“How did you find us?”
This is the question that Freweini Mebrahtu, founder and president of Dignity Period’s partner, the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, is asked most often by girls and boys at the schools where we distribute pads and menstrual hygiene education materials.
It’s a fair question. These schools are remote, some in locations not even four-wheel drive vehicles can reach. In these cases, the sanitary pads and educational materials must be carried in via donkey. Even more confusing for these students is when our staff explain that they are at the school to talk about menstruation, and that their work is supported by people who live half a world away. The question then becomes not “How did you find us,” but “Why?”
More than 300 people showed up to answer that question at Dignity Period’s annual Spring Gala at The Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis on April 1st. By attending, our guests recommitted to helping students understand their bodies and stay in school, despite the distance that separates us.
Freweini shared these sentiments with gala guests with great emotion, describing how much being able to manage and understand menstruation means to the girls – and boys – we reach in Ethiopia.
Dignity Period Co-founder Dr. Lewis Wall also updated guests on our progress. Most notably, he let us know that we’re ahead of schedule, set to reach 100 more rural schools in northern Ethiopia – more than 200 total – by the end of 2017. This is fantastic progress, but he also cautioned that there is more work to do. There are more than 2,200 schools in Tigray with hundreds of thousands of girls in need of menstrual hygiene supplies.
Then it was the guests’ turn to respond by raising a paddle – and they did! We raised nearly $100,000 dollars! A huge thank you to everyone who showed their support!
To celebrate these successes, guests moved into the concert hall for a performance by the legendary jazz vocalist Denise Thimes, with an opening act from the Webster Groves High School A-Men and A-Ladies a cappella group.
This was the first year the Gala was held at The Sheldon, and we are so thankful to the venue staff for their support. We also extend a huge thank-you to Carol Daniel, our emcee three years running; Denise Thimes for sharing her talent; and the A-men and A-ladies for pumping the concert hall full of energy.
We want to thank our dedicated volunteers and event planning committee for the countless hours and dedication it took to make this event a success. From setting up and staffing the Ethiopian market to planning the silent auction to guiding guests throughout the evening – we could not have done the work without them.
Finally, an enormous thank you to all 300+ guests. We are already excited to see everyone again next year! And in the meantime, we will keep reaching out to remote schools and supporting thousands of girls and boys in Ethiopia who crave education – and dignity.
All photos of the Gala copyrighted by ProPhotoSTL. To purchase these photos or any others from the evening please visit the photographer’s gallery.