No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women.
–Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General
Hygiene kits could not have come at a better time for St. Anne’s Place, an emergency shelter for women and children in Minneapolis. The night before we arrived, the two-story shelter for 16 families had a turnover: eight new families arrived. The hallways were crowded with bags. Some contain donations waiting to be sorted, others: a family’s entire set of belongings. Outside the tight living quarters, two adorable smiling children and a few adults are enjoying the sun and fresh air.
St. Anne’s guests help carry the sixteen boxes of hygiene kits that we packed. “We” are the Women of Vision, a team passionate about empowering women and children in our community. This is a new chapter for World Vision in the Twin Cities, a group of women volunteers desiring impoverished women and children to experience God’s love in tangible ways.
This visit to St. Anne’s was the highlight of our first event: the PACK (Personal Care Assortment Kit) drive. We assembled 300 PACKs containing shampoo, conditioner, lotion, razors, mouthwash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, deodorant, tampons, and Chapstick—with the help of friends, teens from the Youth Empowerment program, and snacks, in just one hour.
“Hygiene is something we take for granted, until we haven’t had it for a week or two,” says Julianna, the Community Relations Coordinator at St. Anne’s, “then it becomes something we really appreciate.” While the shelter provides the basics such as shampoo, toothpaste, and a bar of soap, they are often short on essentials like razors, conditioner, and deodorant.
Hygiene gives dignity and improves self worth. It is a basic element of respect, and “something that every person deserves,” Julianna says. She is thankful the kits were pre-organized. “Now we can focus on important stuff, like building relationships instead of running around looking for another bottle of shampoo.” She adds that store-brand items (such as Gillette, Crest, Suave and Tampax) are a nice personal touch. They give the message that “somebody wants me to be comfortable.”
The goal of St. Anne’s Place is to prepare women and women-led families without homes for permanent, independent living through customized goal plans. Providing three meals a day, daycare, tutoring, and personalized emotional support for 16 women and 25 to 35 children is no walk in the park—especially when quarters are cramped. Volunteers are essential to maintaining a stable environment so that women and children may focus on exploring options for their futures.
Volunteers can help St. Anne’s Place sporadically or long-term. Long-term volunteers commit to tutoring children once a week for six months, or providing child care during a life skills group for three to six months. Sporadic volunteer opportunities include playing with kids on the playground, sorting donations, or grouping with 4-5 others to cook a meal. Needed items such as sheets, towels, blankets, diapers, pacifiers, and seasonal children clothing or financial contributions are always welcome.
While St. Anne’s Place does not claim to destroy all the barriers causing the cycle of poverty, they do offer women tools for tackling these obstacles—such as physical necessities and emotional support. Similar to St. Anne’s Place in moving families toward stability are Ascension Place and Next Step Housing.
by Annie Faye | World Vision, Twin Cities | Communication Specialist | Women of Vision Partner