By Allison Collins
UNADILLA – In early 2016, Unadilla resident Jeanette Mulford hoped to kick-start a local chapter of Days for Girls, an international nonprofit equipping underprivileged girls with sustainable feminine hygiene solutions and reproductive education.
Now, under the auspices of the Americans Serving Abroad Project (ASAP), Mulford is headed to Ghana, Africa to make her biggest impact yet.
President and founder of ASAP Lauri Rupracht said the upcoming, 18-person trip will take place March 4-17. Rupracht, who first visited Ghana in 2010, began bringing outreach groups in 2013; ASAP received nonprofit status in 2014.
“Our mission is to bring free health care, education and social supports to remote areas in Ghana that don’t have those services available,” she explained. An ASAP contingent, she said, makes twice-yearly trips to Ghana, though she plans to expand to other African countries.
Rupracht said ASAP trips include nursing students, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, doctors and non-health care professional with “an interest in helping people.”
ASAP’s efforts, she said, have proven “a big success” and are “really, really well-received.”
Mulford’s focus on health care and education through Days for Girls, Rupracht said, made her a natural fit for the outreach effort.
Rupracht, of Syracuse, said, “It just happened that my sister knows Jeanette and (she) knew that I wanted to do something with Days for Girls through (ASAP) trips, so that’s how we connected.”
In November 2017, Rupracht brought roughly 200 Days for Girls cloth sanitary “kits” to Ghana. Those kits, Mulford said, represented the work of her Unadilla Days for Girls team, one of 1,100 teams worldwide.
“(Lauri) wanted to partner with our team,” Mulford said,” “because, when she goes, she would like to be able to take local kits and however many more she needs, we can fill that request through Days for Girls.”
For her, Mulford said, that initial collaboration planted the seed to someday visit Africa.
“I told her it’s something I’d love to do and I thought it’d be a bucket list (item),” Mulford said. “But she needed volunteers and the more we talked about it … I just started saving my money up and fundraising for the kits to get made.” Each member of the group, Rupracht said, is responsible for paying his or her way.
Mulford plans to take about 100 completed hygiene kits with her in March.
“I’m excited,” Mulford said. “I’m going to be almost one-on-one with these women and girls to tell them about the kits and teach them about (reproductive health).” She added, “I’m ecstatic (that) I get to teach them, because that’s the most important part, to have them be able to do this for themselves.”
With the kits, Mulford said, she will bring supplies such as rotary cutters, cutting mats, snap fasteners and threading tools to teach roughly 10 African women to make and assemble the kits themselves. Equipping women with practical knowledge, she said, can foster microenterprises, thereby economically empowering otherwise impoverished women. Mulford expects to visit three or four rural villages.
Often, after receiving the kits, African women can continue attending school, rather than missing days or being ostracized during menstruation. In this way, Mulford said, Days for Girls is literally giving young, third-world women days of their lives back.
“It’s amazing to me that, if you don’t have menstrual supplies, your life can just kind of stop,” she said. “Wherever you are from, all women are equal and have to go through this and I think we should help each other. A menstrual cycle should not stop us.”
Saturday in Unadilla, Mulford will host a sewing event in anticipation of her March departure. All are welcome to attend, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unadilla First Presbyterian Church. Individuals with sewing machines and sergers are especially encouraged to bring along their equipment, though no sewing experience is necessary.
For more information, find Days for Girls Unadilla NY Team on Facebook or visit daysforgirls.org. Mulford can be reached at 643-8209. Learn more about Rupracht’s group at asap.ngo.
Additionally, for its February fundraiser, House of Consignment in Unadilla is offering $10 valentines, proceeds of which will benefit the local Days for Girls team. The cost of the Valentine reflects the cost of one kit, which can last up to three years.