Park City High School sophomore’s Seraphine Project helps girls become ‘angels of light’
Emily Bronstein wants at-risk teenage girls in Zimbabwe and Zambia to become Seraphine Girls.
The root word “seraph” translates to “burning one” or “angel of light” in Hebrew, and Seraphine is the 15-year-old Park City High School sophomore’s middle name. And Bronstein wants to help these girls become an angel of light in their communities.
“I want them to push themselves and be confident and do whatever they put their minds to,” she said.
To do this, Bronstein founded the Seraphine Project, an organization that works with the Global Sojourns Giving Circle, a nonprofit that strives to empower and educate girls and strengthen their communities in Africa.
Bronstein was introduced to the Giving Circle in January of 2017 after her bat mitzvah.
“There is a philanthropic component in a bat mitzvah, and while some people do various service projects and collect donations, I wanted to do something that was a little bigger and more sustainable,” she said. “I created the Seraphine Project to experience what it meant to be a hands-on leader that raised awareness, fundraised and inspired others to get involved.”
Bronstein first traveled to Zimbabwe and Zambia in November 2017 to spend time with the girls, whose ages range from 13 to 17.
“These girls deal with issues of physical and sexual abuse, as well as limited access to healthcare and feminine hygiene,” she said. “They also don’t have many strong adult role models.”
Bronstein started the Seraphine website and blog and raised money for a safe place for Giving Circle clubs to meet that is scheduled to be completed in two months near Victoria Falls, a tourist destination on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“Clubs are after-school and weekend support programs where the girls can talk about the issues they face with older women known as ‘aunties,’” she said.
“Aunties,” who head each club, are strong female role models, according to Bronstein.
“Many of the aunties have gone through the Giving Circle programs, and they get to know the girls at a very deep and trusting level,” she said. “They take the time to truly understand the unique family and personal struggles faced by each girl.”
There are 18 clubs that are like second families for more than 300 girls, Bronstein said.
The girls and aunties meet two to three times a week in any place they can find, whether it is in a school or under a tree, Bronstein said.
“Those places aren’t very confidential, especially if the girls need to meet one-on-one with the aunties,” she said. “So the safe place will be somewhere the girls can be themselves in a comfortable, quiet and safe environment.”
The building will also include a kitchen, library and auntie area, and house technological resources where the girls can develop other life skills, Brostein said.
The connection between the girls with the aunties means a lot to Bronstein.
“I feel so blessed in my life to have so many female mentors, and it’s special for me to see these girls have the same kind of support,” she said.
Another Seraphine Project initiative is a pen pal program.
“I started it to connect girls in the United States with the girls in Africa,” Bronstein said.
The program was inspired by the New York Times Best Seller, “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives,” by Martin Ganda and Cailtin Alifirenka.
The book is about an American girl and an African boy who connected through handwritten letters to each other.
“It’s cool to read their story and see how they developed as friends,” she said. “So I thought it would be cool to do that with girls here and girls in Africa.”
The program requires pens, paper, envelopes and stamps, Bronstein said.
“When I went over in March, I took 30 letters to one of the clubs,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to not only give the girls in Africa a chance to receive letters and forge new relationships, but also introduce girls here to some of the things that the girls over there experience.”
Bronstein has already recruited girls from Seattle, New York, Atlanta and San Francisco to write letters to the counterparts in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“This is one of the ways I can get peers my own age involved with the Seraphine Project,” she said.
The biggest challenge of running the Seraphine Project is reconciling the eight-hour time-zone difference between Park City and Zimbabwe, and balancing her life as a student, Bronstein said.
“The Seraphine Project is just as important to me as school and tennis,” she said. “It takes a lot of organization. I just need to figure out the main things I want to accomplish each day.”
To keep these programs running, Bronstein relies on fundraising. The first year, she raised $15,000, and last year she raised $25,000. This year’s goal is $15,000.
Donations can be made by visiting theseraphineproject.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bronstein said the relationships she has forged with the girls in Africa have made her work in the Seraphine Project worth every second.
“It means something to me to know I can make a positive impact that reaches from Park City to Africa,” she said.
For information about the Seraphine Project, visit theseraphineproject.com.
Moats knows in this day and age of teacher shortages, burnout and turnover that she’s an idealist when she hopes to see an elevation of the standards for teacher knowledge and preparation.
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