By Ukee Washington


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A group of volunteers found a way to help girls in underdeveloped countries stay in school, and it’s using something many girls here might take for granted. Inside St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, you’ll often hear the unmistakable sound of sewing machines.

“These things will go to people in need,” said 15-year-old Conestoga High School sophomore Ainsley Payne. “That’s just such a good feeling.”

“These things” are reusable sanitary products for girls and women. Leslie Roy got the idea four years ago while on a mission trip in Uganda to feed children. She suddenly needed pads, but unlike in the U.S., disposable products weren’t readily available.

“I thought, ‘These kids, if they can’t afford to eat lunch every day, aren’t going to be able to buy a disposable product,'” Leslie said.

Leslie and a team of volunteers started Project Ensonga, sewing washable menstrual hygiene kits out of cheerful bright fabric for girls and women.

Volunteer Meg Tredinnick explained how the shields work. “It has these pockets in it that fit the liners, then it has snaps that snap around the underwear.”

The pattern comes from an international organization called Days For Girls. Everything is made to exacting specifications so they’ll hold up for three years of handwashing and line-drying. They’re packed with underwear and other supplies in a handmade bag.

“When the girls would have the kits, you’d go into the dorms, and they were thrilled,” Leslie said.

The products can make a huge difference in education. Girls in developing countries often miss school just because they’re menstruating.

“Missing a week of school every month, you miss a lot,” said volunteer Rush Senapathy, a Conestoga High School senior. “You miss a lot in a day here, so I can only imagine what they’re missing there.”

This team has delivered 2,200 kits so far. They’re also teaching seamstresses in developing countries how to make them, so these can become a reality everywhere.

To reach Project Ensonga, click here.

Ukee Washington