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Jan 26, 2016

When Girls Win, We All Win

Several years ago, St. Christopher’s, League City, hosted women from several Episcopal churches to make sustainable, washable feminine hygiene kits for girls who lived in developing countries. Often, these girls have no access to the necessary products and so miss days of school regularly.

 

The group at St. Christopher’s met several times before expanding and moving to Good Shepherd in Friendswood. Their initial six seamstresses had grown to 23. The made kits according to the instructions provided by Days for Girls International, a group based in Washington and founded in 2008 (daysforgirls.org). The simple kit assures girls and women their ability to attend school, work and continue to receive wages that allow them to care for themselves, their families and contribute to their community's betterment while ensuring quality sustainable feminine hygiene.

 

Mary Pelaez (St. Christopher), Carolyn Judy (St. Thomas the Apostle), Barbara Waggett-Smith and Debbie Crews (St. Christopher) turn fabric into bags.

Some of the women sewed the prescribed flannel liners, cotton bags and shields. Noon-seamstresses cut, ironed and trimmed.

 

By the end of 2015, the group had sent (or hand delivered) almost 200 kits to young women in Nepal, Zambia, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Philippines. Recently, the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras asked for trainers to teach local women to make the kits in order to increase the scale of the personal and economic impact.

 

“Packing the kits is what I call a ‘stuffin' party,” said Fran Lantz, a member of St. Christopher’s. “Everyone comes to my house where we stuff the kits and our faces! We had three of those before July, 2015, and typically, about 15-20 women showed up,” she said.

 

“These tangible elements impact lives,” said Jane Merdian, a member of St. Christopher’s, “Having these kits means young women experience hope, dignity, self-respect and the ability to stay connected. It means each woman is able to continue her education, to participate in building her future, to actively contribute to her family and community. If a kit can accomplish such positive transformation … why wouldn’t I answer the call to ‘be’ the ‘Good News?’"

 

Women in the village of El Zapote, Nicaragua, received kits from a water well drilling team from St. Christopher’s that included Eva Trevino, Carolina Batres-Hammond, and Ximena Arias.

Sew-a-thons continued to spread in 2015: one at Good Shepherd and one at St. Thomas the Apostle in Nassau Bay where 35 people came to help. Participants have come from St. Christopher’s, Good Shepherd, St. Thomas and St. Andrew’s, Pearland; Trinity, Galveston and Trinity Fellowship, Friendswood. In December, a dozen intermediate-age girls joined the effort from the Junior Honor Society of Victory Lakes Intermediate School in League City and the project keeps growing. Holy Trinity, Dickinson has now joined in.

 

Fran Jones agrees and added, "I love to sew, needed to stay busy and my friends at church needed some help. After Fran returned from Nicaragua delivering these kits, I realized why I do it. I had tears running down my face watching the video of a girl accepting one of the kits I worked on. It was a moving experience, as though I was handing it to her myself,” Jones said.

 

Helen Shinpaugh is a member of the Trinity Fellowship in Friendswood. She learned of Days for Girls International from Lantz. “Because I know a number of missionaries who work with women in [developing] countries, the idea of giving them the dignity God meant them to have, by way of reusable hygiene kits, was appealing at once. The concept is simple, the results profound.” Shinpaugh said that while similar products are available in most places, they are extremely expensive and the kits effectively provide more disposable income for the recipients and allow them to continue to work. The relationships with other participants has been rewarding for Shinpaugh as well.

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