Kenyan Orphanage Receives 500 Kits: November 2008 Report
(This post was originally published on August 30, 2009 on blogspot)
We're back! Days For Girls Was a Transformative Experience.
It is almost unimaginable, when we learned that girls in Academy of Hidden Talents in the slums of Kenya could be waiting in their room for days during menstruation. But thanks to YOU and many other amazing women and men all over the nation who stepped up to help make a difference so that girls could live every day of their lives more fully, we were all able to make 520 feminine hygiene kits a reality with just 3 1/2 weeks notice!And the impact was far greater than any of us ever dreamed.
We visited the Center the day before the "Days for Girls" program and the kids were excited excited to have solutions to their very real problems. You see, we had sent disposable solutions for cover them in the 3 1/2 weeks gap until we arrived with alternative solutions... And our "emergency solution" ended up clogging the entire pit system! Sigh.
So we proved our theory... Paper not only is a disposal and health issue but also literally made a sanitation nightmare develop. The pumping truck that usually empties them couldn't remove the waste. They had dig it out by hand. Sigh again.
The night before we presented our program and solutions we could hardly sleep, we were so excited, and so anxious to be ready and guided to say the right things-- keenly aware of the differences in culture. We arrived with four *huge* duffle bags which together contained more than 500 "Days For Girls" Feminine Hygiene kits, menstruation booklets, a 5 gallon container of bleach, song lyrics, some detergent, and our displays. When we arrived the first group of girls were all in their chairs waiting. Maybe they couldn't sleep either! So much for setting up early.
They cheered our arrival and we set up our supplies. Our focus was to:
Expand their Hope (education and assurance that they have intrinsic value)
Save their Lives (hygiene and safety), and...
Give them Days of their lives back (the feminine kits).
We started by showing them photos of Kenyan Women of Influence as we described the contribution each was making: one won a Nobel Peace Prize, two were scientists, one is second in command for their nation's Ministry of Education, one a Kenyan University president, and one an in-country education program director, and almost all are terrific mothers....
...And we ended that segment by telling them, "There is another woman I would like to introduce you to who will make all the difference in the world..." and we turned a 8 x 10 mirror around that was just the size of the photos and asked, "Do you see her?" And held it up to the girls, scanning the room.
The first group gasped, then cheered!
Then Sue Fleming (Dean of Education of Goddard College) spoke of education and its importance. Then Julie Matua (A Kenyan woman of influence, co/ In-country Kenyan director for Project Education, Inc) spoke of Hygiene, safety and not letting men trade them "trinkets for their virtue... and disease." She explained that they can avoid traps by being resolute, focused and certain. It was all very honest, open and genuine. The girls could not have been more attentive. Then Jane, a graduate from the Center, expounded on this topic explaining how you have to have an attitude of strength and determination to survive and not be abused.
Then I spoke of predators and their behaviors and that the only way to be safe is to never be silent, and to never allow others to be hurt. Then Janean Keblish (an international model whose heart is 100% with the girls) showed them how to use the kits.
They were mesmerized. They were thrilled. They LOVED the pads. They loved their panties. They loved their washcloths and soap.
They loved the headbands volunteer Betty Ross (no relation to George) and Diana Bedlington had painstakingly cut for them. They loved what those with the Swan Foundation (thank you Terri and so many more!), The Kotex Queen Bees (you know who you are) of the Lynden Baptist Church and the many Relief Society women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the Bellingham area, and so many others all made for them.
The girls loved having a solution in their hands. Their eyes sparkled and even the teachers were so glad to have them. They said that they were not sure such an idea would work until they saw them. Then once they saw them they all agreed that they would work well for them. They clamored for them despite our efforts for calm distribution. We hugged each and every girl as they left. That was when we knew... The idea was as sound as any of us had hoped. Maybe more so. They LOVED them.
We even found out that in Kenya a girl's period is called her "days!" And we had no idea when we named our campaign.
But there was something deeper. It was obvious that our bringing the solutions showed that we had empathy, not pity. There was a greater connection. Some of the older girls offered to bring kits and do presentations to other orphanages.
And then something we never dreamed of happened....
Finding Their Voice
Girls spoke up. Teachers spoke up, and for the first time a coalition of individuals is standing together for the children. Thanks to YOU.
We came to give back days of their lives... Only to find that a solution
in hand gave them voice.
I am humbly joyful about the gift of being part of the experience and
more certain than ever that this solution is vital. We're not sure we adequately captured the joy... We were so focused on the girls!
Thank you for ALL you did to make this all possible. It was, and is, miraculous. Will we do it again? Yes! A thousand times yes! We're already gearing up to go again and the sewing machines are back to full speed ahead. We have a lot of sisters out there.
PS: Yes, that's me with the silly grin. Gee whiz the spirit of Love was strong in the room... you can tell by my smile! And yes, isn't it funny that now matter how much you give to others, not matter how hard you work to serve... we always end up being the one that gains joy. Happens every time. Thanks again ladies and gentlemen (yes, there were a few of those and the girls loved hearing that YOU helped)!