TEHKUMMAH – A ministry within Manitoulin Community Church in Tehkummah, led by Pastor Ramona Daniso and her husband Humphrey, is supporting 400 Zimbabwean girls this year with feminine hygiene products that they could not otherwise access, thanks to the generosity of donations from the Island community.
“It really feels good to give to something outside of yourself, to think you’re helping someone who isn’t able to take care of that need for themselves. There’s a big world out there, even though there’s lots of needs here too,” said Pastor Daniso, who heads up Dignity for the Girl Child with Mr. Daniso, in partnership with Jeffrey and Juliet Mwanyenya in Zimbabwe.
Pastor Daniso has been involved in mission work in Zimbabwe for more than 20 years. Mr. Daniso is from there; on a trip home in 2018 for his mother’s funeral, the couple connected with the Mwanyenyas and made plans to launch the charity.
This past Good Friday, April 10, Pastor Daniso took over as pastor of Manitoulin Community Church and began online services during the pandemic.
Rather than serving a wide swath of regions by dropping off supplies and moving on, the registered charity selects communities for long-term support. It began with 50 girls in 2018 and has now surpassed 400 in six communities, with aims to add a seventh in the new year.
Adequate feminine hygiene products are extremely important to the girls in this region especially. Pastor Daniso said girls would either find unsafe solutions like leaves, stuffing from a mattress or rags, or would simply have to stay at home during their menstruation.
Those who choose to withdraw can quickly fall behind in school, leading to worse education outcomes and harming girls’ already lower chances at reaching their potential in life.
“A lot of it has to do with expense; what is available can be quite expensive,” said Pastor Daniso.
She described the rural areas of Zimbabwe as similar to Manitoulin Island, albeit with a complete lack of stores. The equivalent, she said, would be if people had to travel to Sudbury every time they needed anything.
“A lot of girls we help are orphaned; they might live with elderly people or with extended family. The thing is, for most people, the biggest need is just getting food on their tables so getting their young teenage daughter hygiene supplies isn’t the biggest priority,” said Pastor Daniso, acknowledging that other needs exist within these communities but her charity’s effort helps create an important sense of dignity.
“It’s interesting to get reports back about how much hope is infused within a community when we’re there, because I think it just lifts their spirits to know that people care,” she said.
Dignity for the Girl Child raises funds and sends them to partners in Zimbabwe to purchase the hygiene products. It does this because shipping supplies overseas can bring issues of border clearance and the risks of products not reaching their intended destinations.
Ms. Mwanyenya has been the main partner in Zimbabwe; her and her husband have been very active in missionary work and Mr. Mwanyenya is a director of Agape Children’s Ministry. They have worked with Pastor Daniso for 15 years on her various mission trips to the country and she said she has developed a deep trust with them, as opposed to others who claim to be helping but are really running scams.
The Zimbabwean couple has enabled Dignity for the Girl Child to expand to several communities as they forge relationships and new connections with the people they know on the ground.
This year, Dignity for the Girl Child raised extra funds to host Christmas parties for the girls where they each received a meal and a present. They took home a few months’ worth of sanitary products alongside toiletries and washcloths and, especially for this year, a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Pastor Daniso acknowledged that disposable sanitary products are not as environmentally sustainable as reusable options, but the realities of Zimbabwean life make those less feasible. Electricity and good washing water supplies are spotty at best and the girls would have to hang their pads out to dry on wash-lines, something that may detract from their dignity.
Pastor Daniso met her husband while on a two-year trip to Zimbabwe and the couple relocated to Canada to ensure they could raise their children in the best possible environment.
The Tehkummah community and congregation of Manitoulin Community Church have been extremely supportive of Dignity for the Girl Child, having raised more than $5,000 this year for the cause within one month.
Any extra funds go toward supporting more girls, enhancing their monthly kits (which normally cost about $10) and giving small gifts to the volunteer administrators in Zimbabwe.
“We follow the words of Jesus: ‘what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.’ So whatever you do for people that they can’t do for themselves, that’s like your own gift to God,” said Pastor Daniso.
Anyone wishing to support Dignity for the Girl Child can make a donation through Manitoulin Community Church; further information is posted at dignityforthegirlchild.com.