BRINGING ISSUES TO LIGHT: Lauren Clatch Creates WAGGDI
By Lucy Montgomery
Sports Information Student Assistant
During an introductory women and gender studies course on the Danforth Campus, Washington University in St. Louis senior midfielder Lauren Clatch read the New York Times bestseller, Half the Sky, by Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.
The book uses anecdotes to exemplify global issues for women, including maternal mortality, gender-based violence, and sex trafficking. Moved and challenged by the stories presented in the book, Clatch believed she could bring these issues to light on the Washington University campus, and founded an organization the summer after her freshman year called Working Against Global Gendered Discrimination and Injustice (WAGGDI).
A native of Libertyville, Ill., Clatch noted that she “was impressed by all the resources Washington University provided its students, and [she] felt it was the perfect environment- combining education, social support, and structural resources- to foster awareness and change.”
Over the past two-and-a-half years, WAGGDI has raised funds for the Stella Maris Primary School in Malasita, Tanzania, by selling jewelry and tank tops bearing the slogan, “Strong is the New Thin.” WAGGDI helps sponsor students through scholarships and provides supplies for Stella Maris. Clatch has also begun a WAGGDI Pen Pal program, pairing a Washington University student with a Stella Maris kindegartener. Recently, WAGGDI was granted its 501© status as a non-profit charitable organization through the Washington University Law Clinic.
Clatch’s connection to Stella Maris, a school where the majority of its students are AIDS orphans, began when her family traveled to Tanzania while she was in high school. On that trip, Clatch helped build a hotel next door to the school. After her freshman year of college, Clatch returned to Malasita, this time staying for two months. She taught English, science, and math at Stella Maris. Clatch used art to bring her English lessons to life for the students; she described a time when her students created masks to practice the English words for facial features and colors.
“My memory of the children looking at me through their masks’ mouth holes still makes me laugh. At one point I was laughing so hard I was crying because two girls drew a new kind of mask on their faces using chalk,” Clatch recalled.
She also forged a bond with a group of local boys through soccer.
Clatch said, “One of my most distinct memories is being woken up every morning at 5:30 a.m. by a group of boys ages 13-22 to go on our morning runs. I had made a deal with them: wake me up and run with me every morning, and when I get back from the primary school in the afternoon, I’d teach them some soccer moves and we could scrimmage. So, that’s what we did every day.”
Clatch noted that her soccer teammates were instrumental in providing support and encouragement during the early stages of the WAGGDI founding process.
“When I didn’t feel completely competent to be running a group of capable and smart people, they continued to show up to our meetings and found a way to fit WAGGDI into their already packed schedules,” Clatch said.
On the field, Clatch appeared in 73 games for the Bears, making 28 starts. She scored three goals and recorded four assists in her career, including a key goal during a 2-2 tie against No. 1 ranked Emory University Oct. 7, 2012. A three-time All-UAA Academic honoree, Clatch will graduate from Washington University in May 2013 with degrees in psychology and English Literature.
For more information on WAGGDI, please visit: http://www.waggdi.com/.