Rotary event fights poverty

Volunteers made components that will be assembled into feminine hygiene kits for girls in poor countries, enabling them to better attend school and work. (Submitted photo)
Volunteers made components that will be assembled into feminine hygiene kits for girls in poor countries, enabling them to better attend school and work. (Submitted photo)
Sew-a-thon helps create life-changing hygiene kits for girls in 75 countries

Things that people in our country take for granted can present major barriers to people in the poorest parts of the world.

The Orono Rotary Club sponsored a service project on April 3 that brought 45 adults and teens together at the Discovery Center in Maple Plain to cut, iron and sew feminine hygiene kits that will help girls in countries such as Bangladesh and Senegal.

The colorful, washable kits, accompanied by health education materials, provide a discrete way for young girls to manage their monthly menstrual cycle without having to miss or drop out of school.

“It was a great event,” said Melanie DeLuca, a member of the Orono Rotary Club. “People loved it. It wasn’t just the working, it was also learning about the need and the organization.”

For the many girls worldwide who do not have access to feminine hygiene products, the menstrual cycle means days without school, days without income and being left in isolation. Girls use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks or anything else they can find, but they can still miss up to two months of school every year.

The Rotary’s work supports the non-profit group, Days for Girls, which believes every girl in the world deserves education, safety and dignity.

The sustainable feminine hygiene kits the volunteers made fit into a zip bag inside a colorful fabric drawstring bag and should last for years.

“It’s a great organization,” said DeLuca of Days for Girls. “They just want to provide the service, whether you provide the whole kit, or teach them how to make it. The goal is to try and do both.”

Some 45 volunteers attended the Orono Rotary Club's first Sew-a-thon for the Days for Girls project. (Submitted photo)
Some 45 volunteers attended the Orono Rotary Club’s first Sew-a-thon for the Days for Girls project. (Submitted photo)
So far, Days for Girls has reached women and girls in over 75 countries on six continents.

According to Days for Girls website, “It turns out this issue is a surprising but instrumental key to social change for women all over the world.”

The fun afternoon project brought together Rotarians with friends and neighbors from the community and teens from Orono High School to learn about this important health issue. It also gave local community members the chance to make a life-changing difference in the lives of girls.

Because the group were assembling the components of the kits rather than the finished product (to be put together at a Rotary conference in May), there isn’t a final count on the kits produced that afternoon.

But, Rotarians and friends of Rotary from around Minnesota have been participating in sew-a-thons for months, and are on pace to create kits for 1,000 girls by the end of May.

“We just want to thank all the volunteers that came,” said DeLuca. “That’s how we got so much work done.”

DeLuca said that while there were no concrete plans for the Rotary to sponsor another sew-a-thon, it’s a likely possibility in the future.

“We haven’t officially talked about it, but it went so well, it’s very likely that we will,” she said. “Everybody loved doing it.”

For more information about this issue, individuals can visit the Days for Girls website www.DaysForGirls.org or contact regional organizer Judy Johnson from the Maple Grove Rotary Club at
[email protected]