“One true key to happiness is to labor for the happiness of others.”
For my Seva, I had the opportunity to participate in a service project for Days for Girls. This internationally minded non-profit organization began in 2008 when Founder and CEO Celeste Mergens was working with a family foundation in the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. She was assisting an orphanage where, in the wake of historic post-election violence, the population had swelled from 400 children to 1,400.
As she was preparing to return to Nairobi, Celeste went to sleep with the devastating situation weighing heavy on her mind. In the middle of the night, she woke up with a nagging question: “What are girls doing for feminine hygiene?” Seeking an answer, she ran to the computer and sent an email to the Assistant Director of the orphanage.
He replied right away. “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.”
Celeste learned that girls were sitting on cardboard for several days each month, often going without food unless someone would bring it to them. This set in motion her first intervention – disposable pads. But Celeste and her team quickly discovered a major problem: without any place to dispose of the pads, this was neither a viable nor a sustainable solution. It was time for plan B, in the form of a washable, long-lasting pad.
“Service is the best medicine for self pity, selfishness, despair and loneliness.”
-Gordon B Hinckley
The first Days for Girls (DfG) Kits were quite different from the design in use today. Each of the 28 iterations that followed would be informed by extensive feedback, and designed to meet unique cultural and environmental conditions in communities throughout the world. What would eventually become clear in the years following was just how much of a difference hygiene solutions would make in assisting women and girls in breaking the cycle of poverty, and living lives of dignity.
Today, Days for Girls has reached more than one million women and girls in over 125 countries with DfG Kits and menstrual health education. This translates into over 115 million days of dignity, health, and opportunity!
“When we reach out to help others we find our true selves.”
-Gordon B Hinckley
I participated in a service project for Days for Girls organized by the Relief Society, an auxiliary to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My job was to help put the DfG kits together. Each kit is a draw-string bag that includes reusable cloth menstrual pads made up of colorful shields and liners, panties, a washcloth and soap, zip-closure plastic bags, and other personal hygiene items. The kit enables girls to carry their clean and used pads discreetly and to take care of their own needs. Cutting, measuring, and sewing is where volunteers like myself came into the process. Various stations were set up, so we all chose to work where we felt comfortable. (I did not get near the sewing machines!) We successfully put together one hundred full kits; in addition, we also prepared other materials to send to larger organizations that help many young ladies around the world.
Participating in this service project was a big eye-opener for me. It made me realize how much I take for granted and how truly blessed I am. I find it so helpful to have moments like this to pull me out of the patterns of seeing only the things that are lacking in my life. My ego takes center stage and plays the part of victim; the “poor me” story seems to want to take over. When I’m in that place, I have nothing to offer and no real joy to call my own. Opportunities to step off that stage and see outside myself brings a new perspective to my life, and helps me to find gratitude and joy as offerings for myself, and for those around me.