Dignity Ministries

Our parishioners volunteer to provide clothing and toys for local children in need, assemble feminine hygiene kits for girls in Uganda and beyond, and we partner with Episcopal churches in Philadelphia to address their community needs and to promote the dignity of all.

Cradles to Crayons Volunteering

Diane Mayer

St. David’s supports Cradles to Crayons throughout the year by accepting donations of clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies, and baby essentials. These donations are then inspected by volunteers and taken to the warehouse for further sorting and distribution.

Project Ensonga Sewing Ministry

Leslie Roy

Ugandan girls without sanitary supplies often stay home from school during their periods, missing up to two months of education and opportunity each year. Project Ensonga makes and distributes sustainable feminine hygiene kits for students in Uganda. Designed by Days for Girls International, the kits are washable and last up to three years. After kits were distributed in other Ugandan schools, girls’ absentee rates dropped from 36% to 8%.

A few times per month, the Project Ensonga ministry gets together to help sew and assemble these kits.

Click the button to read an article for Project Engonga founder, Leslie Roy’s, experience with her kits in Uganda…
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Emmanuel Resurrection Episcopal Church

Bill Knapp

St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church

Leslie Lewis

Each year during the holidays, the St. David’s community collects items to be brought to St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA. The church than distributes these much needed items to the homeless in the city. Items collected include Blessing Bags during Thanksgiving, and mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves during Christmastime.

Red Cross Blood Drive

Susan Nagy

Throughout the year, St. David’s hosts the Red Cross in holding a blood drive at our Church. The Red Cross is accepting both blood donations and Power Red donations every hour. Power Red donation collects the red cells, but returns most of the plasma and platelets to the donor.

United Thank Offering

Eleanor Erskine

Read the article below for Project Engonga founder, Leslie Roy’s, experience with her kits in Uganda…

Imagine living in a community like Kampala, Uganda, dependent on help from others. The children living in the slums there are in dire need of money for a daily lunch, clean dormitories and modern classrooms. Funds are also needed for water tanks to collect rain water from the roofs or to drill a well to get water when the rain barrels run dry. The needs are daunting.

In 2012 and 2014, I visited Romans and Sarah Serunjogi, in Uganda, who are partners with St. David’s Episcopal Church and ECHOES Around the World. Thirty years ago, they started a school with six students in their home. Today this school, Trinity Children’s Centre, in the slums of Kampala, has grown to 1,300 students from pre-school to primary 7. They started Centenary High School in Masaka which now has 800 students. Later, they added the Double Cure Medical Centre in Mpigi which is run by their oldest daughter, Lydia, who is now a doctor.

With all that has been accomplished, they still lack funds. Twenty-five percent of the students cannot pay the meager $275.00 per year tuition. And because of Aids, many of the children are orphans. After my visits to Uganda I kept thinking about ways in which I could help.

One persistent and unacceptable issue affects only the female students.

Many girls miss up to five days of school each month because they have no feminine hygiene products. Most do not have the money to purchase disposable products and if they could afford them, there is no safe place to dispose of them. Bathroom facilities consist of shared outhouses with a hole in the ground for the toilet and no place for washing afterwards.

Girls will use old pieces of uniforms or other rags that are not properly cleaned. Or they may just sit in their rooms on a piece of cardboard.

After reading articles about this issue, which exists in all developing nations, I discovered Days for Girls International. The nonprofit’s founder, Celeste Mergans, saw this need in 2008 and engineered a sewn, reusable feminine hygiene kit. This solution was perfect! The kits require sewing (which I love) – a skill that can be taught to the women and girls at Trinity Children’s Centre (which has a classroom of sewing machines).

The statistics show that after kit distribution in other Ugandan schools, the absence rate dropped from 25% to 3%.

In November 2015 I quickly made several Days for Girls kits, and when Sarah and Romans came to visit the United States that month, I showed Sarah the kits and explained how they were used. She was excited! When she returned to Uganda the tailors who work at Trinity began to make the kits, but they did not have the money for the required materials.

In December 2015, I launched Project Ensonga. Ensonga is the Ugandan word for issue, which is how they may refer to their menstrual cycles. My goal was to make 500 reusable feminine hygiene kits to take to Uganda the next fall. I wanted to be sure every female student at Trinity Children’s Centre and Centenary High School would receive a kit if they had begun to have their period. This project would require raising money to buy supplies such as fabric and thread, recruiting people to help make the kits, and setting up collections for the remaining items in the kit including underwear and wash cloths. Each Days for Girls kit will last three years and contains two shields made with a waterproof piece of fabric and snap onto the underwear, eight liners which are the absorbent pads, two pair of underwear, one washcloth, one small bar of soap, two plastic Ziploc bags to store the dirty liners, a visual instruction card, and a drawstring bag to carry everything.

