. Ellen Contini-Morava and first-year Law student Karen Jin were declared winners.

“Nobody was out if they missed a word, they just didn’t [get] a point,” Contini-Morava said. “They just tallied up the points at the end so it was kind of like how many words you … spelled by the end of the competition.”

At the end of the night, winners chose their prizes. Jin went home with a basketball signed by the University’s men’s basketball team and coaches and Contini-Morava was awarded a gift card.

“[The competition] was pretty tough,” Contini-Morava said. “There were people who were very good spellers.”

In Uganda, the money raised goes towards training teachers and spelling bee competitions at the local, state and national levels in hopes of encouraging an interest in reading and writing.

“I think the best part [of the event] was being able to talk to other U.Va. students while we were fundraising and doing the event itself about the importance of spelling bees,” Kannapadi said. “It was really cool to have those engaging conversations with students at U.Va. and being able to educate them on an issue that they might not have thought about otherwise.” 

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