SHS Community Service Class Helps Girls in Malawi

Brenna Donovan, Staff Writer

Seniors Brenna Donovan and Sophia Kurtak, as well as sophomore Caroline Ellis, are in the Community Service Learning class—taught by Ms. Willinger—at Scituate High School. They have started the project called “Clean and Safe”—a play on words with the mission of their project to ensure girls in the African country of Malawi have a “clean and safe period.” 

The project’s overall purpose is to provide menstrual supplies for girls in Malawi so that they can carry on with their everyday lives without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Malawi is one of the most undeveloped countries in the world, and women and girls suffer from the issue of period poverty. When they are on their periods, most Malawian girls stay home from school since their materials are prone to leakage and discomfort. It is common for girls to use fabric, which can cause infections and pose a life-threatening threat to them. 

Donovan, Kurtak, and Ellis have been working with Karen Hirsh—the U.S. Director of Malawi Children’s Mission (MCM), and Widge Woolsey—CEO of UFULU, which is a charity based in the UK. Hirsh visited Willinger’s Community Service class in October to explain the focus of the organization and answer students’ questions. 

As part of their fundraising efforts, the group is preparing to give menstrual cup starter packs to girls at Malawi Children’s Mission. UFULU will provide these starter packs from the brand Ruby Cup to the girls through educational workshops. UFULU provides women and girls with free menstrual cups along with free education and information they need to use and care for their cups safely.

According to Angelinna Emmanuel, who has been with MCM for over five years, the girls’ menstruation affects them both at home and school, but to a different extent depending on their access to sanitary pads, soap, etc., commenting, “It is a cultural challenge for girls both in government schools and in MCM.” The cloth pads have been viewed by society as messes, something that people aren’t supposed to see except themselves, so they can’t be dried unless they’re draped with a wrapper. The drying process takes a long time, and people with a few washable pads may be unable to attend school.

At MCM, most girls are covered, but disposable pads are also harmful to the environment. Pads, tampons, and other disposable menstrual products can take up to 500 years to decompose. In providing these menstrual cups, these two problems are solved precisely. They are sanitary and very easy to clean because they do not require soap or any other cleaning products. They only need to be boiled. Moreover, the Ruby Cup is expected to last for 10 years. This means young girls in Malawi will be able to continue their education and not miss a week of school every month due to their period. 

The group raised money during lunch and through local businesses by selling bracelets, coin purses, and bags made by Malawian women. All proceeds were turned over to the UFULU organization. Each menstrual cup starter pack costs $14. Each cup lasts for 10 years, so it works out to $1.46 per female per year. The goal was to raise $1,120 to support the cost of 80 girls at MCM’s center. The group met this goal in January.

Students who want to learn more information about this worthwhile project can find the link on the Instagram account @_cleanandsafe or here: