by Portia Yeboaa (YES 2016-17, Ghana, hosted by YFU in Milwaukee, WI)
I have always had this inborn feeling of wanting to help others, and a year of participating in the YES program has blossomed this feeling into a responsibility I'm beginning to understand and explore.
I first became familiar with the organization Hope Without Borders and their Red Elephant Project (REP) after my school club started a similar project to help girls in Africa. I invited Dr. Julie Parve, Medical Director at Hope Without Borders, to speak to our club. Afterwards, I spoke with Dr. Parve about starting a project like this here in Ghana.
The Red Elephant Project (REP) creates and distributes feminine hygiene kits to girls in regions where these products are unaffordable or unavailable. My local version of this project is called “Every Girl” to suit the environment in which it was organized and because these feminine hygiene/sanitary materials are something every girl needs and should be able to get easily.
I began by meeting with the local priest in the village of Atronie in the Brong Ahafo region to ask if I could meet with some of the girls and women after church and to ask his help in spreading the word about the project. Also, alongside this project, I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide eye care screenings for the local residents including some from nearby villages. The screenings were provided by my brother, Dr. Igantius Yeboah, an optometrist, and two of his colleagues.
Thanks to the planning that we had started weeks earlier and the word of mouth, we had a very good turnout for the first meeting last month. I met with 20 girls and distributed the Red Elephant Project feminine hygiene kits I received from Hope Without Borders (all kits are put together by volunteers).
I taught the girls in their native language how to use and take responsibility for the care of their REP kits so that components stay healthy and the girls do as well. I put on a pair of panties over my hand and demonstrate how the shield and liners work. The girls are also taught how to properly clean and reuse the materials.
After my session with the girls, I joined the eye screening team. Some medications and eye glasses were provided to those who needed them, and many others were referred to the hospital for medical treatment.
My goal is to reach more girls who might need these sanitary materials, and to use this opportunity of meeting with girls to have conversations on feminine hygiene and reducing the cases of teenage pregnancy, especially in the Brong Ahafo region since it ranks first in teenage pregnancy nationally as at January 2017.
The joy I had from organizing this project came from the fact that the girls and their parents were very appreciative of the kits since most of them are unable to afford sanitary materials on a regular basis.