A group of Chilliwack women are making it easier for girls and women in impoverished countries to go to school and work, and are helping to educate them about feminine hygiene.
Days for Girls is an international program where reusable and washable sanitary pads are handmade by people in first-world communities around the world.
The feminine hygiene kits are then distributed to those in need. The girls and women are taught how to use and wash the pads, and are given a one-week information session about menstrual health and hygiene.
As of July, the Canadian chapter is a recognized registered charity and the local Rosedale team is made up of about 15 women from Heritage Reformed Church.
Hannah Brunia is one of them. She never gave it a second thought when buying hygiene products for her daughters here in Canada.
“I have five daughters and I have never considered those girls in the third-world countries and their needs,” says Brunia. “When I heard about this, I thought I could do this. I just didn’t think of the need before.”
The women gather once a month to sew the different pieces of the kits, and to package everything up.
Each kit has two shields. The shields are made from two layers of 100 per cent cotton with a waterproof layer in between, and are snapped around the underwear to hold them in place.
There are 10 flannel liners in each kit which tuck into the shield to absorb fluids.
The kits also contain a pair of underwear, a bar of soap, two Ziploc bags – one for washing, and one for rinsing – and a hand-knit washcloth.
Everything is placed into a cloth bag with a drawstring.
“Everyone has a talent, and we use them all,” says Janie Krul. “Not everyone sews. Anyone can help out, whether it’s here, or financially, or at home.”
Krul’s mother in law, who’s almost 90 years old, has knit more than 200 wash cloths.
Students from Timothy Christian helped make shields and liners during last school year.
And some granddaughters as young as 10 and 12 from the church have crocheted cords for the bag closures.
Others have helped out by donating supplies (such as fabric, soap, and resealable plastic bags) and funds to help pay for shipping and purchasing items in need.
The group also holds fundraisers like garage sales, car washes, bake sales, and homemade frozen cookie dough sales.
It is common for girls and women in impoverished countries to be turned away from school and work when they are menstruating, and so they stay at home. Some will dig a hole in the ground and crouch over it until the bleeding stops. Others do unsafe things such as use rocks to stop the bleeding.
They end up going days without school, days without income, and days without leaving the house.
The Days for Girls Rosedale team gets a great sense of accomplishment in helping those girls and women out.
“To know that these girls spend most of their time indoors because they don’t have these, and now they can go to school and work and get jobs” is a wonderful feeling, says Jenny Jansen.
The Rosedale team has been making feminine hygiene kits since last fall. They’ve already made and shipped nearly 300 kits to Haiti, South Africa, Indonesia and Philippines. Next month, they have their biggest shipment to date of 300 kits for women and girls in Kenya.
Donations of money and materials are always welcome. Those wishing to donate fabrics can help by giving pieces of 100 per cent cotton and flannel measuring at least 10 inches by 10 inches. Anything smaller cannot be used for the feminine hygiene kits, but will be given to another woman in the church who makes quilts for people in Croatia.
Anyone wishing to help out by making a donation can call Hannah Brunia at 604-819-2940 or Janie Krul at 604.794.7905.