Westlake High School students empowering girls in Rwanda

Girls in Rwanda receiving menstrual pad kits from Westlake High School. (Courtesty: Ivany Patel)
Girls in Rwanda receiving menstrual pad kits from Westlake High School. (Courtesty: Ivany Patel)

WEST LAKE HILLS, Texas (KXAN) — One of the newer student organizations at Westlake High School is attracting dozens of teenage girls.

They’re waking up bright and early to be at school by 8 a.m. — 45 minutes before the first bell — to empower other young women more than 8,000 miles away.

“Basically, these girls are so passionate about the cause,” said senior Ivany Patel. “They come in with their energy and just get to work.”

On a Friday morning in mid-October, they circled around tables with markers in hand to decorate and personalize drawstring bags.

“You are amazing, girl power,” said Julia Breeden, while reading the bag her friend was working on across the table.

The bags will be shipped to girls in Rwanda with a special delivery inside. The students have been putting kits together with the supplies they need to sew their own menstrual pads.

“I just spent a couple of hours one Saturday taking the materials and just hand sewing them together to see what the size was,” said senior Mallory Barndollar. “I measured them next to a pre-made pad to see if I got the size right, and we just went from there.”

The labor of love started last spring when their club sponsor, Melinda Darrow, told them nearly 20 percent of girls in the east African country can’t afford to buy them.

“Because they don’t have pads they can’t go to school and they miss about a week of school each month,” said Patel. “So that just compiles until they drop-out.”

Senior Tara Jackson felt even more connected to the cause after their first shipment made it to Rwanda.

“They sent a picture and I saw my bag and the girl was holding it,” said Jackson “She looked about the same age as me, maybe a little younger.”

The group is getting ready to send a second test shipment, and has long-term plans to start shipping the materials in bulk.

“They are girls and they deserve to go to school, and their periods should not hold them back from an education,” said Barndollar.

What started as a school club is now a full blown non-profit called GEO Foundation: Girls Education Organization.

To learn more and donate, visit their GoFundMe page.

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