A Great Ministry, Period!
By Lindsay Peyton
FUMC Lufkin has joined a global effort to make a major change – all by ensuring something small remains no big deal. The church recently formed a sewing circle for the international nonprofit Days for Girls, which prepares and distributes feminine hygiene products to those who would otherwise not have them and would not be able to attend school during their monthly periods.
Days for Girls began in 2008 when founder Celeste Mergens was assisting at an orphanage in Kenya and started to wonder what the girls were doing for feminine hygiene. When she asked about it, the response was, “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.”
Mergens was shocked to learn that the girls in the orphanage had to sit on cardboard in their rooms for several days each month, often going without food unless someone brought it to them.
She came up with a solution – washable, long-lasting pads, and created the first kit to give away for Days for Girls. A few designs later, the current Days for Girls Kit was created, which would meet cultural and environmental needs of various communities throughout the world.
Since Days for Girls formed, more than 1,000 teams have come together to sew the kits, which reach more than 1 million women in 110 countries.
FUMC Lufkin is now a proud member of the list of volunteer teams.
It all started when Vicki Shimer, the church’s director of communications, discovered Days for Girls International.
At first, she was surprised to find that what was a routine in the U.S. – shopping for feminine hygiene products – was such a challenge for women around the world. She also learned that women in other countries who were stigmatized and humiliated for having their periods.
“I started doing research, and it was heart-breaking to read the stories,” Shimer said. “It’s sad when it’s a problem that can be solved so simply.”
Last year, she signed up, along with her aunt, as solo sewers for Days for Girls. Together, they made 21 kits, and Shimer took them with her on a mission to Haiti.
“We passed them out, and the women were so thankful,” Shimer said.
Everything in the kit is washable, and the products can last three years, she said.
In Haiti, women did not have the resources to buy feminine hygiene products. In other countries, access was even more limited, Shimer explained.
She realized the need was great around the world – and hosted an event this past July to gauge interest in the church getting involved in the effort.
“It went really well,” Shimer said. “And now it’s taken off.”
About 10 women showed up to form an initial team, and five more came on board at the official kick off in August.
The volunteers called the first event a “Sew Saturday” and enjoyed coming together to stitch for a cause. Shimer said the church plans to host more Sew Saturdays in the future.
“We’re opening the door to new members who want to see what this is about,” she said.
Days for Girls provides templates for the kits, patterns for what needs to be sewn and resources to team members, Shimer explained. In return, the church keeps a tally of how many kits are assembled.
When a group prepares to go on a mission or wants to buy a certain number of kits, Days for Girls can contact the church. The funding provided for the kits goes towards making more.
Shimer said that individuals who wish they could go on a mission but cannot for whatever reason may instead join the sewing group and still contribute on a global level.
“They can help in another way,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for those who can’t go to still reach people in need.”
In addition, Shimer said their group can help raise awareness of this issue. “This is not something people should be worried about,” Shimer said.
FUMC Lufkin is looking for volunteers who can sew and have either a sewing machine or serger. Those who cannot sew can still help the group by cutting fabric or making monetary or material donations.
Shimer added that the church hopes to inspire others to take up some thread for women and girls in need.
“Hopefully, this will help people get interested and know there’s something out there,” she said.
To learn more, visit lufkinfirst.com/dfg/.