How Healthier Communities Lead to a More Sustainable World

Punahou welcomed Sarah Craven ’81 to campus as the Chapel’s 2018 Kong Spirit and Health Speaker, from April 2 – 9. Craven is the Director of the United Nations Population Fund Washington Office, implementing programs that, among other things, support women’s and girls’ health and rights in over 150 countries.

Craven spoke in chapels for all grade levels with a message about drawing an inclusive circle, creating healthier communities through access to education. She was also the keynote speaker at the Global Careers Spotlight event on April 3 in the Academy Learning Commons in Cooke Library.

Craven’s work is part of the UN’s focus on Sustainable Development Goals: good health and wellbeing for people, quality education, and gender equality. In focusing on women’s and girls’ health, rights and access to education, her organization is helping developing countries improve reproductive health and family planning services on the basis of individual choice, which in turn, helps formulate population policies in support of sustainable development.

Speaking to an eighth-grade girls PE class, Craven described what life is like for young girls in resource-poor countries. “Other schools aren’t like Punahou – there’s no running water. Because girls can’t take care of basic hygiene needs there, they are forced to miss school. Some girls have been displaced from their homes by war, so we try to get them what they need to go to school. We also try to create safe spaces for girls because that’s not always what they have at home. We teach self-defense skills and give girls bicycles so they can travel to school safely.”

Craven described how students can get involved in this type of work through the UN’s Girl Up program, a global organization that allows girls to advocate for adolescents around the world. PE faculty member Peggy Cooper ’80 Crowell felt Craven’s message and sobering facts helped build empathy in her students.

In Chapel, Craven talked about how her work connected her with a young Maasai woman, Kakenya Ntaiya, whose dream of becoming a teacher pushed her to become the first girl in her Kenyan village to attend college. After attending school and working in the U.S., Ntaiya established the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE), a girls leadership academy in Enoosaen, Kenya.

Ntaiya’s school has graduated its third class of eighth-grade girls and has since broken ground on a new K – 12 school. Craven is proud to serve as one of the founding board members of Ntaiya’s school and commented, “I hope someday we can have an academic exchange between Punahou and KCE, as students from both of these schools have much to learn from each other.”

When a student asked what would help lead them down a similar path as Craven, she shared, “You have an incredible advantage living in Hawai’i; you already have a global understanding of the world.” Craven suggested studying subjects such as international relations and gender studies, and honing analytical thinking and advocacy skills. Also, “travel is amazing,” she said. “You learn so much.”

The Spirit and Health Speaker series was established in 1998 as a platform to demonstrate the relationship between spiritual and physical health. Presentations are made possible each year by the Dr. Raymond Fah and Estelle Kan Kong Endowed Fund.