Monday, March 10, 2014

Help the Meriwether Foundation and Miss USA 2012 Empower Communities in Africa by Attending Networking Events in New York - Coming Up Next: Charity Spin Event March 15.

Ever wonder how a beauty queen might spend her days? Consider Miss USA 2012, Nana Meriwether, an athlete, an academic, and a real altruist. I recently had the opportunity to have a phone interview with Ms. Meriwether, and I was amazed to learn about the lengths her organization, The Meriwether Foundation, has gone to empower rural and impoverished communities in Southern Africa, working daily to help children and families.

Right here in New York, Ms. Meriwether also runs the Manhattan Social Club, promoting exciting networking events such as cupcake making classes, food and wine tours, and spa days, with proceeds from these events supporting the important work of the Meriwether Foundation. The next Manhattan Social Club event is a Charity Spin Event happening this weekend, Saturday March 15, at Cyc Fitness. There will be some celebrity guests in attendance, and spots are filling up fast, so sign up to SPIN now.

Ms. Meriwether created the Manhattan Social Club, a component of the Meriwether Foundation, as a fun way to mix her "philanthropic side with [her] social side," and "give people the opportunity to give back while meeting others." This philosophy was aligned with her reasons for entering beauty pageants in California and Maryland, eventually landing her both the Miss Maryland and Miss USA 2012 titles. She saw the competitions also from a philanthropic perspective, a way to gain "exposure and a platform" for her altruistic ideas and those of the Meriwether Foundation.

The Meriwether Foundation was officially incorporated as a non-profit in 2007, co-founded by Ms. Meriwether, but the organization's work dates back to the 1980s when Ms. Meriwether's parents began working in rural and remote villages in Southern Africa. Ms. Meriwether was born in South Africa, and grew up in some of the rural villages in which her family worked. As her father was a doctor (and the first African American to be accepted at Duke University School of Medicine, helping to integrate the school), the organization's original focus was on health, but has since expanded to other social services including education, nutrition, and agriculture. You can read more about the history of the organization, the contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Meriwether, and their children (including Miss USA 2012), here.

The Meriwether Foundation now serves approximately seventeen villages in five countries-- South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique. Extensive programs include operating health centers and clinics, running health fairs, bringing fresh, clean water, electricity, and organic food to the villages, addressing HIV/AIDS, combating poverty and malnutrition, and encouraging early childhood development. The foundation also operates schools, and supports scholarships and after-school tutoring programs.

The Meriwether Foundation has experienced immense growth since 2007, in part due to fundraising, and Ms. Meriwether hopes that her organization only keeps growing. Tax-deductible donations help keep the foundation thriving, and more importantly, will directly serve some of the world's neediest communities. Consider making a donation to these worthy causes, or find other ways to get involved through volunteering, internships and assisting with fundraising.

When I asked if she could dispel some of the stereotypes about pageants, Ms. Meriwether instantly replied that she "met the most ambitious, intelligent women" while competing, which was not surprising considering her own accomplished background. She has trained for the Olympics, she was a 2-time All-American volleyball star at UCLA, graduating with the highest honors and a degree in Political Science, and she has studied pre-med in a graduate program at UCS. In addition to helping run the Meriwether Foundation, she is also currently contemplating whether she wants to attend medical school, law school, or business school. If only we all could be faced with such alluring options.

When I asked if Ms. Meriwether had a message for young women of color, she stated, "I'm inspired by my parents [who] grew up in much harsher times ... I learned from them the power of education ... You can change your entire life's landscape by applying yourself."

Follow The Meriwether Foundation on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the foundation's philanthropic work, and for more information on upcoming Manhattan Social Club events.

All photos in this post are property of The Meriwether Foundation and are used with permission.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, South African conceived Meriwether was delegated Miss USA in 2012, and is additionally an expert and Olympic-level volleyball player and altruist. Brought up in the Washington, DC range, she went to the prestigious Sidwell Friends School and went ahead to go to Duke and after that UCLA where she was a NCAA All-USA and drove the Women's volleyball group to a Final Four. Thanks all!!
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