Nicole Swedlow, founder of a nonprofit organization called Entreamigos, visited the School for a week of inspiring lectures and class visits as the Kong Service and Health Speaker on April 14 – 23, 2014. Every Punahou student in K – grade 12 had the opportunity to hear from Swedlow about her experiences as a community health advocate based in San Pancho, Mexico. Past Kong Service and Health Speakers have included physicians, reverends, environmentalists, inspirational figures such as Charlie and Lucy Wedemeyer, and comedians, like Frank Delima.
“Nicole perfectly embodies the value of service. She believes that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn,” explained Carri Morgan, the director of the Luke Center for Public Service, who helped organize the event in conjunction with the Chapel office. Swedlow was recently recognized as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion,” an award presented by the Dalai Lama.
The seedlings for Swedlow’s nonprofit were planted in 2006, when she began an informal grassroots project to provide a safe space for local children to create arts and crafts. Within a few years and with the support of friends, visitors and the Mexican government, Entreamigos had become a thriving community center that provides access to educational resources for children and their families. Entreamigos emphasizes the need to solve problems holistically, ensuring the health of the individual, the family and the environment, and treating them as interconnected pieces of the community health puzzle.
In her Chapel presentation to the Academy, Swedlow asked the students and faculty to reflect on one good deed they could accomplish and challenged them to put their ideas into action. When speaking to the Senior class, she noted: “As you enter the ‘real’ world, you may encounter moments of conflict where you might think you have to sacrifice someone else’s needs to accomplish your goals. But remember, nothing has to come at the expense of something else, it can be win-win.”
Swedlow, who is bilingual, also spoke directly to Academy and Junior School Spanish students about her work, emphasizing how her fluency in Spanish has facilitated her position as an inter-cultural liaison: “Learning Spanish allowed me to pursue a career abroad, where I am able to serve as a puente, or bridge, in the community,” she explained.
Thank you to the Dr. Raymond Fah and Estelle Kan Kong Endowed Fund and the Chaplain Kenneth O. and Doris A. Rewick Endowed Fund for supporting this enriching series.