WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. PERIOD.
BY KENDRA DEWOLDE & LIANNE TUIN
When girls in Canada get their monthly period, it’s not the most enjoyable but life continues as normal. When girls in developing countries get their periods, they may miss weeks of school because of a lack of supplies or sanitary facilities. Period poverty is an issue that rarely gets talked about, despite affecting over 500 million women and girls around the world.
As part of the Junior Residency program, we have the opportunity to work with two schools around the world to create a program to educate girls our age about their periods and teach them how to sew their own reusable pads.
Lianne’s Heart Was Ready
Over the last few years, I (Lianne) felt God place the country of Zambia on my heart. I believe that He has been preparing my heart for this project for several years. Over the next year and a half, I will partner with The Esther School, a Christian day school in Zambia.
I first heard about The Esther School when I was in grade 3. I attended GEMS, a weekly girls group, at my church and as a club, we sponsored a little girl who attended the school. Little did I know that now in grade 11, I am working on a program that could affect her and other girls at this school! The Esther School came to my attention again when my old babysitter, now family friend, decided to teach there. Through her years of teaching at the school, I learned more about the school and the surrounding community.
When I first heard about the Jr. Residency program, The Esther School came to mind, but I didn’t know what kind of project would come out of it. Was it even a possibility? While I searched the Esther School website and researched more about Zambia, I began to see the issue of period poverty throughout the country.
It broke my heart.
Girls my age are sometimes missing a week of school every month because they either don’t have the supplies needed or don’t have the proper sanitary facilities. I realized that I took feminine hygiene for granted without even realizing it.
I talked to the school’s executive director to see if this project could be my focus. After our conversation, we realized that this could become a really neat project. I would have never thought that I would get to work alongside my old babysitter on a program to create reusable pads and find a way to educate girls on periods across the world.
I felt my heart pull me in and I knew that God placed Zambia on my heart for this reason.
The Moment Kendra Knew
I (Kendra) began the Jr. Residency program with absolutely no clue of what sort of organization I wanted to work with. No plan whatsoever. My favourite type of situation (For those wondering…yes, that is sarcasm).
So, on day one of the Jr. Residency program, my friends and I sat in Mr. Cumiskey’s office, and he listed all these organizations that I never heard of before.
Then one organization caught my attention.
Prem Sewa Shikshan Sangh, an all-girls school in rural India. As someone with a passion for travel and equal opportunities for girls and women, this was perfect. Mr. C only said a couple of sentences about this school, but I left that meeting literally shaking with excitement.
I knew this was it. I wanted to get involved with this school.
A couple of weeks later, we met with some people from Prem for the first time, and they shared a short presentation on the organization and their needs. The original idea they shared was for a Jr. Resident to build a small clinic for the girls there to use as a quarantine centre when they get sick, but they also briefly mentioned the period poverty at the school.
When girls at Prem get their period, they are often only given a single piece of fabric to use for the entire week, and while there was a shipment of reusable pads delivered a couple of years ago, those supplies have long since run out.
Immediately, God placed this need on my heart.
And I, being ever practical and accommodating, became fixated on this two-minute section of the presentation instead of the entire PowerPoint that had been created to pitch the clinic.
One Need, Two Projects
After more meetings with the people from Prem, we both thought of ways to combine the idea of feminine hygiene with the clinic, as both were huge needs for the schools. Both of us quickly realized that both organizations had a similar need. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work together on this project.
Our plan is to create a self-sustaining program at both Prem Sewa and the Esther School where students, teachers, and community members can create and sew their own pads.
But the project at Prem will be a bit different from the one at the Esther School. We will be creating a sort of multi-purpose room at Prem that can function as a quarantine centre when necessary and be used as an area to create and store pads in the meantime. We also plan to create a brief curriculum about feminine hygiene, so that the girls there can learn about periods and how God created their bodies.
Our deep hope is to reduce period poverty for these girls in these schools and we are so excited to see where God takes it from there!