LeeAnn Barsby, Pam Meunier, and Jane Curley work at the cutting table. Submitted photo

Quilt Guild sews for a good cause

Feminine hygiene kits for teenage girls in Malawi helps keep girls in school

A group of Upper Columbia Valley women are putting their sartorial talents to charitable cause, helping to create feminine hygiene kits for teenage girls in Malawi.

The Valley Piecemakers Quilt Guild has, in an effort spearheaded by Invermere resident Loreen Jacobs, been sewing together hygiene kits, which will allow girls who are menstruating to continue going to school, which they otherwise would not be able to do.

“There are no paper products anywhere in Malawi,” said Ms. Jacobs, adding that the inspiration for the project came through a friend of hers, who helps run what is termed a ‘feeding station’, through the Apostle Church of the Pentecost Malawi, for kids who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

The charity is called a ‘feeding station’ rather than an orphanage because most of the kids who make use of it live in their grandparents homes rather than at the charity. But with so many kids having lost parents to AIDS (Ms. Jacobs outlined that there are some 1.5 million such kids in Malawi), many of the grandparents are hard pressed to provide enough food for all their grandkids, let alone afford school for all of them. That is where the feeding station comes in, offering kids meals and access to education. But, as is common in many developing countries, teenage girls are often unable to attend school while menstruating for the simple reason that they lack hygiene products of any sort.

“We are following a great design system made by the Days for Girls program for the kits,” said Ms. Jacobs. “It requires a lot of flannel, which curls around the pads, which are inserted into a slot which has a polyurethane liner.”

The guild was busily making as many of the kits as possible earlier this month, but would be extremely grateful for any help or donations.

“It takes a good deal of time and fabric,” said Ms. Jacobs, adding the feeding station has 250 girls, of which 150 are menstruating.

“There’s no way we are going to be able to make that many (150), but every bit of volunteer help, whether its time helping to sew or just donating material, is really appreciated. Bolts of good quality flannel are actually quite expensive,” she said.

Although the situation may seem grim in many respects, there is hope, according to Ms. Jacobs, who pointed out that the rate of HIV has gone down 67 per cent in Malawi in recent years.

“Education, sanitation and hygiene are making a big difference,” she said.

Anybody who wishes to help out can contact Ms. Jacobs at 250-342-3806.

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