UT student starts program to educate, empower women

  • CTY-CHAT13-1

    Afreen Alvi, a college senior, leads the group during a Women of Toledo chat and chew program in Phoenecia Cuisine at the University of Toledo on Saturday, November 11.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
    Buy This Image

  • While reflecting on her time within the Women of Toledo organization, Afreen Alvi gasped when she realized it had been more than three years since chance put her in touch with the group. 

    “Time flies when you’re having fun,” Miss Alvi, a 23-year-old senior at the University of Toledo, said. 

    In the past year, she launched a fund-raising dinner that brought in $4,250 for Young Women of Toledo, a group she founded herself within the larger Women of Toledo organization. She also started the Chat and Chew program, a safe place for young women to achieve Women of Toledo’s mission of educating, empowering, and engaging women. 

    “The Chat and Chew is a little program that we created for young women to get together and talk about topics that are relevant to us,” Miss Alvi said. That could range from a multicultural discussion on fall holidays to a multi-generational discussion on boosting self-esteem. The group just launched in January, and is now bringing between 15 and 25 young women together for monthly meetings. 

    “We’re growing,” she said. “Growth means we take baby steps one at a time.”

    That growth was noticed by Women of Toledo’s founder and managing director, Nina Corder. 

    “Afreen has been doing a very good job,” she said.

    Mrs. Corder nominated Miss Alvi for the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award, presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Miss Alvi received the award last week.

    “It definitely is a good feeling, a great feeling, to know you’re making an impact,” Miss Alvi said of the award, although her primary point of pride is the Chat and Chew group itself.

    “Even if one girl showed up to my chat and chew and she was impacted, there’s nothing else I could walk away with that’s better than that,” she said. 

    The group is successful because of Afreen’s leadership, Women of Toledo’s program facilitator Brandi Walerius said. 

    “Obviously another young professional woman leading a group allows that relatibility,” Mrs. Walerius said. “It would be different if I came in as a 40 year old woman. I think that vulnerability of ‘I'm going through the same things’ allows people to feel comfortable and allows them to open up.”

    And that, in turn, draws in more members to age up through the Women of Toledo organization. The group features distinct age groups for high school students, college and young adult women, a legacy group for women over 55 years old, and the main group that fills in the gaps. The organization served 950 women last year, Mrs. Corder said. 

    “We mentor each other on every level,” Miss Alvi said. 

    The next Chat and Chew is scheduled for Dec. 9 at Phoenicia in the UT student union, from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. 

    Contact Zack Lemon at zlemon@theblade.com419-724-6282 or on Twitter @zack_lemon.