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V-Day College Organizer Molly Kawachi Sets Ambitious Pace


Originally published in:
The Day (New London, CT)
10/05/2004

http://www.theday.com/eng/web/news/re.aspx?re=6B32A69C-8161-4EC2-9D85-0E71865F83CB

New London -- No one would ever accuse Molly Kawachi of wasting her teenage years on trivial pursuits.

In the last few years alone, Kawachi, a Connecticut College junior, has worked as a “trendspotter” for Teen People Magazine and as a production assistant on the set of the Bill Clinton interview for “60 Minutes.”

She's also rubbed elbows with the kings and queens of the music world at the Video Music Awards in Miami, serving as a production coordinator for MTV.

She also is a part-time model, a stylizer for Wet Seal, a teen clothing company, and still finds time to excel in the classroom and on the volleyball court at Conn.

“I'm a very ambitious girl,” Kawachi said.

But none of those experiences have had a more profound impact on Kawachi than her work with V-Day, a non-profit organization fighting to end violence against girls and women, which inspired her to make a trip to a Kenyan safe house three years ago.

What really struck Kawachi, 20, was a conservation with a 16-year-old Kenyan girl named Mary. She sensed an instant connection between the two.

“She totally changed my life,” Kawachi said. “She had this awful, awful story. Every horrible thing you can think that can happen to you — she was beaten, raped, forced to marry a 50-year-old man, mutilated.

“What amazed me about her, she was telling me her story through a translator, and despite all the horrific things that happened to her she still had the biggest smile on her face, loving life. ... Here I am complaining about going to school and having a test and these girls are literally risking their lives to go to school and get an education. It gives you another perspective on life.”

When Kawachi returned home to New York City, she organized a fundraiser at her high school the Fieldston School, raising $3,000. She sent the proceeds to her Kenyan friend to help pay tuition for school. The pair remains in contact. She takes great pride in reporting that Mary speaks fluent English now and is living a better life.

That's just one cause that the driven and compassionate Kawachi is passionate about. She truly cares about life outside her Conn College world.

“She's a great Division III role model,” volleyball coach Josh Edmed said. “She's very well-rounded. She fits our model great.”

Her V-Day experiences have touched her heart. Kawachi has marched with other V-Day supporters, including Jane Fonda, to protest the abductions and murders of the factory women in the impoverished town of Juarez, Mexico.

She also organized, directed, produced and acted in a production of the Vagina Monologues as part of a V-Day fund-raiser at Conn College in February. Her godmother is Eve Ensler, the award-winning author of the Vagina Monologues and source of inspiration for countless number of women, including Kawachi.

The play raised more than $3,000. Two thousand went to the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, which is recognizing her contributions by nominating her to be in a soon-to-be published book called “Celebrating Women.” She will be honored along with other nominees at a dinner at the Mystic Marriott Oct. 23.

“I'm a little humbled,” said Kawachi, a sociology and gender and women's studies major. “I don't think I've done that much.”

The other $1,000 was sent to an organization that helps the women of Juarez. During a trip to Mexico, she met with victims' families and heard their stories. She felt their pain and wanted to help.

So after the play ended, she asked audience members to donate money on the way out the door in order to provide bus fare for the women on their way home from work when many of the crimes occur. Her plea raised another $1,000.

“I wept with this one mother,” Kawachi said, referring to her trip to Juarez. “We just cried together. I told her I'd do whatever I can to help her. They are so helpless there. You go down there and it's just wrong. ... When you hear it from them first-hand, you can't turn your back on it. I can't sleep at night knowing this stuff is going on and I'm not doing anything about it. That's just me personally.”

If you think Kawachi is trying to save the world, well, you're right. She's always had sympathy for those in need.

“They broke the mold when they made her,” said her mother Judy Corcoran, a published author. “If anybody can save the world, she can. I have no small expectations. Nothing would surprise me.”

Corcoran raised hr daughter to be an independent spirit. When Molly complained about her second grade teacher being man instead of a woman, her mother encouraged her young daughter to call the school and ask for a different teacher. The assistant school principal that took Molly's call declined to make a change. But a valuable lesson had been learned.

“I made a conscious effort to empower her to fight her own battles,” Corcoran said. “She's a better person than I feel I am.”

Everywhere she's gone, Kawachi has made quite an impression. At Fieldston School, her adviser, Andrew Meyers, referred to her in a glowing recommendation letter as “deep, thoughtful and smart, completely sincere, a fashionable jock with a playfully profound intellect.”

Volleyball always has had a place in her busy life. Her mother wanted her to be a ballet dancer but she was drawn to volleyball because of its energetic, fast-paced action. She was the leader of a championship volleyball team and also played on the club level as well as being a member of the New York City junior national team.

As a setter for the Camels, she leads the team in digs. More importantly, she provides stable leadership to a young team.

“I'd love to have 6-foot players all across the net,” Edmed said. “But I'd much rather have girls like Molly that are 5-4 that will bleed for you on the court and be a great leader.”

Kawachi is still trying to figure which career path she wants to head down. She's considering pursuing a career in entertainment or broadcasting, anything that could give her a voice. And she plans to continue her work with V-Day.

“I still have no idea what I want to do, but I'm still working on it. I'm creating a good network.”