A faithful group of women are helping Ingleside United Methodist Church engage with the global community by sewing and packaging hygiene kits for girls living in Uganda.
These kits are badly needed in underserved countries that have minimal resources. Most of the women who volunteer with this project are retired school teachers and administrators who believe heartily in helping girls to have access to health resources and access to education,” said Rev. Ali Young, pastor of Ingleside UMC.
Ev Auster, a member of Ingleside and church coordinator of the Days for Girls project, is passionate about the ministry. “Days for Girls is actually an international organization based in Washington state. We follow their guidelines when making the kits. The sewing group at Ingleside loves talking about the DFG project when shopping for material, or any time there are other women that will listen.”
The finished kits are usually hand delivered to Uganda by Grace Baptist Church, which is located near Ingleside in the mid-city area of Baton Rouge. “In November of last year, two of our young adults went with the Baptist mission team to help pass out the kits at a women’s clinic and to establish relationships with people that were being served,” said Young.
Nikki Leon and Drew Greene, Ingleside’s two volunteers, worked with the mission team in putting on a three-day workshop designed to serve and equip local pastors, children and women. Nikki worked closely with a member of Grace Baptist on preparing a lesson plan for the workshops which focused on business, budgeting, sex education, AIDS, baby development and life skills.
Before Leon left on the mission, Ev Auster and her team of volunteers at Ingleside created 50 of the Days for Girls kits to send to Busembatia, Uganda.
“We arrived in Busembatia on a Sunday, just in time for church services. Smiles and warm welcomes abounded, and we were truly overwhelmed with the display of hospitality,” said Leon.
That afternoon, the group began preparations for the conference that would take place over the next three days. “Of the topics we discussed, sex education and baby development were by far the most popular ones. Some of my favorite experiences were witnessing the women become more comfortable in talking amongst themselves about these subjects – subjects that, as most of them put it, were taboo in their culture,” said Leon, who added that one of the women’s favorite experiences was viewing a computer-animated video of a fetus growing in the womb.
The Days for Girls kits were greatly appreciated, as many women do not have access to clean feminine products. “Many of the women and girls cheered when I announced what we had brought as gifts, and several even tried to sneak back inside to get a second kit,” said Leon with a laugh.
While Nikki was busy working with the workshops, Drew Greene volunteered by helping to build a tent to be used for pastors’ meetings and reinforcing a fence that was under construction. “His most meaningful experience was also his most challenging. He was asked to go ‘door to door’ evangelizing, something he would be uncomfortable doing even here at home. But he embraced the moment, and God ended up blessing him with some wonderful memories and some new friends that he made during his visits to the homes in the community,” said Leon, who added that Greene picked up some phrases from the regional language, Lusoga.
The group of multi-generational volunteers who sew and assemble the Days for Girls kits are not only reaching across continents, they are promoting ecumenical volunteerism and partnership within the Baton Rouge District of the Louisiana Conference. “The team includes a member of Blackwater UMC and a volunteer from an area Episcopalian church. Volunteers from Ingleside have served as a teaching resource for churches like St. John’s UMC in Baton Rouge, instructing their volunteers on how to make the kits,” said Young, who added that the Days for Girls project is spearheaded through a nonprofit organization.
In addition to its global and district-wide outreach, Ingleside UMC is also engaging with residents surrounding the church by sponsoring a neighborhood food drive that collects items for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.