By Salima Ellyse Barrow, rising senior at St. Catherine Academy (Belize City, Belize)
It was a warm February morning here in Belize City, during COVID lockdown 2021. I had no virtual classes that day and was in my room, thinking that I could be doing something better with my time. My mind began to race and soon led me to a wonderful idea, one that could help young women like myself in the area!
COVID-19 has had devastating effects on my country. So many families are struggling financially because of the lockdown and have been forced to prioritize certain essentials—such as food and shelter—over others. Such choices put female sanitary products at the bottom of the list. I thought about how the pandemic could have affected me, a teenage girl, if I were less fortunate and wanted to do something that would benefit girls my age, something that would boost their self-esteem and remind them of their worth. I shared my idea with my mother, and she thought it was splendid. She helped me to understand the bigger picture of “period poverty” and the shame and embarrassment that many girls experience because they can’t access basic hygiene products. Often, it causes them to miss school and deprives them of social contact.
We discussed it with some friends to see how we could put the plan into action, and the Dream Up Campaign was born. Because every young woman deserves the chance to dream!
The first step was fundraising. Family and friends generously donated to the cause, and I set out to purchase the products—soap bars, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and, of course, sanitary pads. One Saturday morning, I awoke early and spent a few hours packing the supplies to hand out to girls in cute, re-useable bags—400 in total! We then scheduled delivery trips that took us all around the country—from Libertad in the north to Seine Bight in the deep south.
This project is very special to me because it allowed me to make a difference for other teenage girls. In reflecting on it, I believe it was inspired by what we have been taught at Saint Catherine Academy: that to be a true “Mercy girl” is to follow God’s will at all times, and always display compassion and service.
All of this makes me so grateful to be attending a school where Mercy education is taught and valued, where it can guide me in the right direction and reinforce what my parents are already teaching me. I’m 16, and still unsure of what my future holds, but I know that I want to continue doing work that helps others. For that, I have my Mercy education to thank: my parents and St. Catherine’s are the two biggest influences in shaping the person I am.
At every stop we made while delivering the bags, I told the girls: “You can always make a difference, no matter how big or small. Trust me, girls, a simple smile can go a very long way, so keep smiling please.”
I hope my story has helped you to be more aware of God’s words and his presence around you, because it can be found in all the beautiful little things, such as the smile you give to a young girl with a simple, seemingly insignificant donation.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). I will continue to live by this short, meaningful Bible verse and try to inspire others to follow the Lord’s words and help their peers in whatever way they can.
If you are interested in supporting the Dream Up Campaign, please visit my website: https://www.dreamupbelize.org/