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Tzu Chi joins effort with other foundations to improve female hygiene awareness in Sierra Leone

Besides providing aid supplies to local needy at times of disasters and emergencies, Tzu Chi volunteers in Sierra Leone are also helping local young women to improve their personal hygiene.

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Two volunteers in charge of distributing cloth sanitary pads to the workshop attendees are explaining the use of the reusable pads and the ways to clean them after use. 

In the Republic of Sierra Leone in West Africa, women have a much lower social status than men. Many women have gone through female genital mutilation and are often threatened with sexual violence. Young girls are even prohibited from attending school exams due to menstruation or pregnancy. Coupled with poor sanitary condition, the living environment in Sierra Leone has been highly unfavourable to women.

Co-organizing personal hygiene education workshop to help women

On 2 September 2020, Lanyi Foundation, Tzu Chi Foundation, Caritas Freetown Foundation and Healey International Relief Foundation have collaborated with the United Nations Population Fund and the National Secretariat for Reducing Teenage Pregnancy in Sierra Leone to jointly organize a very important workshop on feminine hygiene. The purpose of conducting the workshop is to raise the awareness of young women in Sierra Leone about their own hygiene and health, as well as to teach them the correct way of using sanitary pads.

While washrooms are uncommon in Sierra Leone, there are also flaws in the local waste management system, rendering the disposal of used sanitary pads a huge problem. Therefore, cloth sanitary pads that can be washed like ordinary clothes are a better alternative as they are relatively hygienic, much cheaper and can be used over again for a long time. Therefore, the Da Ai Technology support team that also plans to conduct an aid distribution in Sierra Leone hopes to help the women in the republican country to live with better sanitary condition.

Madam Yumkella and Sister Josephine who were in charge of aid distribution, were there to brief the women on the use of the reusable pads and the way to clean them.  

"With these cloth sanitary pads, there is no need to worry about menstruation period anymore,” said participants of the workshop who were glad that they have learned a lot from the workshop and are grateful for the innovation by Da Ai Technology and the donation from Tzu Chi.  

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While delivering living supplies to the needy, a volunteer seizes the opportunity to share about the importance of washing hands regularly and maintaining good personal hygiene.

Preventive measures are observed during aid distribution

Besides co-organizing a workshop with other foundations and establishments, Tzu Chi has also continued to aid the needy by supplying living necessities to the locals. Life in Sierra Leone has been difficult since the Ebola virus epidemic, followed by crisis such as a civil war, heavy floods and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In view of the need for long term support by the locals, Tzu Chi and its local partners have continued to distribute wholegrain beverage powder and buckets for washing hands, hoping to gradually improve their quality of life and sanitary conditions.

The buckets containing five-grain powder can also be used as a hand-washing bucket to improve sanitation and prevent the spread of coronavirus. Volunteers divided the duties among themselves and took turn to demonstrate the right way to use the buckets. They also repeatedly checked that the locals were learning properly to make sure that they understand the right way to wash their hands and understand the basic hygiene concepts so that they are better prepared to face any virus outbreak.  

Tzu Chi staff and volunteers are already well versed with the introduction of the five-grain powder, meanwhile, they also conveyed the care and effort of the dharma masters in Jing Si Abode to the locals and reminded everyone to help each other and help those in need.

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The abandoned orphanage has not been managed by any carer for a long time, even the beds of the orphans are already in a dilapidated condition.

Caring and helping affected victims through distribution of aid relief  

Tzu Chi and its counterparts in Sierra Leone have also been paying close attention to all local emergencies and incidences that are reported. On 7 September, a fire broke out at a police quarters in Freetown due to short circuit, causing 24 people in 5 households to become homeless. To provide immediate support to these victims, help had been sought from Caritas Freetown Foundation and Tzu Chi by the police department. Upon receiving the request for help, Father Peter immediately arranged for the distribution of aid supplies and went to the scene to console the affected residents.

Volunteers from Tzu Chi and Caritas had also visited the victims to comfort them and guide them out of misery. At the same time, the volunteers handed out rice, five-grain flour, blankets, shoes and clothing to the victims affected by the fire in order to help them tide through this sudden tragedy.  

On the other hand, the plight of an abandoned orphanage in a poor community in Wellington was reported to Caritas by residents. The volunteers found a total of 70 children and youths in the orphanage and they were without any carer nor living supplies. The children have been fully relying on occasional donations by nearby residents and garbage collection. The orphanage has not been funded and managed for a long time, even the mattresses are too worn out. The orphans seemed to be a bunch of forgotten children and they are living without regular meals.   

After assessing the situation of the orphanage, Caritas sent some second-hand clothing, rice and five-grain powder to the orphanage. In addition to that, the volunteers also taught some basic hygiene knowledge to the orphans and reminded them to learn to take care of themselves so that they could maintain their hygiene, safety and health. 

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