Lake Zurich, IL // Lake Zurich Service Unit
Keep the African Girls at School
When Elizabeth missed school for an extended time due to illness, she realized how hard it was to get caught up. Through conversation with a mentor, she learned about cultural obstacles girls her age face in Africa and how those struggles increase once girls reach puberty. Elizabeth learned an underlying issue was how girls in underdeveloped countries often don’t have access to female sanitary products. She located Bookfriends, an organization looking to launch an initiative to encourage girls to remain in class simply by having monthly hygiene supplies available. Hygiene packs would be added to their shipments of books to schools in developing countries. Elizabeth worked with Bookfriends to produce a portion of the kits needed. She developed a volunteer team that included a church sewing group and a videographer. She then began to educate others about her project through speaking at church events and to local youth groups. She also created awareness for her project through social media and a YouTube video. During the time of her Gold Award project, 1,550 kits were sent to Kenya, and 3,078 kits were sent to Tanzania!
From Lizzie: For my project, I partnered with Bookfriends, a local not-for-profit organization, founded in 2004 to send donated textbooks to schools in Africa. When the founder Paulette Kutchat learned that the African girls were dropping out of school after they reached puberty due to a lack of feminine hygiene products she decided to add hygiene kits for the girls to each shipment of books.
For my project, I assisted Bookfriends in the launch of their African Girls Project. The bake sale that you allowed me to hold in the Fall of 2016 was the starting point for my project. Many staff members at St. Francis including Cathy Chiarelli and Traci Dallinger, gave me advice, encouragement, and support. Many Girl Scouts and Religious Ed families donated baked goods for the sale. Through the generosity of the St. Francis community, I raised $1450, plus many ladies donated fabric. Also, some of my first volunteer sewers were members of the “Threads of Faith” group led by Donna Miller.
These funds from the bake sale were used to purchase fabric, underwear for the girls and plastic bags for the kits. During the time of my project, Bookfriends sent 1500 kits to Kenya in 2017 and 3078 kits to Tanzania in 2019. Bookfriends has now built a network of “padsters” who are currently making more pads for future shipments.
After receiving a shipment of books and hygiene kits Faith M., the headmistress and a teacher of a rural school in Kenya, shared the following observation:
“We see our girls coming to school now with less fear, definitely more confidence now that they have monthly supplies. And what a difference that confidence and regular class attendance makes in their educational progress.”
Throughout my project, I learned so much about the importance of education and why it is imperative all children, both boys AND GIRLS are educated. Last summer with the help of Sue Messmer, who I met when she volunteered to sew, I was able to summarize this information in this video which can be viewed on YouTube at HERE.