Rebecca Gudzy, 12 years old. Fundraiser.
As if seventh grade weren’t bad enough, Rebecca Gudzy has fashioned her year to include speaking regularly about sanitary pads. Gudzy has decided she wants to make a difference in the lives of women, and her chosen focus is to help equip young women in Africa with sanitary products—a construct we not only take for granted here in the first world, but which often remains taboo in other parts of the world.
Over the summer, Gudzy was chosen to be a youth delegate at the Culmination Celebration at the United Nations for the International Year of Youth during which she was exposed to speakers who were telling their stories about various projects they had launched to help young women worldwide.
“There were regular girls there who had come up with solutions to real problems and it made me realize I could do something too,” says Gudzy.
Gudzy says that one girl had collected over $100,000 to help the Gulf oil cleanup and another had organized symphony players to visit hospitals to play for sick kids.
“Some of the girls were younger than I was,” says Gudzy. “I didn’t even know about that level of community service.”
The experience lit a fire in Gudzy and, with her mother’s help, she forged a partnership with Huru International, one of a few nonprofits that is dedicated to empowering young girls living in poverty to become self-sufficient. One of their efforts involves providing free kits packed with sanitary napkins and other essential feminine products to girls living in Kenya.
“Typically, girls miss three to four days of school per month because they do not have pads due to the expense and limited availability,” writes Gudzy in a letter that she’s distributed to family and friends. “A bag of flour costs about the same as a box of pads and feeding the family often comes before the girls’ needs.
"Girls have to be creative and figure out ways to manage their periods and stop leaking," she adds. "They use a wide variety of substitutes for these basic needs such as banana leaves, rags, and pieces of cloth.”
Gudzy explains that, when the girl returns to school, everyone knows why she was out.
Gudzy’s goal is to raise $1,000 for Huru—a goal she has nearly reached. When she spoke to Patch, she was a scant $75 away. The letter has been her main method of soliciting donations.
“It’s hard enough to ask someone for money," she says. "Having to talk about this topic makes the whole thing even harder.”
Yet Gudzy not only perseveres, she has also created lofty secondary goals. She’s sent a plea to The New York Times, The Star Ledger, Rachael Ray, and Rosie O’Donnell, asking them to help her publicize what she believes to be a huge issue that gets little attention. The Huffington Post ran a piece about Huru International’s work recently, but Gudzy believes that that should only be the beginning.
The middle schooler hopes that getting her own story out—about how she heard about other girls helping in big ways and was inspired to do some outreach of her own—may encourage yet more kids to become involved in helping to solve some of the world’s problems. “I’m asking for money for this project, but I’m also asking people to think about making a difference,” she says.
The fact that it’s difficult to talk about sanitary products to friends and family has not deterred Gudzy in the least. She’s not only ready to be interviewed by Rosie O’Donnell about her cause, she sometimes daydreams about what she might wear for the occasion. “I do think about it," she says. "A lot more than I should.”
Her other daydream? “I have this vision of me going to Kenya and meeting Oprah [Winfrey] and she would shake my hand and then, later, there would be a reunion show and I would be on it and someone would see it and donate a million dollars to Huru and life would be good," she says.