When we heard that there was a local group sewing menstrual products out of salvaged fabric for people around the world we just had to find out more. So we joined them! On the 4th Monday of every month (except December, July and August) a group of talented generous souls gathers in the basement of the Crestwood Church on Dunmore Road. They come bearing sewing machines, scissors, sergers, big hearts and warm smiles (and home baked goodies to share!). Who are they? The James Chapter 2 sewing group.
Bringing together the values of compassion, service, mutual aid, and peacemaking, this sewing group contributes their efforts to not one but two separate charitable organizations: Days for Girls International (DfG) and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
Days for Girls (DfG) is a non-profit organization whose motto is Every Girl. Everywhere. Period. They strive to increase “access to menstrual care and education by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers, and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls.” To accomplish this they have supported the creation of Chapters, Teams and Enterprises operating in over 125 countries worldwide. “Chapters and Teams make DfG Kits and distribute them free of charge. Enterprises provide training and income-generating opportunities for local women to make and sell affordable DfG Kits in their own communities.”
So where does the local team fit in to DfG? Working together, and following the well-organized guide produced by Days for Girls International, they produce washable feminine hygiene kits for distribution to girls and women in need. Each kit includes 2 waterproof shields, 8 absorbent liners, 2 pairs of panties, 1 washcloth, 1 bar of soap, 2 ziploc bags for washing and storage, and a care/use sheet all contained in a portable drawstring bag to keep everything together. The Medicine Hat DfG team sews the shields, liners, washcloths and drawstring bags for the SerNiña foundation in Guatemala whose founder, Danielle Skogan, is from Medicine Hat. The fabric is almost all scrap material from local businesses like Mooks Fabrics. The soap that is included in the kits is made by another local woman. Although the team has done some fundraising, most of the machines and tools used belong to the volunteers.
As first time volunteers, we were welcomed with open arms, and offered our choice of tasks including cutting, ironing, sewing, serging, pinning, assembling components and more. Everyone was incredibly generous with their advice and patiently answered all of our many questions. We loved the skill-sharing, the zero waste mindset, humanitarianism and the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Beyond producing menstrual kits, Days for Girls and the organizations that they work with, including SerNiña, provide menstrual health education for the girls and women receiving kits. To achieve this they have developed an Ambassador of Women’s Health program to:
- Help break cycles of shame with fun and engaging factual conversations with women and girls about the menstrual cycle, and their health.
- Understand the sensitivity needed, taking great care to honor the culture and wisdom of those you are reaching.
- Educate men and boys about men’s health, DfG Kits, and the menstrual cycle.
- Consistently and confidently teach women and girls about their reproductive rights, hygiene, self defense, leadership skills and more.
On the other side of the room, there are women using more scrap material to create beautiful quilts for the Mennonite Central Committee. MCC held its first meeting in 1920 with the original focus on famine relief by providing food for starving Mennonites in Ukraine. They soon realized that they could not stop at helping only their Mennonite brothers and sisters and began to help others in need. MCC (Canada) was founded in 1963. Did you know that Ten Thousand Villages originated from the Mennonite Central Committee? They are an organization which cultivates long-term buying relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to gifts, accessories and home décor from around the world.
Currently “MCC focuses its development efforts in areas such as health, education, peace and justice, and fair trade. It responds to disaster situations, as well as focusing its efforts on the longer-term issues of economic and social policy.” One way they respond to poverty and disaster situations is by providing quilts to those in need. A handmade quilt provides not only warmth but also a tangible message to people that their needs are not forgotten. Last year 53,198 quilts were delivered to Jordan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Ukraine, Iraq, Zambia, Syria, Somalia, Lebanon, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Canada, and the U.S..
All in all, joining the James Chapter 2 sewing group to help, share and learn was a inspiring and heart-warming way to spend an afternoon. If you would like to find out more about the group, or if you are interested in donating your time/skills, tools or making a financial contribution, please contact Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or follow them on Facebook (Days for Girls Medicine Hat AB Canada Team).