Elissa Koozer sews components of liners for hygiene kits women around the world for Saturday morning at Bethel Baptist Church in Everett on June 17, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Elissa Koozer sews components of liners for hygiene kits women around the world for Saturday morning at Bethel Baptist Church in Everett on June 17, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Volunteers package hygiene kits for women around the world

EVERETT — Sewing machines hummed and volunteers chatted as they measured, cut, sewed and packed up colorful, handmade feminine hygiene supplies for women in developing countries.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Central Everett chapter of Days for Girls, an international nonprofit focused on providing women’s health supplies and education around the globe. Volunteers gathered on a Saturday earlier this month at Bethel Baptist Church. It’s one of two chapters in Everett and meets once a month.

There’s an orange poster on the wall with the drawing of a vase of flowers. Each flower has a number on it: 315 kits distributed; 1,231 volunteer hours worked; 56 volunteers making it happen.

Each hygiene kit, contained in a colorful hand-made bag, has: two pairs of underpants; a wash cloth; two fabric shields that snap onto the underpants; eight washable fabric liners that can be inserted into the shields; a bar of soap; and a resealable plastic bag in which shields and liners can be washed. Volunteers sew the shields and liners. They use donated fabric, and accept monetary donations to buy underpants, washcloths, plastic bags and soap.

Around the world, women and girls who lack hygiene supplies miss school, work or other engagements during their menstrual cycles. Days for Girls aims to provide them with the knowledge and items they need to keep up with their jobs and education each month.

A kit is meant to last up to four years. When they are distributed, volunteers also offer instruction on topics such as anatomy, pregnancy and self-defense. In many countries, teams have worked with local women to set up centers where they can sew their own supplies. That way they can provide for themselves and their families, and potentially sell kits.

A group from Everett plans to go to Peru in March, where they’ll sew kits for about 100 women and teach them how to make their own.

In 2012, Miriam Lancaster of Stanwood heard a talk by the founder of Days for Girls. Lancaster previously lived and volunteered in Guyana, and she immediately pictured herself returning to the villages there with kits, she said. She learned to make them, and began offering presentations. A little more than a year ago, she and Darlene Doyle, of Everett, met at a workshop. From there, Doyle formed a group of volunteers.

“I love anything fabric. That’s my thing,” Doyle said. “One of my goals for the year was that I’d make a difference in someone’s life. This does it.”

Doyle’s granddaughter, Elissa Koozer, 15, came to help sew last Saturday. The high school sophomore said she’d heard a lot about the program from her grandma, but it was special to be part of it. She looked down at purple and blue flowered fabric she was feeding through her sewing machine.

“I hope it makes someone’s day,” she said. “I hope it brings a smile to their face, knowing they can be hygienic and do what they need to do without worrying.”

Three men mingled with the mostly female group. The organization has been gaining more husbands, fathers and friends who are ready to “man up for girls,” Lancaster said. Some sew, some cook for the volunteers and others are experts in repairing sewing machines.

Days for Girls is not affiliated with any religion, Lancaster said, but often works with faith organizations to make and distribute kits.

Between 2015 and today, the number of Days for Girls chapters has grown from more than 200 to nearly 1,000, said Tiane Reid, a regional representative for the nonprofit. She and husband Daniel connect new chapters with experienced volunteers. The groups have distributed kits in more than 100 countries.

How to help

The Central Everett chapter of Days for Girls is looking for donations and volunteers. Volunteers can check in and supplies can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month at Bethel Baptist Church, 2625 Hoyt Ave. Monetary donations can be made online at daysforgirls.org/donate. More info: Darlene Doyle, 425-252-1972.

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