Thanks to local volunteers, Ugandan girls attain dignity and confidence 

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

(l to r) Barbara Trudel, Nancy Hughes and Cecile Cote with a photo of RUHU and DfG volunteers. Photo/Melanie Petrucci

Shrewsbury – Imagine what it would be like to be a girl and be shunned during a specific time of the month. Sounds archaic, doesn’t it? Shunned, in part, because of the lack of proper hygiene supplies. In some parts of the world that is still happening– even in 2018.

But thanks to several local residents, who are members of the Shrewsbury Chapter of Days for Girls (DfG), over 100 girls in Uganda will not have to worry about that particular problem.

This past summer, Shrewsbury residents Barb Trudel, Nancy Hughes and her husband, Jack Collins, along with Cecile and Jerry Cote from Holden, participated in a humanitarian trip to Uganda where they delivered feminine hygiene kits. The kits were then distributed to girls through the program Raising Up Hope for Uganda (RUHU.)

The international organization was founded in 2008 by an American CEO and philanthropist, Celeste Mergens, who was working with a family foundation near Nairobi, Kenya, where she was assisting an orphanage with 1,400 children.

She learned that menstruating girls often stayed in their rooms for days, sitting on cardboard to absorb their flow, because they could not afford feminine hygiene products and, if they could, there was no way to dispose of them.

Mergens set about creating washable, reusable pads in a kit so girls in such parts of the world could continue their schooling with proper hygiene and dignity. By 2018, the “DfG Kits” and health education programs had reached more than one million girls and women in over 100 countries, according to the DfG website www.daysforgirls.org.

“We’ve had a relationship with RUHU for five or six years. Patrick Ssenyonjo is the founder and director and has been around for 10 years. Patrick was a street child himself. He was an orphan in Kampala and, along with his sister, lived in the slums. Little by little he began shepherding and taking care of other children who were younger and in the same situation,” relayed DfG member Cecile Cote.

“When Cecile joined DfG as a team member, she thought – ‘Wow, the girls in Patrick’s program would really benefit from these kits,’” added Trudel, explaining the genesis for their recent trip.

There is a DfG office in Kampala but it is an enterprise, meaning they need to make money. Patrick couldn’t afford to pay for their kits.

“We brought kits that were made here, about 75, and then when we arrived we purchased another 60 from the DfG office in Kampala,” Trudel said.

In addition to the distribution of kits, basic hygiene instruction was also arranged for both boys and girls in the RUHU program, through the Ugandan DfG office.  The girls were also taught to sew kits.

Ssenyonjo will be in the U.S. to meet with various sponsors in the coming weeks. He will visit St. Mary of the Hills Church in Boylston on Wed., Nov. 14 and will meet with and thank the local DfG chapter.

For more information about his visit and local DfG efforts, contact Nancy Hughes at [email protected].