MCC photo/James Jada

Martha Akol, 17, received an MCC dignity kit as a student at Loreto Rumbek School in South Sudan. She now has access to sustainable and reusable menstrual hygiene products and the training on how to use and care for them.

Listen in as our host, Kyle Rudge, speaks with Tom Wegner, Sophia Bezoplenko and Silke Groeneweg about MCC's newest material resources kit, the dignity kit.

Please note: As of July, Threads will air on the first Sunday of the month instead of the fourth.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month. Visit mccmb.ca/threads to hear more podcasts from MCC Manitoba.

Audio transcription:

Kyle Rudge  0:02  
It begins with a single thread, woven through another thread, and then another, and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. [MUSIC]

This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. Over 100 years ago, MCC began as a grassroots organization, small, local and concerned about the plight of those in Ukraine. It's grown quite a lot over the last century, but has, for lack of a better word, fought hard to maintain that grassroots mentality. 

Tom Wenger  1:11  
I'm Tom Wenger

Sophia Bezoplenko  1:12  
I am Sophia Bezoplenko.

Silke Groeneweg  1:14  
 Hi, my name is Silke Groeneweg.

Kyle Rudge  1:16  
My desire this month is to help demonstrate how a simple grassroots project on your own sewing machine that may have been collecting dust in your basement makes a real tangible difference in the life of a girl not wanting to miss school in South Sudan. With the help of Tom, Sophia and Silke I think I can show you just how you fit into this grand picture. So let's start with Tom.

Tom Wenger  1:39  
I work out of the Akron Pennsylvania office. I've been in this role for the last five years and I love it. I'm very passionate about my work in the material resources program. 

Kyle Rudge  1:51  
Instead of duplicating positions across Canada and the U.S., MCC Canada and MCC U.S. have divvied up a lot of responsibilities for their major projects and initiatives. Canada oversees some well the U.S. oversees others, while there's still local involvement and direction provided. In the case of material resources, Tom helps give leadership and direction to the program as a whole.

Tom Wenger  2:13  
It just really means a lot to me, helping to organize and coordinate MCC's work and sharing from our abundant resources here in North America to people living on the edge of survival, many of whom are on the run forced to flee from their homes. They've been displaced due to war or conflict or natural disasters. And it just means so much to be part of this ministry, to share from our resources to those people in need. 

Kyle Rudge  2:44  
Like most, if not all, MCC programs. It begins with a need, a need that is brought to the attention of MCC by one of its international partners. From the need MCC works with its partners to identify how best to address that need. 

Tom Wenger  2:59  
Several years ago, we learned from some partners that they had an interest in the feminine hygiene kit with menstrual supplies for girls who, when they don't have supplies, they need to drop out of school for several days every month. But also for displaced women living in refugee camps with very little hygiene supplies. We talked about it as a material resources network. Could we design or come up with a kit to to meet those requests? And we started it as a pilot project several years ago and gave the name dignity kit to this new, really a menstrual hygiene kit. And we thought about what should go into that kit.

Sophia Bezoplenko  3:48  
Like towels and soap, combs, nail clipper, that kind of thing. So, so just, a broad hygiene items and and a reusable pad system that includes menstrual hygiene items. So, that includes you know, our words for it you know, it's kind of a base unit and so there's there's three of those where you can insert a fleece fleece inserts that that can be used and taken out and washed and transport bag that that all of these things can be carried and transported safely and dryly. And underwear and instructional care and use card and on that stuff in the reusable pad system all goes into a kit bag and that goes into a two gallon bucket. So you know, in which, there is laundry soap to launder all of these items.

Kyle Rudge  4:43  
Which brings us back to you and me in Manitoba. How do we help?

Sophia Bezoplenko  4:48  
Here in Manitoba we are specifically focusing on the reusable pad system portion of the dignity kit. So again, that is the sewn items, the cut items and the under ear and the, the instructional care and use cart that goes in that. So ,we have been cutting the the items for the base unit and the transport bags. So ,we cut them here in material resources, you know kind of in a way that's on a machine that we have the means that they're all uniform and exactly the same size. And so we prep that stuff, and folks can pick it up here and take it home too sew. If our centres are open, we've been able to sew here. In the next few weeks, we'll be compiling all of the things that you know, everyone has taken home too. So we'll be getting them back here in the warehouse and packing them all into these kit bags and making these reusable pad systems. So we have had lots of folks that have been helping us. It's looked like different things you know, some folks are doing at home some are taking some of these things camping and and plugging away while they're able to there. So we've had some amazing dedicated volunteers that have been working hard throughout the summer to to pull these things together for for a shipment that's going out of Canada in October. 

Kyle Rudge  6:05  
But is it really that simple, needed identified need brought forward and need met? Sadly, it's not, it's not for a lack of compassion among Manitobans because there is a lot here, but there are so many kilometres between our sewing machine in Manitoba and the need overseas that it can easily get lost in the sea of needs that kind of drowns us. This is where story comes to play, both Tom and Sophia have seen and heard of the impact. And they share those stories with us. 

