The Ask:  Shirley asked me, “What more can we do to help?” This is a question I receive often in my work as an advocate helping children and families for One More Child. When people learn of the need, both locally and globally, they are often compelled to help. Shirley, as head of FirstSarasota’s Women on Mission Sewing Group, wanted to use her group’s time, labor, and talents to make a real difference for children in need. They were already sewing drawstring bags that could serve as luggage for foster children, but Shirley and her team of seamstresses could do more. Several ideas were discussed, such as sewing crib sheets for the Malnutrition Center in Guatemala or making pillowcase dresses for the girls in the Genesis Primary School in Uganda. Upon hearing their heart and catching their inspiration, I promised to discuss with our Global team and get back to them soon with a project direction for their group.  

The need:  Sometimes the things children and families need are simple and relatively easy for a volunteer or donor to accomplish, such as Christmas wishes and Back-to-School items. But, sometimes the things children and families need to thrive are more complicated, more sensitive, and less obvious in nature. Our Global team shared with me a need more along these lines for girls in Uganda. While pillowcase dresses are easy to transport and are used in Africa, there was currently a greater need for reusable sanitary products. Our ministry in Uganda focuses on education and feeding programs however, the girls miss a week each month because they don’t have the same personal hygiene products available to them as girls who live in developed countries. 

The heart: “Shirley, I’ve heard back from our global team and we have identified a project for your group, but it’s delicate in nature”, I said. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a response from this untraditional ask. I explained the situation and the need: disposable products are not a sustainable or viable option for girls in Uganda. They need reusable sanitary products, along with soap and underwear. Immediately her response was, “if you need reusable sanitary pads for the girls in Uganda, then that is what we will make.” Without further thought or any more convincing, the sewing group picked up the heart of this new project and turned their hands to meet this intimate need of young girls who lived on the other side of the world.     

The work: A few weeks later I stopped by on a Tuesday morning to check in on the women and see how their outreach projects were progressing. Shirley was busy with research and pattern development for the reusable pads. She showed me the prototype. Tears started rolling down my face as she explained why she selected this fabric over that fabric and why it was important for the girls to have this feature over that feature. I was overwhelmed with the heart of this senior woman who was filled with such compassion to bring comfort and convenience to children in such a deeply private and personal way. This was mercy. This was love. This was Christian life. The sewing room felt holy to me at that instant. We all stopped to pray over this new outreach and for the girls in Uganda who would one day be recipients of these special gifts. 

The giving: After months of tediously cutting layer upon layer upon layer of fabric, the ladies had finally completed 50 sanitary hygiene kits for Uganda! This was no small task! Volunteers of all ages helped in this project, from the cutting to the assembly stage. Even Shirley’s granddaughters helped over their summer break. The seamstresses also created drawstring bags that would conveniently hold all of the supplies, further adding a special touch of beauty to this project. As the bags were being packed up to leave the sewing room, Shirley stopped me and said, “we want to know if these work and what we can do to make the product better.” Once again, I was speechless. After months of pouring their life into a project, the question was basically still the same: “what more can we do to help?”

These kits will be delivered to the girls in Uganda with the One More Child mission teams traveling this fall.