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September 22, 2017
Grand Rapids students are making an impact in Africa



GRHS students hold completed kitsMembers of the Grand Rapids High School Interact Club spent last school year working to make a difference for high school girls in Senegal, West Africa by partnering with the organization Days for Girls.

“After my trip to Senegal last year with Teachers for Global Classrooms, I heard about this wonderful organization that provides girls the opportunity to stay in school,” explained GRHS Social Studies teacher Brielle Carlson. “In many developing countries around the world, girls don’t have feminine products so they must miss days of school each month when they have their periods.”

Research shows that girls who are educated wait longer to get pregnant, help stop the cycle of poverty, and help support their families and communities. That’s why Days for Girls helps to provide reusable feminine hygiene products to girls across the world.

Having seen firsthand what girls can experience without access to those products while in Kothiary, Senegal, Carlson brought the idea to the Interact Club, a Rotary-sponsored club for high school students. “Our students were excited to have a project that they knew would directly impact other students their age,” said Carlson.

The project quickly drew the support of the community too. Carlson created an Amazon Wishlist that anyone could purchase items from. Once the supplies were gathered, students met to prep those supplies. Students cut flannel, traced and cut patterns, and ironed the fabric. After many after-school meetings to prep the kits, St. Joe’s Quilting Group stepped in to complete the sewing. “It was so wonderful to have their help since we did not have sewing experience in our group!” exclaimed Carlson. The quilting group worked for months to complete all the components of the hygiene kits.

Later in the spring, the completed kits were assembled and shipped to Salamata Diao, a community leader and English teacher in Kothiary. “My community is fond of the kits and now some girls come to ask for more for their friends or sisters. Girls are telling me that they are proud and feel more clean and confident with the kits,” said Diao.