Sophia Bezoplenko  6:36  
You know, having having access to menstrual hygiene is a human right. And inadequate menstrual hygiene can it can pose physical health risks, which is a big deal. And also lack of access to menstrual supplies can directly mean lack of access to opportunities, things as basic as not being able to attend school and complete your education, which is another human right. So when you have access to hygiene items that that can enable you to attend school while you're on your period. That means that often makes a difference between finishing school and being able to it's opportunities for for employment for not just employment, just education that is empowering in so many ways. And it's not just a lack of access to education, sometimes it is stigma. And so being able to, you know, leave your home because you're able to manage your period means you might be able to, you know, go go do this social thing or go to attend school or go to literally move around, you know, and that means that you know, equal access to the same kinds of things that people that don't menstruate can just do all the time. It makes a very big difference in terms of access. 

Kyle Rudge  7:55  
But the stories do not stop with just North American staff directly related to the program. MCC works hard to ensure stories are told and retold, well, preserved and shared with you and I this is where Silke comes in.

Silke Groeneweg  8:09  
So a number of years ago, I was exposed to SALT through a coworker

Kyle Rudge  8:13  
SALT stands for Serving and Learning Together. It's a year long cross cultural service experience and Silke's case.in Beirut, Lebanon,.

Silke Groeneweg  8:22  
I arrived in Lebanon in late September of 2020. 

Kyle Rudge  8:27  
The explosion at the port in Beirut was a month before Silke's arrival.

Silke Groeneweg  8:31  
The first thing you notice is very clearly the the the debris and the buildings that are quite mangled. The first, the first time I drove past the port it was in a it was in a taxi and driving by it was was it a very intense experience. You can, I had seen a lot of photos, I had seen the videos of the explosion they had circulated over social media right after. So it seemed that and I in a sense, I I was expecting that. I was expecting a lot of mangled buildings, to see the collapse grain silos. But what hit me more was to look on the other side of the porch, the apartment buildings, the car dealerships whose steel frames were mangled and whose like windows were missing, and obviously no one was inhabiting those buildings anymore. And so, I think that that side you definitely saw more of the human elements and the true impact.

Kyle Rudge  9:34  
Silke spent her time serving as the emergency response assistant. While Silke served primarily in an administrative capacity there, she did have first-hand experience of what the impact that tangible aid for Manitobans, like you and I, actually had.

Silke Groeneweg  9:50  
There was one instance where the area directors came to visit Lebanon and I was able to accompany need them and a couple others from the office to a field visit in the Beqaa Valley, which is, at this specific location that we are going was near Baalbek, which is a major city in the valley. And it's about two hours outside of Beirut. And Beirut is very much, a it's a very small and very dense city. And the Beqaa Valley is no more for its farming, and being from a farming community, myself and being from, like, I grew up on a farm, being able to leave that city and, you know, drive into the valley and see these farms. It was, it was an amazing experience. And that part was personally very, very nice for me. And they were able to build a children's playground. And the head of the organization was telling us how that playground that they have set up is one of the few playgrounds where where Lebanese children and Syrian children are able to play together freely, especially in the Beqaa, there's lots of Syrian refugees that have have fled, have fled Syria are either in camps, refugee camps or living in informal housing in the Beqaa Valley, the Beqaa Valley, sort of borders or is closer to Syria. And there has been a lot of conflict between the host communities and Syrian refugees over the over time and over scarce resources and other things. And so there has been distrust that is built that has sort of developed in many instances. And so being able to see this playground, and having it explained to us that this playground is a site where some of that animosity, and some of that distrust can sort of melt and dissolve, and allow children to play together.

Kyle Rudge  11:57  
Which brings us back again, like Silke to Manitoba, how can we help?

Sophia Bezoplenko  12:03  
We are very happy to to cut the base units and the transport bag supplies, so folks really can just call the Material Resources Centre. And and if they're, if they know how to sew, we have the supplies for them, we have instructions, we are about to have tutorial videos to, you know, show exactly how it's done. It's really straightforward and easy to follow. And so folks can pick that stuff up here, sew at home and return it back to us. If if people are in a city or they want to volunteer with material resources, we definitely can take volunteers to get involved. There's there's different stages along the way of different things that need to be done. So I would just say you can call MCC, ask to speak with the with Sophia or someone with material from the Material Resources Centre. And and we can definitely see, you know what your situation is and what tasks might be best for you to participate in.

Kyle Rudge  13:10  
A bucket this year costs $60. And the goal for both Canada and the U.S. is 4,500 buckets.

Sophia Bezoplenko  13:17  
Here in Manitoba, our goal is 500 so we're really hoping that the Buckets of Thanks can really be you know, a really big force in helping us to reach that, that amount that that will help us to meet our partners' needs, which there's just so much that's happening around the world. And and we really want to be able to say yes to the requests that our partners have for us.

Kyle Rudge  13:43  
Sponsoring a relief bucket is simple, head to MCCmb.ca slash buckets dash thanks. Or if perhaps the dignity kits resonated more, reach out to Sophia and material resources, and they'll get you set up.

MCC threads is produced by KR Words mystery systems from Alison Zacharias and Emily-Ann Doerksen. Thank you to Tom, Sophia and Silke for your work, your stories and willingness to spend some time sharing with us your passion. I'm Kyle Rudge and this is MCC Threads.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai
 

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