This was a lofty goal. Each kit would cost $10 to $12 and take a small army to create. But once I began to tell people what I was doing, I found it was easy to get people involved, especially women. Most had never thought about this issue and were eager to help. ECHOES Around the World, a non-profit which helps with other projects in Uganda, and St. David’s Episcopal Church were ready to jump aboard. Friends from high school, college, my neighborhood, Girl Scouts, church, golf, past work places, and relatives wanted to help. People I talked to while buying fabric got involved. Friends of friends donated items or came to sewing sessions. My six year old granddaughter loves to help cut threads and pick the snap color for each shield.

After ten months of hosting sewing parties, acquiring donations and endless networking, by mid-September, my Wayne, PA Days for Girls team had completed 520 kits to take to Uganda. Enough money was donated to cover all the costs to make the kits, as well as purchase duffle bags to transport them to Uganda and the cost for the extra baggage fees. Three of us flew to Uganda with the twelve suitcases containing the kits. Sarah and Lydia were very excited by our arrival and we immediately went to work on getting them distributed to the girls. Lydia would talk to the students explaining the menstrual cycle. I would then explain what was included in each kit and the use and care of each item in the kit. Everything was repeated to the girls by Lydia or one of the teachers, since they did not always understand my accent and sometimes use different words for items.

We first distributed kits to the girls at Centenary High School. The girls who boarded at the school were required to bring disposable pads with them each term. But they would run out before the term ended.

Unbelievably, they would try to reuse or share used pads. When we handed out the 280 kits, they were thrilled to be getting two pair of knickers (underwear) in their kit. To determine the size underwear each girl needed, we had samples by size which we held up to the girls. The smallest pair was cuter than the others, so most of the girls felt that they should have that size. We were also asked to give kits to the fifteen female teachers at the school. They spent a long time deciding which kit they wanted since we had such a variety of fabrics for the bags.

When we went to Trinity Children’s Centre, Lydia explained the menstrual cycle to all of the female students in Primary 4 to 7. After she finished, she asked just those who had begun their period to stay. Most of the younger girls left. We continued with our training and gave out 120 kits. The girls were also given sharpies so they could label the items in their kits with their name. They were so excited to see all the components of the kit. Later that day, we began to distribute kits to the 35 female teachers. Over the next few days, girls kept coming into Sarah’s office to say they needed a kit. She would have to try to determine if they really had begun to menstruate or if they just wanted one of the colorful bags with the two pair of underwear!

Lydia was excited about having the Days for Girls kits available at Double Cure Medical Centre. She feels that they could include them as part of the maternity fee for women who deliver babies at the centre. The centre also has Outreach events in rural villages where they provide free services such as immunizations and HIV testing. She took a sample kit to show the women at one of the Outreach events. The following Tuesday when we went to visit Double Cure Medical Centre, 80 women showed up from this village because Lydia had told them we would have kits to give them. We only had 33 kits left to distribute. The women who got them that day were mostly new mothers and each curtsied as we handed her a kit. Names were collected for those that did not get a kit and they were told to return the next week to receive a kit. Not all of the women returned to get their kits, but Lydia was able to sell the extra kits to women who came to the medical centre to buy a kit.

Once I returned from Uganda, I began working on the next step – setting up training with Days for Girls for Trinity Children’s Centre. ECHOES Around the World wired the money to pay for a training class and material to make 50 kits. At the end of October, the two tailors and thirteen female students learned how to make the kits in the Trinity sewing classroom. This will allow them to make kits for future females students who need them. They also hope to sell the kits at Double Cure Medical Centre and some local medical clinics. The money made from the sales will be used to purchase more material. This solution allows the project to continue within Uganda without our support – our ultimate goal!

What does the future hold for Project Ensonga? Our dedicated volunteers were back at their sewing machines by November. Materials have been purchased and fundraising efforts will continue. Several local schools have added this project as one of their outreach efforts. I am reaching out to other groups who travel to third world countries to make them aware of Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits so they can spread the word. Through St. David’s Church, we have trained one of our partners in Guatemala to make the kits. She has begun teaching other women in her surrounding communities. And we are hoping to take the next batch of kits to Haiti, where our St. David’s Church partners lost all of their crops, several schools and much more during this year’s hurricane.

So how can you help? Send an email to Waynepa@daysforgirls.org to find out about opportunities to sew or donate to the cause. Help keep girls in school. Every girl. Everywhere. Period.

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