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Updated: 02/12/2014 08:00:02AM

Girls in POPS program build kits for African women

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T'oviyon Reese, 14, who attends Bartow High School, is busy at the sewing machine, assembling tote bags that will carry feminine hygiene products that eventually will be sent to the African nation Republic of Malawi.


The Republic of Malawi is pointed out on the map of Africa. Although a sliver of land in comparison to the nations that surround it, Malawi is approximately the size of Pennsylvania in square mileage.


Araceli Castillo, 17, who attends the Summerlin Institute, holds up one of the tote bags made that will be filled with feminine hygiene products and shipped to the African nation, Republic of Malawi.


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It’s Thursday, Feb. 6. Upstairs in one of the rooms in the library building, a group of between 20 and 30 teenage girls are hard at work making feminine hygiene kits that will be sent to the Republic of Malawi, in Africa. Divided into groups, some of them cut bolts of cloth from patterns to make colorful tote bags or undergarments. Others sew together the assorted pieces cut from the patterns. Another group assembles the kits that will go into the totes.

The girls, from the POPS organization (Professional Opportunities Program for Students), were participating in a joint project with the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. It was a first time for the two organizations and came about through the suggestion of Doretha Brooks.

Along with Francina Bain, the two chairwomen came up with the idea via the Internet.

“We Googled and researched this program,” said Brooks. She added that most of the material was donated. The kits themselves included one panty, one washcloth, a bar of soap, a panty shield and eight sanitary pads. These are items in either short supply or not available in Malawi. “We’re trying to construct at least 200 bags.”

The hope is that this will not be a one-time event.

“We’re hoping to make this annual,” said Bain, who mentioned that the Ocala chapter of the sorority did this project last year.

The teens themselves appeared to have enjoyed themselves. Olivia Griffin, 15, of Fort Meade, who is in her first year at POPS, was excited to be a part of the event. Griffin attends Fort Meade Middle and High School.

“I helped cut out the patterns,” said Griffin. “It’s a good thing, helping the women in Africa.”

Another POPS first year member, Danielle Williams, 15, who attends Bartow High School, also had high regards for both POPS and the project to which she was contributing. She was one of the teens who helped with the sorting.

About Delta Sigma Theta

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913 by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to persons in need. It is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world. A sisterhood of more than 200,000 predominately black college educated women, the Sorority currently has over 900 chapters located in the United States, England, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Republic of Korea. (source: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority website:

About Malawi

On July 6, 1964, Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi. Two years later, it became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. Dr. Hastings K. Banda became Malawi’s first prime minister.

According to the government’s website, it calls itself “The Warm Heart of Africa.” Its population is approximately 13 million.

Malawi is a landlocked nation bordered by Zambia to the north and west; Mozambique to the west, south and east, and Tanzania to the north and east; part of the border with Mozambique, and nearly all of it with Tanzania is Lake Nyasa; Malawians call it Lake Malawi.

Malawi is among the world’s least-developed countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs. Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality.

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