Serve4Good has recently completed a pilot project geared towards providing clean water and menstrual hygiene for young girls in Sierra Leone.
The pilot project was designed to provide girls of Malimba Community School with what is dubbed: ‘She-Shelter’, girls-only cabin with running water and reusable underwear used during their menses. The project also sought to keep girls in school through the provision of wash facility, improvement on hygiene, and by extension, foster education as absenteeism in school among girls remains a thorn in the flesh.
According to findings by Serve4Good, girls miss school for several reasons, including but not limited to, fetching water from distance sources, falling ill from drinking contaminated water and lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene facilities. Girls therefore end up missing approximately 25 to 30% of schooling while their male counterparts do not experience such disadvantages.
In a snap interview with The Exclusive, the founder and Executive Director of Serve4Good, Ruben Chung disclosed that Serve4Good is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established in Switzerland. He furthered that he learnt more about water and hygiene in developing countries and particularly the challenges faced by young girls. He also disclosed that he came in contact with Malimba Community School through another Swiss NGO called Education Pour Tous Sierra Leone. Ruben furthered that he was able to conduct a survey to understand the felt needs of female pupils, and that through that survey, he was able to figure out how young girls could avoid absenteeism in school by providing them a clean source of drinking water that will prevent them from getting diarrhea and other water borne diseases contracted from contaminated water, providing menstrual hygiene management measures, stressing that the ‘She-Shelter’ was borne out of that.
Ruben however disclosed that he faced enormous challenges in securing funds for the project, pointing out that he initially tried it through his school friends and family members, but realized that it could take him a very long time to raise the requisite funds if he is to rely solely on those means. He furthered that he therefore did a research on grants offered in Switzerland for development projects and applied. Ruben further disclosed that he was fortunate to win several awards and grants for the first pilot project.
According to Ruben, he was confronted with another obstacle once he secured the funds as the Russia-Ukraine war affected global supply chain which saw his activities hang in the balance. He said the crisis posed numerous challenges to doing business across borders as Sierra Leone experienced acute shortage of petroleum products and therefore restrained some contractors from making long trips to the remote school site in the Port Loko District, Northwest Region of the country; and as such, the work was stalled for six months, though it is now almost completed for the school to start using the facilities.
Ruben Chung finally expressed satisfaction when he beheld a project he envisioned to positively impact lives of school children in Sierra Leone come to fruition as his project intervention will see girls spend more time in the classroom, thereby enhancing their success in society. The Executive Director of Serve4Good also disclosed that plans are underway for his organisation to partner with a local NGO, Uman Tok in order to build more She-Shelters, improve education with addressing the threat of climate change a priority.
In a snap interview with The Exclusive, a teacher at the Malimba Community School, Mr Foday Conteh waxed lyrical about Ruben, stressing that the young Swiss pupil and social worker has been a humble servant who always bends over backwards to ensure the happiness of others, adding that at a very young age he has already distinguished himself in society, through service, selflessness and other outstanding contributions that have positively impacted the lives of many kids in Sierra Leone.
Mr Conteh also noted that the headmaster of Malimba Community School together with community stakeholders is planning to offer a special certificate of thanks to Ruben for the project intervention as they considered it a step in the right direction.
One of the beneficiaries who pleaded anonymity expressed thanks and appreciation to Serve4Good for providing them the ‘She-Shelter and reusable menstrual kits and promised to focus on her education.
Speaking to The Exclusive, the Executive Director of Uman Tok, Mrs Juliet Rhoman lavished praises on Ruben Chung whom she described as a high school pupil whose penchant for helping others cannot be overemphasized.
The Executive Director disclosed that Uman Tok is an NGO that provides reproductive health awareness and seeks to empower women and girls to discover their full potentials and self-esteem so as to make informed decisions and better contribute to their communities.
Mrs Rhoman stated that her organisation is looking forward to partnering with Serve4Good to help in building more ‘She-Shelters’ in schools so that girls can have safe place for changing, especially during their menses.