RIPPING AND ROLLING FOR HEALTH AND HOPE – Raelynn Faire, left, and Dorothy Bird roll strips of flannel cotton for Day for Girls menstrual kits. Several more hands and steps will create kits that will be sent to teen girls in over 140 countries. – Photo by Ken Stern
La Conner Soroptimist members took on a new cause Wednesday at their meeting at the Swinomish Yacht Club, putting their hands to work ripping and rolling fabric for Days for Girls, a program supplying menstrual shield kits to girls. Carol Olsen invited the 65 women attending to join the effort that has helped 1.5 million girls in 146 countries on six continents. “It’s all because of women like you,” Olsen, co-director of the Anacortes Days for Girls chapter said. “Some who sew, some who do not.” Volunteers sew cotton flannel liners and shields and make drawstring backpacks for kits that include hotel soap bars, a washcloth and two pairs of underwear. When girls get their period in many cultures, they might sit in a hut and wait till it is over. They do not have menstrual products. Disposable western hygiene products are “a disaster,” Olsen said, because the countries lack western waste management systems. A solution came from Celeste Mergens of Lynden, Washington after a 2008 African trip. A master seamstress, she started making washable cloth shields and liners and providing instructions and education materials on reproduction health. Now girls receive a kit and a book and are taught about their bodies, reproduction and personal hygiene. They also learn about sex trafficking. Kits are hand delivered, not shipped. Trainers come to villages and teach the value of being a woman – exactly what Soroptimists are about, it was stressed. Over 10 years the project has evolved and now has worldwide participation. An Anacortes chapter meets monthly. They have donated 850 kits this year. Until last Wednesday they were the only Skagit County chapter. The La Conner Soroptimist chapter donated $1,000. The women made teams of two and ripped, rolled and filled Tupperware tubs with flannel cloth. “Soroptimists at their best help other women and girls to be their best,” Marilyn Allen, a La Conner Soroptimist and Days for Girls Anacortes chapter member, said when introducing Olsen. Wednesday night at the Swinomish Yacht Club the local Soroptimists were.