Our global reach has expanded yet again. We were approached by the director of Project Thrive, Celeste Mergens. Project Thrive provides self-sustaining programs that help orphanages develop long-term support and leverage their resources, making every day easier for children and their supporters. Celeste came to us for help in getting reusable menstrual supplies to the girls at one of the largest orphanages in Kenya, The Academy of Hidden Talents. This time we had very little to offer and with only 3 ½ weeks to get everything ready we couldn’t gather resources for enough Goods 4 Girls Kits to even begin to reach their goal of 520 kits. But Celeste took matters in to her own hands and made the impossible possible. In just 3 ½ weeks she was able to gather volunteer sewers and make 520 reusable feminine hygiene kits! She then took the idea of our Teen Booklet and created one specifically for the girls she works with in Kenya, making them feel empowered and educated in regards to their menstrual cycles. Here is the update on her visit to Nairobi and the program she created to honor this momentous occasion: Days for Girls.
Dear Luna Gals,I’m back! Days for Girls – was a Transformative Experience. It is almost unimaginable to learn that girls in the 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 all over the nation who stepped up to help make a difference, we were all able to make 520 feminine hygiene kits a reality with just 3 ½ 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 to have real solutions to their very real problems. You see, we had sent disposable pads to cover them for the 3 ½ weeks gap until we arrived with alternative solutions…And my “emergency solution” ended up clogging the entire pit system! Sigh. So we proved our theory…paper is not only a disposal and health issue but also literally made a sanitation nightmare develop. The pumping truck that usually empties the toilets couldn’t remove the waste – they had to dig it out by hand! Sigh again.
The night before we presented our program I could hardly sleep I was so excited, and so anxious to be ready and guided to say the right things–keenly aware of the difference in culture. We arrived with four *huge* duffel bags which together contained more than 500 “Days for Girls” kits, menstruation booklets, a 5 gallon container of bleach, some detergent, and our displays. When we arrived the first group of girls were already in their chairs waiting – turned out they couldn’t sleep either – so much for setting up before their arrival!
Our focus was to Expand their Hope (education and assurance 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 while I described the contribution each was making: one a Nobel Peace Prize winner, two were scientists, one is second in command for their nation’s Ministry of Education, one a University president, and one a terrific mother. 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…” I then turned an 8 x 10 mirror around (the same size as the photos they had just seen) and asked, “Do you see her?” I held it up to the girls, scanning the room. They gasped, and cheered!
Then Sue Fleming (Dean of Education at Goddard College) spoke of education and its importance. Julie Matua (A Kenyan woman of influence, co/in-country director for Project Education, Inc.) spoke of hygiene, safety and not letting men trade them “trinkets for their virtue…and disease.” It was all very honest and genuine. The girls could not have been more attentive. Then Jane, a graduate from the Center, expounded on this topic so it would really hit home.
I then spoke of predators and their behaviors and that the only way to be safe is to never be silent, and never allow others to be hurt. Janine (an international model) 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 idea of a solution in their hands. Their eyes sparkled and even the teachers were so glad to have them. The girls clamored for the kits 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….
Girls spoke up. Teachers spoke up. Sexual exploitation had been
happening at the Center. And two days later we had 17 witnesses gathered in
the Chief of Dagoretti’s office. The case continues and has brought to light that reportedly only one of the hundreds of orphanages in the slums does not have such improprieties. 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 for the gift of being part of the experience and more certain than ever this solution is vital. It was amazing to watch the results of those first steps unfold. I have attached a few photos; though I am not sure that we 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.
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 no matter how much you give to others, no matter how hard you work to serve… we always end up being the one that gains joy. Happens every time. Thanks again ladies!
Project Thrive“Because God Has No Orphans”
Sustainable Programs for Vulnerable Children