Hundreds of schoolchildren in Kpone Bawaleshie, Ghana, are a little better off now because of the generosity of many people in the Wenatchee Valley.
In mid-January, Vicki Larson and I traveled to Ghana as representatives of the Days for Girls Wenatchee Team. Days for Girls (DfG) is an international charitable organization based in Washington that is committed to providing young women worldwide with washable, reusable feminine hygiene kits. The kits make it possible for them to easily care for their monthly needs and thus spend more days in class throughout their school years.
The Wenatchee DfG Team has been organized for over four years and during that time we have sewn and assembled over 2,500 kits that have been sent to a number of African and South American countries, as well as India and Haiti. This was the first time local team members have been invited to distribute the kits in person.
I met Kofi Fynn-Aikins, a native Ghanian and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, at a dinner early last summer when he came to train the Friends of Northwest Hatcheries. Kofi is also the board president of the Hope for Sisi’s Kids Foundation, based in Buffalo, New York.
Hosikids, as it is known, is dedicated to creating hope for a better future in the children of Kpone Bawaleshie, the impoverished Ghanian town where the founder’s mother was born and raised. When Kofi learned of my involvement with DfG, he assured me that both his board and Bawaleshie school and community leaders would welcome a donation of our kits that allow girls a dignified way to care for a normal human function.
After we sent him a shipment of kits later in the summer, Kofi asked us to consider traveling to Ghana to personally distribute them to the girls of Bawaleshie.
That is how a once-in-a-lifetime adventure began.
As we prepared for our humanitarian trip, Vicki and I realized we would be able to take extra luggage. When we learned that the Bawaleshie community clinic, where the children receive care, was in need of basic over-the-counter medications, we put the word out through our DfG Team and various local women’s church and service organizations. We were so grateful to receive donations of over 300 pounds of supplies that filled six large suitcases and represented the goodwill and generosity of many Wenatchee residents.
We took half of the donated medical supplies and all of our DfG kits to Bawaleshie. The medicines were donated directly to the community health clinic administrator. Along with students from the University of Buffalo, Vicki and I taught short classes in menstrual health for the schoolgirls, and put our kits into the hands of over 200 girls who were anxious to receive them.
Bawaleshie’s schoolchildren are packed into their classrooms. There are over 60 students in some grades, one room and one teacher per grade, with up to four children sharing a single desk. These beautiful children have few books and no visible paper or pencils, but they freely shared their joy for life with us.
We donated the other half of our medical supplies to the Osu Maternity Clinic. When we arrived in Accra, we learned that Kofi and several of his former high school friends had chosen to lend their support to the clinic where Kofi’s mother worked when he was a child.
A few of the nurses also furnish medical attention for children up to 5 years old and to elderly patients within the district. In addition to pain and other medications, we were able to supply the clinic with a large number of donated reading glasses, which staff members said would change the lives of the elderly.
While our goal in traveling to Ghana was to help improve the lives of the children we were blessed to serve, our lives are better because of the generous people we associate with here in Wenatchee and those we came to know in Africa. I learned again that people all over this world sincerely want to reach out to others in goodwill and peace.
The Wenatchee DfG Team is fortunate to partner with Dogwise, a local company that ships its pet-training products all over the world and our kits all over the U.S. on their way to foreign lands. Dogwise founder Charlene Woodward and employee Kristy Allen have been exceptionally supportive of our efforts, making it possible for us to produce hundreds more kits than we could have if we had had to pay shipping costs from our donations.