Last time I blogged, I mentioned that Celeste Mergens has a plan broader than simply providing feminine hygiene equipment to the girls at the Academy of Hidden Talents orphanage. That plan includes a program she calls “Days for Girls”.
Reporting on the trip she just concluded, Celeste says they arrived at the orphanage with four huge duffle bags containing more than 500 "Days for Girls" sanitary kits, educational booklets and displays. They also brought the lyrics to "Walk Tall, You’re a Daughter of God", a five-gallon container of bleach, and some detergent. They planned on setting up before the program, but when they arrived, the first group of girls was in their chairs, waiting.
The focus of the program for the girls is threefold: 1) To expand their goals through education and assurance that they are daughters of God, 2) To save their lives by teaching hygiene and safety, and 3) to give them days of their lives back with the feminine kits.
Celeste began the program by showing the girls photos of Kenyan Women of Influence and describing the contribution of each. Some were mothers, some were educators, some worked in government. She ended the segment by telling the girls, "There is another woman I would like to introduce you to who will make all the difference in the world." She held up a mirror that was just the size of the photos and asked, "Do you see her?" As she held it up to the girls, scanning the room, they cheered.
Then Sue Fleming of Goddard College, pictured at left, spoke of education and its importance.
Julie Matua co/In-country director for PEI, pictured at left, spoke of safety and not letting men trade them "trinkets for sexual favors."
"It was all very honest and genuine.” Celeste says. “The girls could not have been more attentive.”
Celeste spoke of predators and their behaviors and told the girls that they only way to be safe is to never be silent, and never allow others to be hurt.
Then it came time to show them how to use the kits. Celeste says, “They were mesmerized. They were thrilled. They LOVED their scarves, they loved their panties. They LOVED the pads. They loved their washcloths and soap. They loved the idea. Their eyes sparkled and even the teachers were so glad to have them. They said that they were not sure such an idea would work until they saw them. They clamored for them despite our efforts for calm distribution.”
After dismissing the meeting with prayer, Celeste and her team hugged each and every girl as they left. She says that was when we knew that the idea was as sound as any of us had hoped. Maybe more so, because girls began to speak up about exploitation they had suffered. Celeste and the strong team that had come to work with the girls were able to stand as advocates, working with Kenyan authorities to fill in the gaps in personal safety for the girls.
“We came to give back days of their lives,” Celeste says, “only to find we had a solution in hand that gave them a voice.”
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