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So Girls Can Learn: A Life of Service Advancing African Education

Grade 12 Crofton House student Sofie has always loved school, calling it her sanctuary. At five, she visited a township in Cape Town, South Africa and realized something life-changing: not all girls had access to the same quality of education as she did.  

That epiphany inspired her to sell cookies and hair accessories in pre-kindergarten and in Grade 7 to set up a social enterprise, Sparkly and SmART, to sell her art at craft fairs to advance girls’ education opportunities in Africa. To date, she has raised $100,000, which has funded computers in a children’s home, three water wells in Malawi, and a sanitary pad-making machine, all to reduce barriers to education for bright, ambitious girls. 

Sofie's most recent project was a “BloomBox”, a shipping container upcycled into a solar-powered off-grid computer learning lab at New Beginnings Secondary School in Malawi. “It grew from an idea and because it was for such inspiring students, the word got out, and from there, it grew by people helping in any way they knew how,” she beamed, talking about the teamwork that made the project successful. The Malawi government asked her to consider scaling the BloomBox initiative to seventy schools to benefit 20,000 students.  

To make the BloomBox, Sofie learned how to draft an architectural sketch as part of an internship. “Architecture is at the intersection of art, math, science, social justice, creative problem-solving, and teamwork,” she explained. Sofie learned about the physics of solar electricity from her Grade 9 science teacher, about framing and insulating from a carpenter, and about community service through Crofton’s Ivy Compass program. 

She credits Crofton’s teachers and Ivy Compass with igniting curiosity and passion in students, prompting them to “think big, ask big questions, not be afraid to jump into hard problems or think we're too small to approach them, while doing things thoughtfully and together because that's how strong solutions are formed.” 

Sofie's advice for students looking to make a difference in the world is, “if you hear something that makes your heart ache, inspires you, or you can't stop thinking about, try to figure out how the classes you take at Crofton can be connected to finding a solution.”

Sofie has big dreams for the future and wants to work in sustainable global development for the rest of her life. “It's a transformative field. Architecture is a tool that can be used to create inclusive spaces that welcome people in, level the playing field, and put women on the forefront of tech innovation. I think that matters.” 

She’s planning to get a degree in architecture, and while she doesn’t know which university she will attend, she knows one thing for sure. “Wherever I go, I know that I'm going to be working on solutions with all of my energy and heart.” 

Want to learn more? Watch Sofie’s TEDtalk and a video of her BloomBox journey