This July, our Soup Kitchen welcomed back long-time volunteer Olivia, a rising senior at Verona High School. Olivia has been coming to the kitchen for many years, volunteering for a variety of our programs. Now a teenager, she wanted to take on a more independent role and focused her attention on our Literacy Program. By doing so, she formed a special bond with many of the young female clients and got a unique perspective into some of the problems facing teens in poverty–in particular, the lack of access to feminine hygiene products due to the prohibitive costs.

Olivia told us: “I was shocked that this issue, which is a struggle for gals in developing nations, would exist 20 minutes from my home. When girls told me that they missed school and even meals at the soup kitchen because they couldn’t afford feminine hygiene products, I knew I needed to try and help.”

And help she did. She brought this issue to her high school chapter of Girl’s Learn International (GLI) and working with her school and community raised $1,000 in the hopes to purchase disposal products for the Franciscan Charities food pantry.

Olivia’s project caught the attention of the national GLI leadership and she was asked to address this issue at a recent women’s conference at the United Nations. While at the UN, Olivia was approached about an organization called Days for Girls International–devoted to creating re-usable feminine hygiene kits for teens in countries where cost and access to disposable products are an issue. They told Olivia how they were trying to get their re-usable kits into the inner cities and offered Olivia a chance to pilot this idea in Newark. She agreed and, this past July, she brought this unique, cost effective and global solution to our clients.

Asking Olivia how things went, she said ” I was nervous at first that perhaps the concept of re-usable rather than disposable products would not be well received but, the teens, their mothers, and even fathers and grandfathers loved the idea. I gave away 55 kits and never got so many hugs, kisses and thank yous. One client even said it was a brilliant idea. I promised to come back with more in August.”

We look forward to welcoming Olivia back along with her unique and economical solution for our clients.

Thank you, Olivia!

For more information on the Days for Girls International mission: