Changing Their Lives, Changing Our Own
I’ve been involved with Days for Girls for just over a year — and it’s completely changed my life.
Last year, a friend and I wanted to start a monthly service club to help different organizations around us. I had heard about Days for Girls through my parents, who had taken DfG Kits to Kenya for distribution, and suggested we pitch in to help make kits. Before we knew it, we had decided to form our own Days for Girls Team, and began looking for office space we could use.
I met with Scott Larsen, owner and CEO of Larsen Electric, to explain how helpful it would be if our DfG Centerville, UT Team could use the lower level of his office building. I had just talked to this man all about menstruation and these hygiene kits; I thought for sure he was just going to laugh at me and turn me away. Instead, Scott leaned back in his chair and said, "Now that you have made me REALLY uncomfortable, let me get this straight. You want to make Maxi Pads in my basement?"
"Yes,” I replied.
"And I will get no money?”
“Not a penny."
He sat for just a few minutes, then said, "I think we can do that." Within two weeks, we had the Centerville Center Workroom up and running! We started at one day a week, but we soon expanded to two days, two evenings, and one mobile event every week; the energy and generosity of our community seems to have no limits! We’ve already had over 1,000 volunteers come through our doors to serve. And each of these incredible people comes with her own story of why she wants to volunteer with Days for Girls and how our movement is changing life, too.
By improving access to menstrual health solutions and education, Days for Girls aims to reach Every Girl. Every Where. Period. We often share stories about the grateful girls and women who receive our DfG Kits and participate in our education programs and trainings, but it turns out that for many of our volunteers, doing this work is also a positive life-changing experience. All over the world, our tens of thousands volunteers are not only serving others, but by coming together through our movement, they are forging strong bonds and valuable lifelong friendships.
I’d like to share three of the volunteer stories that have touched my heart:
A woman came into the Centerville Center Workroom one night, explaining that her friends had been in many times and they wanted her to come and join them. She had lost her arm a year prior to cancer and was still trying to get use to what she could and couldn't do with just one arm. She said, “I don't think I am going to be of any use but I promised my friends I would come in, so here I am.” I asked her was she would be willing to try and she told me anything, so we sat her down at a serger, showed her how it worked, and handed her some flannel. She took right to it! She began serging away and was really good at it! By the end of the evening, she had tears in her eyes and explained, "I didn't think I would ever be able to do service again. This means so much to me."
A 17-year-old young lady in our community raised money so she could take 50 DfG Kits on a distribution with her to two schools in Puerto Rico. While she was there, another school asked if she could come teach their girls, too. She had already given out 38 DfG Kits the first school, and would need 20 for the second school. She explained to the teacher that she would only have enough kits for half of the girls, but the teacher said the girls needed the health education, even more than the kits. So our volunteer went ahead and taught these girls and when it came time to hand out the kits she was sick to her stomach thinking about those girls who wouldn't get them. The teacher had worked out a way that the girls could ask or answer questions to receive a kit and they would do this until all the kits were handed out. After eight questions, this young lady realized there were more kits in her bag than she thought, and told the teacher to keep having the girls ask questions. After 15 were handed out, she told the teacher to keep going since there were still kits in her bag! Once all 20 of the girls got their DfG Kits there was still one left her bag that she was able to give to the teacher who cried when she gave it to her. As this young lady told me about her experience, she was crying and just kept saying " it was a miracle, there was no way I had that many kits, it was just a miracle.”
Every week, a mother and daughter volunteer together at our Centerville Center Workroom. The daughter is only 11 years old and has been teased at school for years; her worried mother wanted to find something they could do together that would also help improve her self-esteem. The first time they came, in her daughter was very shy and didn’t say much, but had tears in her eyes as I told them about the Days for Girls mission. They worked for about an hour that night before going home. When they came in, you could see an actual physical change in this young lady. She was walking taller and seemed to have a brightness around her that wasn't there before. That evening, she asked me more and more questions about Days for Girls; before she left she told me that she didn't realize how hard it was for girls her age all over the world. She said, “People go through hard things everywhere. I want to help these girls so their life isn't so hard.” Her mom expressed how grateful she was for Days for Girls for giving her daughter a new sense of self worth and a purpose. They still come in every week to volunteer — and this girl has become quite a bubbly, social young lady!
In 2008, Celeste Mergens started the Days for Girls movement with a few friends around her kitchen table and has already achieved the impossible — more than 50,000 volunteers and social enterprises around the world, reaching more than 1,000,000 women. We couldn’t have done it without our volunteers, who tirelessly assemble, sew, and distribute DfG Kits, and those who also offer health education programs and business training in the field. Thank you so much for spreading the word, sewing at your homes, bringing in donations and loving these girls enough to give your time and talents.
We are so grateful that Days for Girls is changing your lives, too! Thank you for sharing your amazing stories with us; we always love to hear about your experiences, by email or in person at one of our regional conferences. Our North Regional conference will be in August, followed by our Northeast Regional conference in October and our Southeast Regional conference in November. Watch your emails for more information on where these will be held and on how to register.
I can't wait to meet you all face to face and hear about your own experiences. Thank you, thank you, for ALL that you amazing volunteers do. I truly love you all.
Candice Stanford is the Days for Girls USA Country Director.