Sophomore Paola Rivera Raises Money for Mission Trip One Bow at a Time

Hair ribbons and bows aren't just for grade school gals anymore. Mizzou collegiettes™ can be spotted all over campus stylishly sporting hair bows handmade by sophomores Paola Rivera and Christen Edmonds. These two ladies are making and selling bows to raise money for mission trips they will both be taking this summer.

Paola will travel through the International Student Volunteers Program to the Dominican Republic for two weeks. She will teach basic school subjects to children who don’t have access to everyday resources. Christen will be returning for the second summer to Swaziland, Africa, through Heart of Africa, a nonprofit organization that supports and encourages self-sustainable homes for orphans and vulnerable children.

Christen’s grandma taught her how to make the bows when she was in high school, and she sold them to begin raising money for her first trip the summer after her senior year. Paola joined her this fall after Christen showed members of their Kappa Kappa Gamma pledge class how to construct the bows. Paola picked up on the technique quickly, and the two decided to go into the business of making and selling bows together in hopes of funding their trips. The bow-selling even elicited a change in major for Paola from elementary education to business marketing, and she plans to use the skills she’s acquired in her future career.

Her Campus™ Mizzou: Tell us a little more about the trip you’ll be taking.
Paola Rivera: I was initially going to do the four-week, where you go for two weeks and volunteer. I’ll be doing it with students and kids of all ages, and we’ll be teaching them geography and math and simple things. With the four-week program you can go after and explore, but as much as I like to think I would jump off waterfalls and everything, I don’t think I’m going to. I really just want to volunteer, so I’m going for the two-week program, and I leave July 8.

HCM: Why is it important for you to do this program?
I’ve always really wanted to volunteer and study abroad. Earlier this year representatives from the program came and spoke to the classroom like they always do, and I was like, ‘You know, I feel like this summer that’s something I could really see myself doing,’ and I just jumped on it. A week after that, Christen taught our pledge class how to make these bows and sew them, and it all fell together at the right time. She said that she did this last year to go to Africa, and she was like, ‘You know, you are really quick at picking it up. If you want to do it with me, feel free.’ It just went from there.

HCM: Have you ever done any mission trips like this in the past?
No, it will be my first one.

HCM: Are you worried about anything?
I’m kind of nervous. For the first couple months that I was planning on doing it, I didn’t think anything of it. I was like, ‘I’m going to have so much fun; I’m so excited,’ and now I got my dates and everything. Now I’m like, Two weeks completely out of the country isn’t that long, but at the same time, it’s kind of scary.’ I’m excited though.

HCM: What will you be doing there besides teaching classes?
: All they told us now is we won’t find our actual placements until a week before, but I know for sure in every different country there are different tasks. Some of them are environmental, some of them are community and some of them you build houses. In the Dominican, for the most part, it’s community with the children, and you’ll be teaching them and giving them books because they don’t have anything at all really.

HCM: What is the money from selling the bows going to fund?
It’s funding my trip, my cost to get there. So it will be funding where I’m staying and everything else. I think Christen said she tried to take some [bows on her trip], and I’ll take a handful of bows to pass out to the kids once I’m there. We think of this as everyday hair accessories or everyday things that we can buy, but I’m sure if we gave one to the little girls, they would be ecstatic. They wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

HCM: Have you raised all the money you need yet?
We are probably halfway there, so we’ve raised quite a bit in just the two months we’ve been doing it. I think once we get the word out more it will help. We’ve gone to a few boutiques in Kansas City, Mo., and here in Columbia, and Christen has some boutiques that sell them in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Some sorority houses have even talked about selling them at their moms’ weekend. We’ve done pretty well for the past month that we’ve done it.

HCM: What’s the process for making one of these bows? Does it take long?
At the beginning it took quite a while, but it’s just how you do it. If we have all the circles cut, we can just go through them. It’s a little bit of sewing; it’s not bad at all. But it’s relaxing if I’ve been studying all week or if I’ve been busy all week. I can sit down and sew and make them, and it’s relaxing. It’s not like a chore; I enjoy doing it.

HCM: Were you successful at making the bows right off the bat?
Everyone at Kappa has been really supportive. I live in the house, so a lot of girls would just stop by and be like, ‘Hey, can I look at the bows?’ But it took a while once I started contacting the other houses. It felt like it really picked up, so now we’re kind of coasting. We’re trying to do different things with it. At first we just had all the bows out for display, and now we’ve been bringing the fabric and letting people choose and putting them on headbands. As we keep going, we’ve been progressing more with what we’re doing with them.

HCM: How did you get the word out at first?
I e-mailed every [sorority] president and was like, ‘Here’s the thing: This is what we’re doing; is there any chance we can come dinner speak and then come later on to your chapter and sell the bows?’ I think there were only two houses that didn’t respond, but for the majority, everybody was very excited to have us come and see everything. We’ve gone to some boutiques, but we’re just trying to figure out other sources. We have two boutiques in Kansas City that sell them.

HCM: In what ways have you been trying to branch out to non-Greek students?
We’re trying to figure out other ways to get them out there and get them shown. I work at a community center back at home, and I was trying to get to younger kids, but they wouldn’t let me set them up there. We know that the big retailers like Baby Gap or anything like that probably won’t take them, so we’re trying to find smaller outlets.

HCM: Now that the idea has really taken off, what are you most looking forward to about the trip?
Just to see the kids and see how much of an effect that we have on them because like I said, we take so much for granted here. I’m excited to see just how much we affect the kids and how much learning affects them. We’re in college learning about whatever we want to learn about, and they’re going to be excited to learn 2 + 2 = 4, just simple, simple math problems. I can’t imagine not having that structure and the stepping stones to get where we want to be.

HCM: Do you think this is something you would want to do again in the future?
If we keep progressing, I would love to just keep on doing it. I want to go to Africa with Christen after this summer, the summer of 2012. If I end up doing that, if we could keep going with that, it’d be a great outlet and a great way to raise my money again.

HCM: Any closing thoughts?
It’s really exciting. I never would have thought it would have taken off like it did. It’s just kind of weird because I’ve changed my major. I’m one of the most indecisive people you’ll ever meet, so I’ve been switching around since the start, but it’s been nice to know that this is something I enjoy. I’ve enjoyed contacting all the presidents, and I’ve enjoyed finding other ways to get it out to other people, so it’s weird how much of an effect it’s had on me. A lot of it is with the volunteering and raising money, but I enjoy talking to people about it and what I’m doing it for. It’s just fun, the whole thing is fun.

These adorable bows are made in all different prints and colors and even come in Mizzou patterns (perfect for game days!). They cost $10 each, and many can be seen on their Facebook page, Bowtique. You can also contact either Paola or Christen directly to custom-make one of your own at no additional cost. They would love your support!

Contact Paola Rivera at [email protected] and Christen Edmonds at [email protected].