By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Shine the Light Kenya is a nonprofit that was founded in 2011 by Lizzie Maina to help educate children in rural schools and ensure that they have the necessary tools to succeed.
Having relocated from Africa to the United States in 1995, Maina immersed herself into the community and her passion for helping others. Her grandfather started a school in Kenya and she has committed herself to continuing to help those in the surrounding communities. She currently works as a senior caregiver in Worcester and enjoys spending time with the elderly.
The Shine the Light Kenya team consists of Co-Founder Margaret Maina, a childhood friend of Lizzie’s. Betsy Wagoner is a friend and supporter as is Pastor Brian G. Minnich of the First Assembly of God in Worcester where Lizzie Maina is a member.
In 2010, the church sent a mission team to Mapela, South Africa, where they visited schools, churches and clinics. Since that time, they have sponsored afterschool Bible clubs and soccer teams in the village.
Maina was also the catalyst for the “Lizzie Project” after realizing that many female students in areas of Africa cannot attend school while they are menstruating. They don’t have the modern-day products that many of us take for granted and end up missing one week of school each month during their cycles, falling behind in their studies and unable to graduate. Many end up become casual laborers like their grandparents or turn to unethical ways to make a living.
St. Rose of Lima church in Northborough decided to get on board with this project, putting together feminine hygiene kits. Through their project “Days for Girls,” many volunteers from the church have spent countless hours purchasing fabric and sewing the items that make up each kit; 125 kits were completed and will be hand delivered to three schools in rural Kenya by Maina in early June.
Each kit contains eight liners, snaps, two shields, two pairs of underpants, plastic bags, a bar of soap and a washcloth. There is also an instruction sheet. The bag itself looks like a colorful book sack with whimsical fabric and a drawstring. The girls will bring this with them daily to school so as not to draw attention to what it really is. This way, nobody knows when they are menstruating and there is no stigma attached. The girls can attend school without being embarrassed.
“This really has the ability to change lives,” said volunteer Pam Meoli. “Lizzie’s group is making history here, as these will be the first kits delivered to three specific schools. The kits are used for three years. The hope is to raise money in the future so women can get trained to sew and make the kits themselves. St. Rose of Lima in Northborough has a very active church community and women’s group.”
Another volunteer, Amy Graham, personally made 25 of the kits.
“Lizzie is trying to raise funds for sewing machines in Kenya so that they will be self-sufficient. We pitched in a lot of our own funds and also got a lot of donations with the fabric. She is all about sustainability,” she said.
“Her commitment to this life project is very commendable. She is unbelievably passionate and really is helping to make a difference,” said Meoli.
“Shine the Light Kenya is the first nonprofit organization in Kenya working in collaboration with Days for Girls to ensure that all girls are provided with these kits,” Maina said. “In placing a kit in a girl’s hand, we drastically change her future in that she will be able to go to school every day and graduate high school and college versus being absent from school for almost a week every month and ending up pregnant, getting married and continuing in the poverty cycle that has been a way of life in these rural areas for decades.”
To volunteer or donate, visit www.shinethelightkenya.org.