Local group sends “100 Smiles” to those in need
For Ginger Wint and the moms group from Finland Mennonite Church in Marlborough, it was about more than just maneuvering their way through tree decorating, gift-giving and holiday dinners. It was about making a difference both at home and in places where people struggle to survive on a daily basis.
Moms of Preschoolers, which meets twice a month with their children ages 3 months to 6 years, recently embarked on a project called “100 Smiles.” Through the project, the families solicited donations for basic necessities like soap, towels and toothbrushes and assembled those items and others into hygiene kits to be distributed through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
The committee is a worldwide agency which responds to basic human needs and works for peace and justice, according to their website. Staff distributes the kits, in places like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Haiti and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to displaced people and through schools and orphanages.
“We knew we wanted to do a service project and were brainstorming how to do something meaningful, something that preschoolers could participate with,” Wint, of Milford, said. “Our family had packed relief kits for MCC in the fall…I saw firsthand the impact making kits had on my kids as they were wrapped up in their towels after a bath or brushed their teeth. This was also very fitting as us moms of preschoolers tend to spend much of our day focused around ‘Did you wash your hands? Brush your teeth?’”
The project, which was named as the group watched footage of the kits being distributed and the smiles they brought, began as the children made toothpick snowflakes and sent them out with letters about the project asking for prayer, donations and help on packing day, Dec. 19.
In all, the group raised $956, enabling them to buy supplies for 212 kits, more than double their goal.
“The kids were and still are ecstatic about the project,” Wint said. “It helped open their eyes to a world outside their own. During Christmas kids are involved in lots of giving opportunities; making gifts for grandparents, aunts/uncles, but this project taught them about giving without receiving.”
“My kids, Eden, 3, and Zeke, 2, were excited to go to the moms group and do the service project,” said Rhonda Gouldey. “They were eager to help others who needed the hygiene kits. I was hoping this would teach my kids that Christmas is more about giving to others and loving others than getting more toys.”
Last Wednesday more than 40 volunteers came out to help assemble the kits. Each one contained a towel, a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a bar of soap and nail clippers, packed in a reusable drawstring bag handmade by MCC volunteers.
The kits were later delivered to MCC’s material resource headquarters in Souderton.
“We try to make sure that our daughters know that they have many things, like lots of toys and clothes, that many other children don’t have,” said Rachel Kiefer of Kaylen, 6, and Eliana, 4. “This project, though, definitely opened their eyes to how many things we have and take for granted that other kids around the world do without. They never thought before to be thankful for their toothbrush, soap or towel as these are such ordinary things.
“Every day and everything we have is a blessing…It was great the kids could actually see the hygiene kits while we were packing them so they know exactly what a child in another country is going to open and be able to appreciate and use.”
Wint said she believes the kits will be well-received by their recipients, some of whom it could make the difference between health and sickness for.
“The great thing about this project, and in general about giving, is that it never truly ends,” she explained. “Our prayers will continue; our hearts and minds tuned to looking for how we can meet the needs of our friends, neighbors and those around the world.”